On 27 April 2023, the Annual Convention celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Catholic Academic Exchange Service (KAAD) opened in Bonn. Until Sunday, 30 April, about 200 participants from fifty countries gathered to discuss solutions and possibilities for the necessary socio-ecological transformation in the context of the climate crisis.
In his opening remarks, KAAD President Father Dr Hans Langendörfer SJ reminded of the urgency of tackling climate change: "The future of our planet is a cause for the greatest concern - and often enough for very vital fear". The Catholic Church, as a global community of faith with resources of many kinds, has a special role to play in this transformation process. In Pope Francis, the Church has "an admonisher and teacher at its head who tackles the problem and is not afraid to be concrete" - his encyclical Laudato si', in which he calls on us to "protect our common home" (LS 13), is the best example of this.
Professor Dr Adrian E Beling also referred to this "groundbreaking text in church history" in his opening lecture on socio-ecological transformation and climate justice from a Catholic perspective. Beling is a former KAAD scholarship holder, teaches at the Latin American Institute of Social Sciences (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales) in Argentina and also holds the Canada Research Chair for the subject "Transition to Sustainability". Professor Dr Marian Asantewah Nkansah also emphasised that questions of global distributive justice must be a particular focus in this transformation process. The former scholarship holder is a professor of chemistry at the renowned Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and is considered one of the leading scientists on the African continent. Like Pope Francis, she sees the Global North in particular as having a responsibility - not least with regard to the need to change own consumption habits.
Against this background, the five thematic forums of the Annual Convention on Friday morning dealt with the various levers of successful change, such as the transformation of the global energy sector, the preservation of biodiversity and food security, climate justice, religious education and the question of a sustainable economic system. In addition to Kathrin Schroeder, Head of Department for Politics and Global Future Issues at Misereor, and other speakers from the worldwide KAAD network (including from Myanmar, Ghana, Tanzania, Poland and Argentina), Professor Dr Joachim von Braun, President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, also contributed his expertise.
"In view of the ecological crisis and the manifold global challenges, KAAD has a special significance because it strives for holistic sustainable human development through its work and, by supporting scholarship holders from the Global South, has the different regions of the world in mind," emphasised Auxiliary Bishop Dr Dr Anton Losinger (Augsburg), the Bishop's Commissioner for KAAD.
"One of KAAD's focal points in both scholarship and networking activities is dedicated to the integrity of creation and the shaping of a holistic socio-ecological transformation," KAAD Secretary General Dr Nora Kalbarczyk pointed out. "Scholarship holders as well as alumnae and alumni are involved in countless research and networking institutions on this topic area. KAAD is also a member of the papal Laudato si' action platform," Kalbarczyk continued.
The programme of the Annual Convention also included the International Festive Service and the awarding of the KAAD Foundation Peter Hünermann 2023 Prize to the Indian Germanist and philosopher Professor Dr Babu Thaliath.