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Earth Summit and Ecological Crisis

Earth Summit and Ecological Crisis

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Published by Sunil Kumar Arora

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Published by: Sunil Kumar Arora on Jul 11, 2011
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1
Presented By- Sunil KumarJuly 7, 2010
Earth Summit and Ecological Crisis
Introduction-
 
Human being has always been self-centered and has paid little attention towards other ³co-created´creation. He has left nature as a backdrop, as if he is
apart from
nature and not a part
of 
nature, as if he cansurvive without eating or drinking or breathing.
 
S
o he has used, misused and abused the God-given nature,which was handed over to him to be cared for. But in the recent history of last two-three decades muchattention has been given towards ecological concerns both in secular and religious thinking, in Christianityand other religions. Dealing with ecological issues of climate change and ecological crisis is on the plan of agood number of mission organizations, and looking at mission from the perspective of the whole creationand its peoples is a crucial part of Christian witness in this present scenario. Many have written to drawattention towards this issue and many conferences and consultation have been taking place to address thesame and to spread awareness in controlling the misuse and selfish use of the nature.In this paper I am going to talk about what is being done and what more can be done to help our environment keep healthy.
S
ince the scope of the paper is limited, I have taken for granted that we knowwhat ecological crisis is, how it is created and what are its results.
S
o in this paper I will be talking about the biblical mandate to care for the nature and then how can church respond to this issue. In this effort, first Iwill mention the milestone ³Earth
S
ummit´ and then go ahead with biblical mandate and ChristianMovement and Church response to it.
The Earth Summit-
On June 3 and 4, 1992, the Earth
S
ummit (formally the United Nations Conference on Environmentand Development or UNCED) was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
1
To discuss solutions for global problemslike poverty, war or the rising rift between industrialized and developing countries, government officialsfrom 178 countries and between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals from governments, NGOs and the mediatook part in this historically largest assembly. The main question was how to save the global environment inthe time of sustainable development. It stressed that economic and social progress relies crucially on thesafeguarding of the natural resources by preventing environmental degradation.
2
 The UN summit paid attention on three main concepts:
An µEarth Charter¶ covering a number of principles aiming at development and the protection of the environment,was the first focus for discussion.
S
econdly, "Agenda 21" was intended to be a global action plan for sustainabledevelopment; thirdly, developing countries demanded a substantial increase in new funding from developedcountries to contribute to sustainable development in the
S
outh.
3
 
After UNCED/Rio there were number of global UN conferences discussing on various action plansfor human development. Governments met in 1994 for the Cairo Conference on Population andDevelopment; in 1995 for the Copenhagen
S
ocial Development
S
ummit and the Beijing Conference onWomen and Development; in 1996 the Istanbul conference on Human
S
ettlements and the Food
S
ummit inRome. They agreed on climate, biodiversity, desertification, access to information, persistent organic pollutants (POP) etc.
4
 The center of post-Rio action plan focused on the Commission on
S
ustainable Development (C
S
D).Its main focus is observing and executing ³Agenda 21´. It also includes carrying out activities related toenvironmental and developmental objectives throughout the UN system, getting and examining information
1
http://www.pollutionissues.com/Co-Ea/Earth-
S
ummit.html (4-7-2010)
2
http://www.worldsummit2002.org/index.htm?http://www.worldsummit2002.org/guide/unced.htm (4-7-2010)
3
http://www.worldsummit2002.org/index.htm?http://www.worldsummit2002.org/guide/unced.htm (4-7-2010)
4
http://www.worldsummit2002.org/index.htm?http://www.worldsummit2002.org/guide/unced.htm (4-7-2010)
 
