The Clergy from various dioceses of the CSI assembled at Kodaikanal from 7th to 9th March 2018 for a three day Eco-lent meditations on God’s Creations. The study and meditations were based on six eco justice principles. The universe, Earth, and all its components have intrinsic worth/value. Earth is a community of inter-connected living things that are mutually dependent on each other for life and survival. Earth is a living entity capable of raising its voice in celebration and against injustice. The universe, Earth and all its components are a part of a dynamic cosmic design within which each piece has a place in the overall design. Earth is a balanced and diverse domain where responsible custodians can function as partners with, rather than rulers over, Earth to sustain its balance and a diverse Earth community. Earth and its components not only suffer from human injustices but actively resist them in the struggle for justice. The Department of Ecological Concerns of the CSI Synod has been trying to study these principles in an Indian Context. God created everything in this universe and found that it was good. Human beings are only one among the other creations of God. The creation can sustain itself without human beings, but human beings cannot sustain themselves without the creation. All the speakers emphasized that our anthropogenic activities violate the rights of flora and fauna of the earth. As the CSI is committed to protect the integrity of the creation, the CSI do believe that the Green protocol should be reflected in life and ministry of the Church. The participants agreed that the Church should respond prophetically or lament like Jeremiah when people exploit natural resources and consequently crucify God’s creation, the flora and the fauna. The clergy of CSI expressed their solidarity with the groaning creation, eagerly waiting for redemption. God, the Creator, designed the universe as interdependent and as a living organism and therefore her redemption is possible only by preserving (in some cases, retrieving) her dynamic and harmonious balance.
After three days of deliberations and meditations the clergy assembled for campfire in front of Kenly bungalow, an announcement came from the caretaker. “Don’t stand in front of the bungalow. A group of Bisons are on the campus in an angry mood”. All the clergy rushed into the bungalow fearing the bison. The group of Bisons were standing in front of the Bungalow. Everything came to a standstill. The care taker burst crackers to send them away. Normally, when they burst crackers it will return to the forest. But this time they remained there, inspite of the noise of the crackers. We cancelled our campfire and went to bed. The next morning when we opened the door, they were still standing there to meet us. Bison generally attack human beings if anybody disturbed their movement. The group of bisons looked at the Clergy as though trying to communicate something. The three days meditations on God’s creations enabled us to read their mind.
“You are talking about the groaning creations. You have to understand how justice has been denied to us by you people. Kodaikanal, means "The Gift of the Forest”. It was a thick shola forest till 1845. The American Christian missionaries and British bureaucrats entered these forests in 1845, to escape from the high temperatures and tropical diseases of the plains. In the 20th century a few elite Indians came to realise the value of this enchanting hill station and started relocating here. They destroyed indigenous plants and planted exotic plants like Eucalyptus and Acacia. Now it is a concrete jungle where our movements and food are restricted. You people have invaded our land which God has allotted to us. You destroyed our habitat and our climate. So how can you preach eco justice in my habitat when my species are struggling for existence. Dear Clergy, we are an endangered species. We have been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986. Kindly allow us to live in our land. When you occupy our land, deny food and shelter we may be forced to come to your living space. Without any compassion you call us wild animals and kill us. Have mercy on us ”.
Silence reigned for a while. After 12 hours of passive silent Satyagraha in front of Kenly Bungalow, the group of Bisons left the campus. Then we turned to the Bible. After Job has been allowed to suffer terribly and then received visits from his friends whose words were of little comfort, God finally answered Job out of the whirlwind. God does not call on Job to repent but instead gives a wonderful account of many aspects of both the physical and biological sides of creation. There is no shortage of biodiversity here, the hawk soaring, the eagle nesting and feeding her young, the mountain goats and deer calving, lions, ravens, the ostrich abandoning her eggs, and the wild ass roaming the mountains. Behemoth, a water creature, perhaps the hippopotamus and Leviathan the crocodile. This is God’s view of his creation, and its biodiversity is obviously very important. The descriptions of animal behaviour and of the wonders of the heavens did lead Job to repentance. The Bison opened the eyes of the participants to understand the message from God during the Eco lent meditation. Ecological activities form an integral part of the pastoral ministry of the Church. Christians cannot be indifferent to deforestation, global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction, all of which threaten life on our planet. Because so many of these threats are driven by greed, we must also actively seek to create more compassionate and sustainable economies that support the well-being of all God’s creations.
The three days meditations were facilitated by Bishop M. Joseph(Chairman of CSI synod Ecological Committee), Rev.Dr.Shinoj Melvin Boas, Rev. E B S Nath, Rev. M.S.Jebastin Michelraj, Prof.Dr.Selwin Samuel, Rev.Sujith Kumar, Rev.James Cecil Victor and Prof.Dr.Mathew Koshy Punnackad. The Department of Ecological Concerns conducted the Eco Lent programme with the active cooperation of Rev. James Cecil Victor, director of Pastoral Concerns. Bishop M. Joseph honoured the participants with mementoes. During evaluation all the clergy appreciated the all the leaders for their meticulous presentations and for organizing an innovative programme useful to the Clergy during the lent season.
Prof. Dr. Mathew Koshy Punnackad
Hon.Director of Department of Ecological Concerns of CSI Synod