United in Creation

Just days before “Time of Creation” closes, some reflections and experiences on the contribution that we as citizens of the world belonging to different religions can offer for the protection of our planet and humanity, seeing creation as a point of encounter.

Like “a sister, with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us “. These are the words with which the Holy Father, in describing our planet, introduces us to his Apostolic Exhortation Laudato Si. The Pope’s appeal is addressed to “all people of good will” and to believers of all faiths: “The majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers.  This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor and building networks of respect and fraternity”.[1]

Our home is in danger and the gravity of the ecological crisis we are experiencing requires a way forward for the common good. Digging deep, right to the essence of each faith is the way to discover, with wonder, that we are united in creation. It is the way to rediscover in the beauty of diversity that we are brothers and sisters living under the same roof.

“Judaism teaches that we are God’s partners in creation,” explained Emily Soloff, Associate Director for Interfaith and Intergroup Relations at the American Jewish Committee. “We do not own creation,” she continued, “but we have a responsibility to care for and heal the world. (…) Shabbat is one day in the week when we intentionally reduce our energy consumption by completely turning off our computers, phones and other electronic devices. We don’t drive a car or shop on Shabbat. It is a day of rest.”

Modernisation has gradually distanced us from seeing the earth as a manifestation of the divine, allowing man to triumph over nature.

Mostafa El-Diwany, a Muslim doctor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Montreal in Canada said: “In Islam, as in the other Abrahamic faiths, the axis of being is the Unity of God; the Creator is the source of everything that exists (…). As such, every living organism and matter itself are imbued with the Sacred, and are consequently sacred. This notion in no way hinders the objective study of the physical world and humanity within it. (…) God has given men and women dignity over the rest of His creation by entrusting him with vicegerency. This is not a role that involves domination and exploitation but a position of responsibility (…)”.

What appears to be an environmental crisis could therefore be seen as a spiritual crisis, an inability to reconnect with the divine and live in harmony with nature.

Restoring order with creation “is at the heart of Buddhist precepts,” said Wasan Jompakdee, Co-founder Member and former Secretary General of the Dhammanaat Foundation for Conservation and Rural Development in Thailand. Recalling the work undertaken by Phra Ajahn Pongsak Techadhammo, founding monk, he said: “About thirty years ago he began to observe the disappearance of trees and soil in the mountains of northern Thailand. The high altitude reservoirs that fed the streams and rivers below were being damaged, causing the rivers to slowly dry up. (…) He took a radical step to reverse desertification, mobilising villagers to regenerate their barren land and restore the reservoirs. (…) Today, the arid yellow wastelands he protected are once again green with fruit trees.

It is the logic of compassion for what surrounds us, for the space that has been given to us and that we must share.

According to Hinduism, “nature,” said Meenal Katarnikar, a member of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Mumbai, “belongs to everyone, animals, people, gods and plants, and loves everyone equally. “In India,” he continues, “the rhymes of our childhood reflect our friendship with animals like cows, sparrows and crows. Every morsel with which the mother feeds the child is associated with ‘brother sparrow’ or ‘dear crow’, or ‘brother peacock'”.

This brotherhood, so reminiscent of St Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Creatures”, is only possible if we rediscover ourselves to be madly in love with creation.

An impetus that concerns everyone without distinction, also in the Christian sphere where there are various Churches. Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I at the Halki Summit (Turkey) in 2012 said: “We Christians are called to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and neighbour on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the smallest detail of the seamless garment of God’s creation, even in the last speck of dust on our planet”[2].

Maria Grazia Berretta

[1] Pope Francis, Encyclical Laudato sì, 201.

[2] Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, Speech Global Responsibility and Ecological Sustainability: Closing Remarks, I Halki Summit, Istanbul, Turkey, 20 June 2012

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