2
 
from governments and NGOs, improving discussion with NGOs, and applying environmental action plan.But from the beginning onwards there were some loopholes, there was lack of disagreement on some issues.Thus, the December 2001 report issued by UN
S
ecretary-General Kofi Annan concluded that ³progresstowards the goals established at Rio has been slower than anticipated and in some respects conditions areworse than they were ten years ago.´
5
 Though Rio conference could not meet its desired goals but it has geared the whole world towards paying attention to ecological crisis. Let us now examine how Christianity is dealing with this present crisis, by observing what Bible says about this:
Bible and Ecology-
Once in a history we thought that ecological crisis was not a serious problem for us in the developingcountries. We imagined that our problem was confined to poverty and economic exploitation and other matters related to it. But in the present context it has been a crucial issue that we need to address veryurgently. Especially in religious milieu, Christianity has been viewed egotistical towards nature and blamedwith being the historical root of our ecological crisis. It is therefore appropriate that we explore the Christianand Biblical basis of environmental protection and stewardship, ask the question, what is the root of our ecological crisis? Let us address this criticism by presenting ecological concerns and our mission in this perspective from a Biblical and Christian worldview and challenge all Christians to apply the Biblical principles of Christian stewardship to the use of God¶s Creation.1-
 
The whole universe is created by God:
Bible begins with God¶s creation of the universe and allliving creatures. Creation is an expression of an intimate relationship between God-nature-humanity.It was created that living beings may continue to live by it.
6
(Gen. 1:1; John 1:1-3; Is. 45:12; Jer.27:5).2-
 
H
umanity has been entrusted with special responsibility to care for the whole creation:
Human being was given the responsibility to serve and preserve the creation.
7
(Gen 1:27-30; Gen 2:15). Thecreator placed man and woman in-charge of the earth to manage and not to destroy.3-
 
The whole creation is a gift of God to humanity:
The creation of God supplies all the needs of lifeso it is to be considered as a gift from the Creator.
8
(Gen 2:16-17; Ps 67:6).4-
 
H
umanity is the steward of God¶s creation but it still belongs to God:
Even though the wholeuniverse is given to human being but it still belongs to God, and God wants it to be preserved andcared for (Ps 24:1).5-
 
W
ith human being God is also interested in the redemption of whole creation:
God cares for thewhole creation, even for a small sparrow (Luke 12:6), and He is interested in the redemption of Hiscreation too (Romans 8:19-20).
The Ecological Crisis and Christian Movements
From last two to three decades there has been a strong emphasis to preserve the natural resources of creation in theological and missiological discussion of the church. In its discussions it was identified that poor and less-privileged people are its primary victims.
S
o it is understood that ³ecological crisis is rightlythe cry of the poor.´
9
Many Christian organizations and denominations have taken the steps ahead toaddress this crucial issue in their meetings. For more than twenty-five years the WCC has been engaged inmaking efforts within its own worldwide community to develop a faith-based understanding of the mutual
5
http://www.pollutionissues.com/Co-Ea/Earth-
S
ummit.html (4-7-2010)
6
Per Larsson,
our will be Done on Earth«
, (Hong Kong: Christian Conference of Asia, 2004), 37.
7
George
S
amuel, ³Ecology and Mission,´ in
 Doing Mission in Context 
, edited by
S
unanda
S
umithra and F. Hranghkuma,(Banglore: Theological Book Trust, 1995), 141.
8
George
S
amuel, ³Ecology and Mission,´ 141.
9
K.C. Abraham, ³A Theological Response to the Ecological Crisis,´ in
 Ecotheology: Voices from South and North,
edited byDavid J. Hallman, (New York: Orbis Books, 1994), 66.
 
