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Pre-JMJ in Idanha



3 min

Full steam ahead!

We'd been preparing for this for a year... and they came!

Forerunner of the World Youth Day in Lisbon, a French-speaking group of 31 young people and 4 chaperones from France, Reunion, Belgium, Lebanon, Madagascar and Mauritius gathered in Idanha-a-Nova, sent by the Rural Christian Movement, to spend a week to think about tomorrow's agriculture by analyzing the farming methods of yesterday and today and their consequences...

They have chosen this theme for reflection, in connection with the texts of the encyclical Laudato-si by Pope Francisco, to raise awareness of the need to respect Creation and care for our "common home", the Earth, which is so often massacred and polluted for the sake of mercantile exploitation and profitability at every turn. Balancing Respect for Creation, Faith, professional involvement and daily life... a huge challenge!

Camping on the grounds of a local property (in tents loaned by the Idanha scouts), overlooking the Campina, we were able to cross paths with them on the GR12, the GR08, the Camino de Compostela between Idanha-a-Nova and Idanha-a-Velha, discovering the different crops, seeds in Varzea, essential oil production in Segura, the meagre pastures of cows and sheep under the cork oaks and olive trees... Visiting several farms and businesses in our Idanha BioRegion, they questioned producers on the development of innovative projects that are springing up, here and there, on the ground... while sampling local specialties (the discovery of Ladoeiro watermelon was memorable... so much so that their group on whatsapp took its name!!!) .

The "Idanha-a-Vida/Plantarfuturo" project in Idanha-a-Velha, as well as the conference on "Organic farming as an essential solution to tomorrow's food self-sufficiency, for all" at the Raiano Documentation Center in Idanha-a-Nova particularly challenged them about the consequences of the methods used, among others:

  • loss of soil fertility through the establishment of monocultures and the application of ever-increasing chemical inputs on farms,
  • soil leaching and the elimination of a large part of the local flora and fauna, due to often unreasonable land consolidation.
These discussions highlighted the need to maintain biodiversity on farms and to respect the environment in every action taken, each aspect being interrelated with the others: a healthy population is the result of good nutrition, which in turn is the result of good agricultural management(as Dr. Pierre Delbet famously declared at the French Academy of Medicine).

A forerunner of the World Youth Days in Lisbon, this group, sent by Journées Paysannes (, a French movement of rural Christians, came to our beautiful BioRegion of Idanha, an agricultural region disinherited by economic crises and depopulated by migration, to spend a week "to think about tomorrow's agriculture by analyzing the farming methods of yesterday and today and their consequences...".

The group leaders, members of the large Ignatian family, led them to reflect on the objectives that are really important for human beings as individuals and as a society... the immediate and exclusive profit of a minority or the collective well-being and preservation of the planet for our children? Shouldn't we be questioning the actions of lobbyists and the inconsistency of certain political leaders who manage our future on the basis of more or less distorted reports? How can we reconcile sharing and profitability, profit and fairness? How can we place faith and the search for truth at the heart of what makes life worth living? Quite an awareness, quite a singular challenge!

The President of the municipality, Armindo Jacinto, gave them an “overview” of the history of our council, from the birth of St Damas in Idanha-a-Velha (37th pope, originator of the Vulgate) to the present day. They took time to discover the wealth of the Naturtejo park and its superb variety of birds, to appreciate the natural swimming pool of Penha Garcia, the involvement of the adufe and the “adufeiras” in local life and folklore, the beauty of our sunrises and sunsets… They meditated on Creation and celebrated under the olive and fig trees, symbolic biblical trees which for them remained, until then, mythical…

They headed back to Lisbon (stocked up on watermelons!) to share their discoveries and continue their quest for a better world, with Carlyle’s phrase well and truly imprinted on their minds “if YOU complain about your time, if YOU find it bad, before complaining and criticizing, ask yourself what YOU did to make it better…”.

Some have promised to come back and even take part in the next olive harvest… Welcome!

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