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Can religions help overcome the ecological crisis?

Can religions help overcome the ecological crisis?

By Leonardo Boff

Each knowledge, each institution and especially those organizations that move humanity the most, the religions, must offer what is in their power. If not, we run the risk of being late and facing catastrophes like in the time of Noah.

Ignoring the fact, each religion or church has its pathologies, its moments of fundamentalism and radicalization to the point of having cruel religious wars, as there were so many between Muslims and Christians, what is being asked now is to see in what way, based on its positive religious capital, these religions can converge across differences and help to cope with the new era of the Anthropocene (mankind as a threatening low-level meteor) and the sixth mass extinction that is already underway for a long time and accelerates more and more.

Let's take the three Abrahamic religions as a reference.

First, let's look at the contribution of Judaism. The Hebrew Bible is clear in understanding the Earth as a gift from God and that we have been placed here to care for and guard it. "The Earth is mine and you are guests and strangers" (Lev 25:23). We cannot, as no normal guest would, dirty it, break its furniture, spoil its garden or kill its pets. But we have. That is why there is the tradition of Tikkum Olam, of the "regeneration of the Earth", as a human task for the damage that we have caused. There is also a sense of responsibility towards nonhumans. Thus before eating, each one must feed their animals. You cannot throw away the nest of a bird that is taking care of its young. "Dominating the Earth" (Gn 1,28) must be understood in the light of "caring and guarding" (Gn 2,15), as one who administers an inheritance received from God.

The Christianity he inherited the values ​​of Judaism. But he added his own data: the Holy Spirit made his dwelling place in Mary and the Son in Jesus. With that he assumed in some way all the elements of the Earth and the universe. The Earth is handed over to the responsibility of human beings, but they do not have an absolute right over it. They are guests and pilgrims and must take care of her. Saint Francis of Assisi introduced an attitude of universal brotherhood and respect for each one of the beings, even for wild herbs. Because the Christian God is a relational being, since he is a Trinity of Persons always related to each other, the universe itself and everything that exists is also relational, as Pope Francis expressed it so well in his encyclical.

The Islam follow in the footsteps of Judaism and Christianity. For him, too, the Earth and nature are God's creation, and have been handed over to human responsibility. In the Qur'an it is said that we have our abode here and for a short time we can enjoy its goods (Surah 2.36). The Most High and Merciful gives us signs through the richness and diversity of nature that constantly remind us of his mercy, with which he directs the world (Sura 45,3). Surrender entrusted to Allah (Islam) and one's own jihad (struggle for inner holiness) involve caring for your creation. Today many Muslims have awakened to the ecological and from Singapore to Manchester they painted their mosques all green.

There are some convergent points in these three religions: understanding the Earth as a gift and inheritance and not as an object to be used simply at will, as modernity understood it. The human being is responsible for what he received, having to take care of it and keep it (making it bear fruit and giving it sustainability); he is not the owner but the caretaker. The Earth with its wealth continually refers to its Creator.

These values ​​are fundamental today, since the scientific-technical tradition treats the Earth as a mere object of exploitation, placing itself outside and above it. We are Earth (Gn 1,28). That is why there is a relationship with her, our supporter.

In addition, all religions develop attitudes that are currently essential: respect for the Earth and for all that it contains, since things are much earlier than us and have value in themselves; veneration before the Mystery of the universe. Respect and veneration not only for the Koran or the consecrated host, but for all beings, as they are sacraments of God. This attitude imposes limits on the dominating power that is today endangering the balance of the Earth and threatening our survival. Scientific-technical irrationality must know ethical limits, imposed by life itself that wants to continue living and maintain its identity. If not, where will we go? Surely not to the mountain of beatitudes but to the valley of tears.

Boff's page on Koinonia


Video: Dark Green Religion and Deep Ecology (September 2021).