Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eco justice in the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church

The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church has taken a step in the right direction by inaugurating the Ecological Commission on August 6, 2010. The decision to plant one lakh saplings all over Kerala has been picked up by many churches already and the church is trying to be more ecologically sensitive. The name ‘Shlomo’ does suggest the setting of peace on earth and this can be accomplished only by the peaceful co-habitation of all of God’s creation.

But can peace come about without justice? This is what we usually forget in our quest for peace. In this sense the church has brought forth a bold initiative because justice also involves justice for all and that includes ecology. Therefore it is not only justice for humans but for all creation. At the same time we should look at more ways of being ecologically sensitive. Churches are already doing their bit. But to be front runners in suggesting a model for all to be a part of in Kerala, India and the whole world, we should put our thinking caps on and see what we can do within the existing scheme of things.

The church always rewards its members for contributing towards the life of the church and more importantly society. Two very common titles that all are familiar with are commander and chevalier. I am sure that the church does confer the titles on people who have done good work. But why don’t we expand the scope of such titles? What about a title for a person who stands for eco justice? Why not honour a person (woman or man) who has managed to log several carbon points by using clean and un-polluting technology? And why not honour people who by their very existence proclaim eco justice? What about churches which use green technology and traditional methods of construction and maintainence rather than spending crores to build towering structures?

As the church bans plastic and plants saplings what about the waste that we produce? Our sermons are usually about cleansing our souls and beings but never refer to the collective sins in the form of mounting waste in our villages, towns and cities. Why don’t we go for bio-gas plants and other eco-friendly waste disposal methods and try to reduce our consumption of plastic and production of waste? Wouldn’t it be a noble and path breaking effort to have these mini waste converting units in the church compounds itself?

As part of our upward social mobility we like to flaunt our cars, motor bikes and other polluting machines. The church also is forced to bless the prosperity of its people. But shouldn’t we also pray for those who by being powerless are actually bringing about eco justice in this world. Shouldn’t we then reward those who consume less, waste less, pollute less, and therefore sacrifice themselves for the good of many? Aren’t they our true commander’s and chevalier’s?

The ecological initiative by the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church should be whole heartedly supported by the people. But it would also help if the leadership of the church takes this further through discussions and deliberations which will lead to a change in the process of rewarding, where more dimensions are added and thereby even people who have stood and will stand for eco justice will also be rewarded for their contribution to the church and the world. In the mean time, let us plant the saplings and nurture them.