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Indian helps UK pastors view creation stewardship seriously

By C.M. Paul
Prof. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethdam SDB
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Guwahati, Nov. 1.  Leicestershire: In a rare form of annual study, a group of parish priests and pastoral co-workers in the United Kingdom  dealt with the topic ''stewardship of creation.''
Guiding them was a Salesian priest from India, Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam.

The Salesians' UK province members, for a change, last week shifted their focus from issues on pastoral topics and listened to the Indian, who has obtained doctor of studies certification on the ''philosophical roots of the ecological crisis in modernity.''
Kureethadam who teaches Philosophy of Science at the Salesian University Rome, had spent over a dozen years of study and research on topics related to the science of ecology, environmental philosophy and creation theology under the guidance of British and Italian professors.
He guided the two-day program for the 15-member Salesian group comprising parish priests and province officials along with a few lay collaborators at Hothorpe Hall in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

The seminar was intended to offer some starting points in the area of stewardship of creation for those involved in parish ministry.

The program consisted of four sessions. In the first session, Fr Kureethadam from Hyderabad province, stressed the importance of understanding the contemporary ecological imbalance as the crisis of our common planetary home and not just an 'environmental' issue or even a host of them, as often presented in the media.

The term ecology, he says, is derived from two Greek words: oikos, meaning home and logos, signifying discourse. The ecological crisis is thus about the degradation of our very home.

The Indian priest began with a cosmic meditation in order to evidence the long journey of our planet to become a 'home,'' a journey that began with the Big Bang nearly 13.82 billion years ago.

The material elements that constitute Earth and ultimately ourselves were molded in the cosmic furnaces of distant stars over billions of years, until our Solar System, along with its planets, was formed nearly 4.6 billion years ago. Life evolved on Earth nearly 3.8 billion years ago, a stupendous saga that culminated in the evolution of the hominids, and ultimately in the emergence of the modern humans (Homo sapiens) just around 200,000 years ago.

In the remaining sessions, Fr Kureethadam spoke of how human activities are currently endangering the very capacity of Earth to be a 'home' for humans and the rest of the living world.

He then sketched out a rather holistic and comprehensive view of the contemporary ecological crisis as a triple cry of the Earth, of the poor and of the gods. It was an attempt to offer a physical, moral and theological perspective on the ecological crisis.

First of all, a physical description of the ecological crisis was offered. Fr Kureethadam highlighted the alarming situation of our common home from some recent and authoritative reports from major scientific academies such as the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Among the major manifestations of the ecological crisis is climate change which was explained and discussed at length along with its major impacts. Other problems touched upon included biodiversity loss, pollution, waste, and depletion of natural resources.

The group was then helped to look at the ecological crisis from an ethical perspective. The moral tragedy of the contemporary ecological crisis is that it has been caused mainly by the rich world, but its early and disproportionate victims turn out to be the poor and vulnerable communities around the world.

In the case of climate change, for example, the developed world already accounts for two-thirds of the historical emissions, and at the per capita level, the emissions of a US citizen, for example, is eighty-six times that of a Nigerian one. The ecological crisis indeed raises serious questions regarding equity, justice and solidarity in a world that appears to be drifting towards an ecological apartheid.

In the final session, Fr Joshtrom helped the group to look at the ecological crisis as a spiritual and religious crisis. The crisis reveals, in fact, how we have failed to look at the physical world as God's creation, as a symbol and sacrament of God, and as permeated by the Spirit of God.
Earth is God's own home, where the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us, as beautifully expressed by St John in the prologue of the fourth gospel.

The ecological crisis results ultimately from irresponsible human stewardship of our common planetary home which has been entrusted to humanity to 'protect and cultivate' (Gen. 2:15).

The crisis calls for a real conversion (metanoia = turning back) from the part of humanity toward the very Creator, the poor, and to creation itself. In safeguarding our common planetary home, we will be protecting ourselves, the Indian priest asserted.
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