Religious communities need to help care for the Earth

2011-08-17 00:00

OUR Earth is a mother who nourishes us. We therefore need to be friends with this mother, lest we hunger, thirst and die of fatigue.

Befriending the Earth would be possible if only we are in touch with it. I recall my early childhood memories of those times that we used to climb trees, make samp (ugali) from mud and construct grass houses. Today fewer children sprawl on the grass. Instead they are climbing on chairs or sprawling on carpets. Their parents fear that they may dirty their clothes or be bitten by insects. Contact with Mother Earth is diminishing. Our don’t-care attitude is feeding the lurking giant of global warming.

All are to blame for this climate change. In this regard, we have to co-operate to care for the Earth faithfully. I have never heard of a Christian or Buddhist forest or a Muslim river. Irrespective of our faith, language or colour we drink water from the same source. No one can step aside and say that they are off the hook. What the world needs are engineers, town planners, technicians, architects and a host of experts from other fields who have a wide vision of what is required to reduce climate change. The question of which faith is best equipped in the matter shouldn’t arise. Put in the words of Sean McDonagh (1990:192), a renowned Catholic theologian: “We should forget which institution should have precedence, and other ecclesial niceties”.

Above all, a change of heart is inevitable if we want to curb climate change. It’s crystal clear that consumer habits are spiralling and diets are becoming more animal-based. It takes people of courage to challenge themself on these things. Besides pointing fingers at polluters when they litter our unkempt compounds, we need to work on our habits too. In the words of local academic Professor Susan Rakoczy, a new kind of ascetism and self-denial is needed.

I am not sure of the last time I heard a Christian pray for our sick Mother Earth. We pray for the church, families, the nation and so on, forgetting that there is no heaven without the Earth. Surely issues like global warming, climate change and the environment should be part of our prayers in the liturgy or in our private devotions? People of God need to be conscientised about their responsibilities towards the Earth. Evangelisation is about the whole person, not only about saving souls. Without good air, drinkable water and favourable weather conditions, priests would only be preaching to sick people.

There are little things that we can do to make a difference like sharing lifts, switching off electrical appliances and making use of natural light as much as possible. Let us form communities that will conscientise this wasteful generation on the need to care for the wounded mother, like Abalimi Bezekhaya, (planters of Earth) a Catholic movement that beautifies townships by planting trees. The church could be one of the greatest instruments in healing this sick Earth if it has the will to do so.

• Anthony Gathambiri is a missionary based in Merrivale who belongs to a group known as Instituto Missioni Della Consolata (IMC).

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