A message of hope from Pope Francis to reach the Arctic on a unique journey

UNDP Arab States Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Action to carry message on his Walk for Climate Resilience, in Norway, in early 2022

December 17, 2021

Rome– At a special event, hosted today in the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, and co-organized with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Institute for Global Dialogue and the Culture of the Encounter, the Dicastery for Communication of the Holy See marked the presentation to UNDP Arab States Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Action, Michael Haddad of a blessed version of the book entitled, “Why Are You Afraid, Have You No Faith?”

His Holiness presented the book to Haddad in an informal private ceremony in his Domus Santa Marta residence, the preceding night. The book documents the extraordinary moment of prayer over which Pope Francis presided in March 2020, at a peak moment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Hope is bold,” states Pope Francis in his book. “It knows how to look beyond personal comfort, the small securities and compensations that narrow the horizon, to open up to great ideals that make life more beautiful and dignified."

This core message holds great relevance to the current global struggle to stave off the Climate emergency caused by global warming. Pope Francis has used his significant moral authority tirelessly to strongly advocate for climate action.

Haddad will carry a small six by eight centimeters special edition of the book on his 10 Kilometers Climate Resilience Arctic Walk for Food Security and Inclusion, organized jointly with the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations. He will deposit the book in the Global Seed Vault, built by the Government of Norway on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, 1300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle.

The permafrost surrounding this largest and safest backup storage facility to preserve the world's crop diversity helps maintain the low temperature needed for seed survival. Record high temperatures, like the global heat wave of 2016 and warming ground temperatures are significant indications of the extent of potential climate impacts on the vault.

“In my role as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Action in the Arab States Region, I will proudly carry this message of hope from His Holiness Pope Francis,” said Haddad. “Alongside more than 1 million seed samples preserved in this unique refuge to safeguard our food and agriculture for future generations, I hope that the exceptional seed of hope that this book represents will live for posterity, inspiring optimism and encouraging action in solidarity.”

The Svalbard Climate Resilience Arctic Walk will coincide with the first opening of the Seed Vault in 2022 for seed deposits during the week of 14 - 18 February 2022, and the second Global Disability Summit that Norway will host 15 - 17 February 2022, planned to be held mainly virtually.

Haddad is a Lebanese endurance athlete, who was told that he will never walk again after a childhood accident at age six left him paralyzed from the chest down. Defying the odds, Haddad has developed his own unique way of walking with support of a simple exoskeleton.

As Goodwill Ambassador with the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States since September 2019, he has embarked on a series of walks to help raise awareness of the need for more ambitious and urgent action to address the impacts of climate change and underscore the importance of inclusion of persons with disabilities in every aspect of life. The impact of climate change has hit countries in the Arab region hard, with rising temperatures and dwindling natural resources, making Haddad’s advocacy efforts crucial to raise awareness for the urgency of climate action.

Haddad is preparing for his biggest physical challenge yet, to perform a 100 Kilometers walk in a ten-day period to bring attention to the melting Arctic ice as one of the gravest manifestations of global warming. This Arctic Walk to Address the Klima Emergency, or AWAKE (Klima is Norwegian for Climate), is planned to take place in the second half of 2022, also in Norway.

Attributable quotes from partnering organizations:

Dr. Khalida Bouzar,

Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Director for UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States

“From scaling mountain trails in Lebanon to trekking the foothills of the Great Pyramids, and now his upcoming walk across the Arctic – these challenging, physical expeditions that Michael conquers, one after the other, show his true determination and grit. It’s reminder to us all - if Michael can defy science and walk 100km in 10 days, then we can easily do our own part to flight climate change.

H.E. Ambassador Pietro Sebastiani,

Ambassador of Italy to the Holy See

“We are happy to host this event today that clearly underscore the critical contribution of determination to human action as the example of Michael Haddad embodies. In this case, the concept of Leaving No One Behind is grounded in conquering one’s own limitations and turning them into a drive for acting for good.”

Msgr. Lucio Ruiz,

Secretary, Dicastery of Communication, Holy See

“Thank you, Michael, for making this extraordinary event possible, enabling two paths to be joined – in hope and by the wish to call the world to creativity so as to be capable of being reborn better, because no one emerges from a crisis the same way as before – one come out either better or worse.”

Luis Liberman

Founder, Global institute for Dialogue and Culture of Encounter

“Inequalities simultaneously express brutality and expulsion. We need to build a pedagogy of hope. Facing inequalities, we need inspiring and encouraging leaders. Michael's walk in the Arctic is a teaching and a testimony that nobody can be left behind. In the challenge of a sustainable future, the fight for rights restores to us the value of the human in its maximum dimension. We are all necessary and no one is saved alone.”

Kent Nnadozie,

Secretary, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

“FAO is thrilled that UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michael Haddad has chosen to visit the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a unique initiative where FAO Members are working together to preserve the worlds crop diversity for future generations. The importance of preserving plant genetic diversity is increasing together with the severity of the climate crisis, which threatens agricultural productivity and food security. Seeds are one of the greatest hopes for our ability to build the resilience of agrifood systems to adapt to our changing climate.”