Author: Premamitra Anandaraja
Category: Creation Care
This is an INTEREST GROUP PRESENTATION ABSTRACT; the paper will be presented at the Jamaica Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel in October, 2012. Comments are welcomed! View all abstracts.
We have drifted away from the design of the God to devise of our own life style. Today, we are groaning in pain as we consider what we have done and what we are doing to the creation. We are quite literally destroying our world. In the first account of creation we find that the image of God, in which human being is created, is related to human’s lordship over creation. Some of us have seen this as justification for everything that the human being has done to exploit the earth’s resources. When we examine the problems and identify the cause for the present deplorable state. We could realize that among many factors the human activities. It is unfortunately human beings have an endless desire to possess things, even if this should mean that it would depriving others. Strangely we are caught in the false belief that we are autonomous beings, without connections, individualistic, using our surroundings in self interest as if we were not part of the creation.
When we examine the broken relationship and values that corrupt us we can clearly see that we are in need of conversion. As individuals, with the image of God, we need to repent, to leave behind those estrange actions which detract from the image of God and find a new ways which are closer to the simple lifestyle of Christ. We have eaten of the tree knowledge of good and evil and we are capable of seeing what we do. Our work is more than a means to obtaining the basic necessities of life; it is an involvement as co-creators with God. Let us not forget that Adam and Eve were partners, helpmates, one flesh in the enterprise of God. We have neglected the spiritual and social aspects relevant to salvation and laid too much emphasis only on the material ends of our work. Jesus came to redeem us from the sin Adam brought us into and to return us to the order and purpose of God’s image, which was to that bring us closer to him in partnership and unity with the whole creation.
Therefore, the Gospel shows that we all are accountable to God. It is impossible to relate to the Gospel without reflecting on the accountability of human beings. This is also the argument of St Paul in the letters to the Romans. The letters to the Romans is somehow built up as a legal argument, showing that before God there is no one without guilt and there is no one without the need of the Gospel of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ. We can neither boast of ourselves for what we are nor can we claim any special privileges.
The responsibility towards God also makes us accountable to one another. The radical theological conclusion is this: We cannot believe in God as the creator of all and in Jesus Christ as saviour if we are biased against some, while showing favoritism toward others conversely. If we show favoritism in the way we deal with others, we show that we do not believe in God the creator, in God the giver of the law, and particularly not in Jesus Christ who gave his life for each and every one of us who need the benefits of his identification with us through death and through the resurrection from death.
This is particularly true if we think that we are in a privileged situation in relation to God. The Gospel corresponds to the conclusion St Paul gives about God: “For God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11). The presence of injustice in our world, the practice of discrimination, the basis of all human sin reveals that we do not understand properly what it means to believe in the God who shows no partiality.
This human shortcoming of partiality and discrimination subverts the purpose of our being of us, particularly among those who might think that we have some kind of privileged position in relation to God – and therefore, in relation to other creation - because of our inherited rights or identity. We all fall short of the standard required of human beings, to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. That provides no reason for comfort, for anybody. The fundamental equality of humanity is in terms of our universal need for the Gospel. Paul writes that he himself is a debtor to all – the Gospel is for everybody, without distinction (Romans 1:14-15). It is in this reality of our universal need that Paul brings a message regarded by many as “foolish” this Gospel is preached and manifested and, in spite of opposition St Paul is not ashamed of it (Roman 1:16).
The Gospel is for the world, belongs to the world, a world in which there is groaning. But the Gospel also encourages celebrations of life thanks to its message of hope and love. The Gospel brings something new to the world through Christ. The Gospel also confirms and interprets the reality of the world, in creation and in humanity through a fallen and suffering world affirming the creation as a blessing of God, giving life and meaning to it. However important is that, there is a mystery of life, a mystery of good, a mystery of faith
The Gospel is always relating to the world as it is now, and not to an ideal world. Jesus Christ addressed the human beings. He met them, as they were, in the context where he found them, and he was perceived according to their particular positions and points of view. The Gospel is always challenging the world as it offers another, transformed reality a vision of another world than the one which has been shaped by the effects of sin and evil.
The Gospel of the Cross of Christ challenges all authorities who abuse their role and laws, whether they are political or religious, whether they are national or international, local or imperial. The Gospel of righteousness given in Jesus Christ is always challenging our tendency to be complacent with any authority that does not protect justice and the rights of every creation. The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is always challenging any acceptance of deterioration of the quality of life. Nothing can take away the new reality of God’s love for everyone, a reality that transcends all other realities established by sin - whoever might be the agent of sin. Therefore Paul concludes in Romans 8:38 his reflection on the groaning world with words that can comfort and therefore liberate anybody at any time and in any situation: ”For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8, 38f).
The Gospel values challenge us in ARocha India to take up the work of conservation of elephant in the Bannerghatta national park located 24kms from Bangalore India. The park is a narrow strip of forest (104 square kilometers). The park is contiguous to the forest of south India and is home of variety for flora and fauna, including Asian elephant. A Rocha India has been involved in the management of the Bannerghatta National park through a research programme to understand the human-elephant conflict. Despite various conservation measures, the survival of the Asian elephant today continues to be threatened, seriously reducing the population of the species. Elephants cause serious damage to both subsistence and commercial agriculture and a substantial number of people are killed each year by elephants, and elephants are killed in retaliation. The depredation of crops, damage to property and human-slaughter by elephants has caused considerable damage to the economy. Admittedly there has been a large amount of compensation paid. There are around 110 villages located within and outside the Banergahatta National park where ARocha India is working over half of the working population here is involved in agriculture, 83% of these are marginalized small farmers who are poor. The wet crops attract and cause elephant incursions into human habitations.
Human elephant conflict is a complex problem as it not only involves the crops and elephants but a whole range of other associated issues such as changes in the cropping pattern, economic status of the local community and seasonal movement of elephants in relation to harvesting in crop lands. So through understanding of the issues revolving around this problem is a prerogative to finding solutions to mitigation of the problem. To that effect ARocha India has been involved in investigating this problem at the park since 2004 through scientific research programme.
As part of the research progarmme ARocha India has also been involved in testing a community based elephant barrier mechanism in addition to an assessment of the traditional barriers such a solar powered fences, trenches and rubble wall. The new method involves the use of chili powder , tobacco powder mixed together with old engine oil and smeared on cotton rope. The local community is overwhelmed by impact of the barrier. Initially, farmers were sceptical of accepting barrier but the results in the test plot drove them to acknowledge the fact that building barriers works.
Despite pain and despoliation which we have seen around us, there are signs of hope. Besides the story of A Rocha India there are other stories of hope. The Chipko in India, popularly known as the huge tree movement and the Green Belt movement in Kenya. These are all signs for us that the Gospel as liberator both inside and outside the church to dedicate lives to enhancing and protecting the integrity of Creation. There is urgency about this issue which calls for widespread awareness and immediate action. We are convinced that the challenge which we have tried to discuss here is similar to the one which Moses put before the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land, “today I offer you a choice of life and death, blessing or curse. Choose life and then you and your descendants will live (Deu 30:19-20).
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Chair person A Rocha –India