The Archbishop of Guwahati urges India to truly protect creation
Archbishop Moolachira spoke at a meeting on the protection of creation held by the dioceses of north-eastern India. He warns that old forests no longer exist, 70 per cent of water sources are polluted, and laws are not enforced by the authorities. He urges people to rediscover harmony with nature, which God created, to become more human.
To mark the Season of Creation, which, on the recommendation of Pope Francis, is celebrated between 1 September, the Day of Creation, and 4 October, feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the dioceses in north-eastern India are currently holding their pastoral conference on the topic of “Environment and care of creation". Here are extensive excerpts from the introductory address given by Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati.
“The book of Genesis speaks of the world God created. ‘Yahweh planted a garden in Eden… There he put the man he had fashioned.”
“As a young priest I used to travel through dense forests to reach some of our parishes and villages. Now after 35-40 years, when I travel through those same roads, there is no trace of a forest. Settlements have sprung up there. Timber is cut off and sold outside the state by unscrupulous elements with the connivance or negligence of government machinery.”
“As a result, the hill sides and plains have become barren, and rivulets dried up, rains have become less, and when it rains fertile soil is washed away; garbage is everywhere and life in towns is unhygienic; pollutants in the cities and towns freely flow into our rivers and water ways. Pesticides and fertilizers are used widely and the water in the rivulets has become dangerous both for man and animals.
“Yet all is not lost. God is raising up young and old, Church personnel and civilians, to champion the cause of the earth, though their cry seems to have come too late. On 2 November 2021, Vinisha Uma Shankar, aged 14, an environmentalist and an innovator, and the winner of Children’s Climate Prize 2021, made a speech in the UN at the international climate change conference”.
“[C]oming to our own country there is Rajendra Singh- the waterman of India, Jadav Payeng the man who planted a forest, Rakhibuddin Ahmed the environmentalist from Assam. In short, they tell us to love and respect nature, save energy and water, plant trees and grow gardens, reduce waste, reuse and recycle, volunteer to clean up and maintain cleanliness.
“Earth, our common home, is composed of living and non-living organisms. They are interconnected. No living creature can live without reference to non-living organisms. The interaction between the living and non-living, makes the earth balanced, healthy, resourceful and beautiful.
“When the balance is lost, we have environmental disasters caused by overproduction, overconsumption, and pollution, resulting in air and water-borne diseases, global warming, floods, earthquakes, storms, drought, etc.
“Environmental degradation creates migration, large slums, and a large number of people living under poverty line. Children suffer more than adults due to environmental issues. It is estimated that 1.5 million children die annually due to diseases and disabilities caused by environmental pollution while they are the least responsible for the same.
“India has mechanisms and laws to save and protect the environment but has no will to execute them. We have human rights, child rights, minority rights, and environmental rights. There is the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), the Environmental (Protection) Act and the Ministry of Environment.
“At the judicial level, we have the National Green Tribunal. But environmental issues are used by politicians and the rich for political and monetary gains. About 70 per cent of our water sources are contaminated. In environmental performance, India is placed 169 out of 180 nations.
“What does the Church teach? Pope Francis said that the cry of the Earth is the cry of the poor. God made man the steward of creation. He is not its master but received it as a gift. Pope John Paul II said that concern for creation is an essential part of our faith.
“The Vatican City State has set an example as a carbon-neutral state; for example, Vatican churches and institutions are going for lawns, organic gardening, using renewable and biodegradable materials. Some have started using waste tyres and other non-degradable materials for construction so that these do not cause environmental damage.
“We call the earth ‘Mother’. It provides us food, water, and fresh air. It refreshes and inspires us to aesthetic beauty. The more we are in harmony with nature the more human we become.”
* Archbishop of Guwahati
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)