3
 
interrelationship between social justice, human development and protection of the environment. It has been paying attention on this crucial issue by organizing consultations, sponsoring various gatherings in different parts of the world and encouraging churches to be sensitive towards ecological concerns. ³Justice, Peaceand Integrity of Creation´ has been a strong focus from Vancouver, 1983 assembly onwards and it isfollowed up in different international and regional WCC sponsored gatherings.
10
At the 2002 World
S
ummiton
S
ustainable Development, Christian representatives emphatically uttered their concern that sustainabledevelopment must be directed toward a genuine obligation to ³care for the poor, the marginalized and thevoiceless.´
11
 On 14-16 January 2009 the
S
outhern African Missiological
S
ociety held one of a series of conferences related to Edinburgh 2010 themes. Dr.
S
am Kobia, General
S
ecretary of the WCC was one of the speakers. In this mission conference the morning devotions paid attention on the role of trees in scriptureand society. On the final morning of the congress as a symbol of their discussion, delegates planted an olivetree.
12
Christian Faith and the Earth is an international, collaborative research project which is working onecology and Christian doctrine led by Dr. Ernst Conradie, Department of Religion and Theology, Universityof the Western Cape,
S
outh Africa. It is working toward a
S
ymposium (seminar) in 2012.
13
 Catholics have also taken the initiative for ecological concern. On 12-16 May 2009, there was
S
EDO
S
(
S
ervice of Documentation and
S
tudy on Global Mission) seminar on Justice, Peace and theIntegrity of Creation (JPIC), under the main theme, ³Creation at the Heart of Mission´ where these subjectswere discussed, 1.
S
cience and theology: the story of the universe, 2. Ecology and Jesus Christ: ecologicalconversion, 3. Eucharist and ecology, 4. Final redemption of all things.
14
 
Church¶s Response to Ecological Crisis-
Q
uoting the draft of WCC¶s JPIC seminar, P.J.
S
anjeeva Raj says that the survival of creationrequires that we receive the challenge of preserving and ³stewarding´ our environment and educating our congregations and individuals to do the same with necessity and dedication.
15
The problem is that Christiantheology and mission have been anthropocentric (human-centered) and have taken the natural world for granted. But as we face the present ecological crisis Christian mission and church has to play a key role inaddressing this crisis. K.C. Abraham suggests three kinds of models for the church to follow in order to bein harmony with the God-given nature. Firstly, ³
 A
 scetic or Monastic Model 
,
´
16 
in this he mentions thatgiving up the greed and being satisfied with the minimum will help to preserve the nature.
S
econdly,
³Sacrament/Eucharist Model,´
17
in this he argues that nature should be taken as the gift from God and aseucharist is shared, all the blessings of the nature are to be shared with all. This can be shared only if it iscared for and preserved. Thirdly,
³Liberative solidarity Model,´
18
in this he proposes that
 
church needs to be in solidarity with the creation. We need to keep in mind that with human beings creation is also lookingfor redemption. If the church has this view in her mind, she will strive hard to be in solidarity with nature.In addition to these models church can take some down-to-earth initiatives like organizing awarenesscamps and seminars to learn more about ecological crisis and how to handle it, partnering with societieswhich are involved in ecological development, arranging spiritual meetings where the sermons may be
10
R.L.
S
arkar,
he Bible, Ecology and Environment,
(New Delhi: I
S
PCK, 2000), 263-264.
11
Willis Jenkins, ³Missiology in Environmental Context: Tasks for an Ecology of Mission,´
 International Bulletin of Missionary Research,
vol. 32, no. 4 (October 2008): 181.
12
http://www.edinburgh2010.org/en/study-themes/transversal-topics/7-ecological-perspectives-in-mission.html (4-7-2010)
13
http://www.edinburgh2010.org/en/study-themes/transversal-topics/7-ecological-perspectives-in-mission.html (4-7-2010)
14
http://www.edinburgh2010.org/en/study-themes/transversal-topics/7-ecological-perspectives-in-mission.html (4-7-2010)
15
P.J.
S
anjeeva Raj, ³Ecology and Development: A Theological Perspective,´ in
 Ecology and Development:
heological  Perspectives,
edited by Daniel D. Chetti (UELCI/GURUKUL & BTE/
SS
C, 1991), 60
16
K.C. Abraham, ³A Theological Response to the Ecological Crisis,´ 71.
17
K.C. Abraham, ³A Theological Response to the Ecological Crisis,´ 72.
18
K.C. Abraham, ³A Theological Response to the Ecological Crisis,´ 72.

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