28th October 2007
Mother Earth, Brother Sun, Sister Moon – 2
Alfred E. Baldacchino
As we have seen from the first part of my feature, the world’s leading religions – no matter how diverse – are of one voice regarding man’s obligation to care for and protect the environment.
The wealth of spiritual direction by the leading world religions was
manifested in Assisi, Italy, on September 29, 1986, on the occasion
of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s 25th anniversary, where they
issued a declaration on man and nature.
For the very first time in history, five major ethical systems of the
world categorically stated that their beliefs led them to the need to
conserve this delicate and fragile ecosystem of which man is just a
part and so dependent upon.
The Venerable Lungrig Namgyal Rinpoche, Abbot of Gyuto Tantric
University, presented the Buddhist declaration on nature, dwelling
on the fact that the disregard for natural heritage has brought about
risks to world peace and to the survival of endangered species. The
destruction of the environment, and the life depending upon it, was
the result of ignorance, greed and disregard for the richness of all
living things. “We are the generation with the awareness of a great
danger. We are the ones with the responsibility and the ability to
concrete action, before it is too late.”
Fr Lanfranco Serrini, Minister General of the Franciscan Conventual Order, declared that man’s dominion cannot be understood as a licence to abuse, spoil, squander or destroy what God has made to manifest His glory. That dominion cannot be anything other than a stewardship in symbiosis with all creatures.
On one hand, man’s position verges on a viceregal partnership with God; on the other, his self-mastery in symbiosis with creation must manifest the Lord’s exclusive and absolute dominion over everything, over man and over his stewardship. At the risk of destroying himself, man may not harm or destroy God’s bountiful treasures.
Karan Singh, president of the Hindu Virat Samaj, read the Hindu Declaration on Nature referring to the Hindu scriptures which pronounce a reverence for life, and an awareness that the four elements – earth, air, water and fire – as well as various orders of life, including plants and trees, forests and animals, are all bound to each other within the great rhythms of nature. An ancient Hindu dictum is: “The earth is our mother, and we are all
Abdullah Omar Nasseef, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, said that for Muslims, mankind’s role on earth was that of a khalifa, viceroy or trustee of God. We are God’s stewards and agents on earth. We are
not masters of this earth; it does not belong to us to do what we wish. It belongs to God and He has entrusted us with its safekeeping. Our function is only to oversee the trust. He added that the world is green and beautiful and God has appointed man as His steward over it. Environmental consciousness is born when such values are adopted and become an intrinsic part of our mental and physical make-up.
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, explained that the encounter of God and Mother Earth by Jenness Cortez
Perlmutter man in nature is conceived in Judaism as a seamless web with man as the leader and custodian of the natural work. Man has a responsibility to life, to defend it everywhere, not only against man’s own sins but also against those of others. “We are all passengers together in this same fragile and glorious world. Let us safeguard our row boat – and let us row together.”
Since these statements were made in 1986, much water has passed under the bridge. But the strong flow of water today facing humanity is all murky, carrying the hidden costs of man’s greed. The silver lining is that the destruction of the eco system is also strongly contributing to a stronger public awareness, not least in the spiritual field.
Last month, Pope Benedict XVI led the Church’s first ‘eco friendly’ youth rally on the occasion of his prayer vigil with young people in Loreto, Italy. Addressing nearly half a million youngsters, the Pope, referring to world
leaders, emphasised that “before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions that reflect knowing how to recreate a strong alliance between man and the earth” and stressed the “pressing need for science and religion to work together to safeguard the gifts of nature and to promote responsible stewardship.”
On October 1, the Maltese Church’s Environment Commission published an opinion paper stating that “the Church needs to be a clear and courageous sign of the times. With its sincere interest in the holistic development of humans – because they are created in God’s image – the Church is in the best position to find the right balance between the three dimensions of sustainable development: the environment, society and economy while lamenting that “… for some individuals in the various strata of the Church in Malta, environmental responsibility features quite low in their personal value scale”.
The light at the end of the long dark tunnel is shining brightly, helped by the world’s leaders, obeying the command of our Creator. The sacred writings all spell out the anguish that can befall humanity, both from a spiritual and a physical point of view, if the environment is destroyed. Keeping in mind, with courage and determination, that we are guardians of God’s creation, we cannot fail.
And once obeying the command of the Creator, can anything block our enthusiasm when we are united with Christ? Before it is too late, let’s do it, in the name of the Father.