Saturday, July 23, 2005

Earth day, Religion & Me again

As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words". In this case, it is worth a thousand questions, searches and action items. This is a picture of Thai Buddhist monks ordaining an old tropical tree to protect it from logging. The picture was taken by Chamaiporn Pongpanich of Thailand

This post has been exactly 3 months in the making. I have been asking myself the question, Can religion save us from today's grave environmental crisis?. Can religion stop the rampant industrial pollution, resource depletion and habitat loss ? The world population today is well over 6 billion. It is estimated that about 84% of people are religious. So, the simple answer is, Yes. The difficult question is, How?

My search, led me to Harvard university's study on religion and ecology. The study explores human behavior over the past several decades. How materialism has affected society. How emphasis in Christianity and Judaism on the dominion of humans over nature has led to exploitation and destruction of nature and its resources for utilitarian ends. It looks at different religions and its views on nature. I have to say, reading it has been saddening, enlightening and heartening. Heartening, because the religious leaders across the world are cognizant of present day environmental issues. Some things are being done about it. More needs to be done and it needs to done fast.

It was a pleasant surprise to find the study mention, churches in Kerala. Almost all the churches in Kerala (including mine) have come together to form what is called the Joint Ecological Commission. The aim of the commission is to spread awareness about environmental issues in churches. The site listed Dr Mathew Koshy as the contact.

Dr Mathew Koshy teaches at the Bishop Moore college in Kerala. He has been working with many Churches over the past several years. He is passionate about the environment and eco theology. He was kind enough to send me a copy of a recent publication titled "Reconciling with Nature". It brings to light, aspects of the Bible that I was not aware of. To be honest, I have a new found respect for the Bible. Thanks to the hard work of Dr Koshy, there is growing public awareness. In an age of rampant commercialism, it is always a race against time. I sincerely hope to work with him and be of help.

This post is not about Christianity. It is about us all. It is about how our religions can better our world. My parents have always taught me to respect others and other religions. I am forever grateful for that. Mahatma Gandhi said this about religion, "The soul of religions is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms". He goes on to say, "Faith is a living, wide, awake consciousness of God within". I sincerely feel our religions can guide us to a better greener future. If we are to appeal to our religious leaders, If we are to request them to address environmental issues, I am sure we can bring about a positive change. There is no better mass media communication than religion.

Quotes of the day
"I need no inspiration other than Nature's. She has never failed me yet. She mystifies me, bewilders me, sends me into ecstasies. Besides God's handiwork, does not man's fade into insignificance?" ... Mahatma Gandhi

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it"...Genesis (2:15)

"For the time has come...for destroying those who destroy the earth"...Revelation (11:18)


Deepak said...

Instead of saying 'religion can save ecosystem', it makes more sense to say 'religion forces people who lack a rational mind not to harm the ecosystem by appealing to their faith and belief'.

Sunil said...

I don't think religion can or will save the environment, but all religions do stress on the importance of the environment.

This is obvious in their statements, and even worship (of rivers, forests and trees, say in Hinduism), or using traditional religious wisdom in reviving wasteland, like here or even say in movements like Rajendra Singh's Tarun Bharat sangh in Rajasthan (where, while spreading their messages, the workers highlight conservation messages in hindu texts or the koran, while speaking to villagers).

But.....I do not believe that community movements need to be religious in order to be successful....and the importance here should be on community movements, and not specific religious movements.

One More Reason said...


I kind of agree with you there. In the end, we all want a better environment. We want every one to be aware, care and do something about it.

I have to disagree with you. If you look at Buddhism, the monks are at the forefront in environmental activism (the picture in my post is the proof). In Japan, in Thailand, in Tibet, in Bhutan the monks are leading the way. Dalai Lama is a champion of sorts in this field.

In Bhutan, the school curiculum itself is going to have eco friendliness built into it.

Christianity and Islam need to catch up and need to catch up fast.

Jennifer said...

Great post, as usual! I wrote much the same thing a few months ago and got tarred and feathered for it. Until Christians start taking accountability for our actions, the world's perception of us will never change. And if the perception never changes, we're not ever going to be adding to the kingdom of God. So sad. I will read the Harvard article - thanks!

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought, although i think we might have a hard time convincing religious heads to converge on ONE issue considering rate of killing, back bitting and bombing going on in name of religion.

Good thought. Tough sell.

silverine said...

This is so encouraging. More power to the pro eco forces. The ecology has been my greatest worry especially since my last visit to Kerala. Buildings are cropping up everywhere and trees are being cut down.This post raises hopes.

Thank you for dropping by my blog.