To Care for the Earth

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, SThD

 

A  few days before Christmas, I went to Cagayan de Oro to preside at the funeral  mass and burial of my cousin who perished in the flashflood  brought about by Typhoon Sendong. A few days  after Christmas I  visited Iligan  to celebrate the coming of the New Year with
my sisters and their families. They were able survive the flood. The water was  only knee deep in my  sister Nonie’s  house and chest deep in my sister Cely’s house. But many of those living along  the banks of Mandolog river and in  Bayug island were killed by the rampaging waters, mud  and the logs coming from the bald mountains of Bukidnon and Lanao del  Sur. Thousands of families who survived the flood are now homeless – living in the evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro  and Iligan.

Some people would view this calamity as the will of God – an Act of God. This is a blasphemy! God is not responsible for Typhoon Sendong and the  flashfloods that killed so many people and left many more homeless. This is the result of the greed of human beings and corporations who destroy the environment, who are responsible for the ecological imbalance.

Almost  25 years ago, when we organized and mobilized the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) of San Fernando, Bukidnon and the neighboring parishes to stop logging in the  whole province we were aware of the extent of the effect of the deforestation
not only on their municipality and province. An ecologist from an NGO told us that if the deforestation continues, even the coastal cities in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan will someday be inundated by flashflood coming from the mountain ranges of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur. The Aquino government declared a total log ban  in Bukidnon in 1988, but that did not stop the logging especially in the ARMM -
in Lanao del Sur. Through the years the whole of Bukidnon have become one large  pineapple plantation, grasslands for cattle, and farms. The big capitalists, loggers, mining corporations and agribusiness have earned huge profits from destroying the environment. It is the ordinary people, especially the poor who pay for their greed.

The  most immediate concern is the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims.  The aid coming from  within  and outside the country has been overwhelming. But we should not stop there.  The climate change and the continuing destruction of the environment make it
highly probable that this will happen again, not just in Iligan and Cagayan but in other parts of the country. That is why, our long term concern and efforts should be preventive. For the Church and the BECs, this requires taking seriously the mission and responsibility to care for the earth – to work for the integrity of creation, to be involved in environmental praxis and advocacy.

PCP II asserts that the loving service that the Church and every Christian must express involves caring for needy, caring for the earth and doing deeds of justice and love. What is most significant here is the emphasis on the care for the earth: “the earth’s environment has to
be nurtured and cared for.”

How to  concretely fulfill this servant mission of the Church which includes preserving the integrity of creation will have to be worked out in each local context. Some dioceses and BECs have been doing the following: anti-logging  campaign and participation in reforestation
projects; campaign against mining operations, aerial spraying, coal-fired & nuclear power-plant projects; promoting sustainable agriculture, organic farming, enterprises & livelihood projects using green technology; adopting waste disposal systems; using alternative energy sources (solar power, bio-energy). We need to replicate these in our respective dioceses, parishes and BECs.

The Church observes the beginning of the New Year as the World Day of Peace. Peacemaking and caring for the earth are integral part of the mission of the Church and BECs as servant community.  John Paul II highlighted this in theme of  his 1990  World Day of Peace message: “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all Creation.” Benedict XVI echoed this theme twenty years later  in his 2010 World Day of Peace message “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.” He considers the destruction of the environment as a major threat to world peace and thus, working for peace requires defending the integrity of creation. He asserts that “the protection of the environment and peacemaking are essentially linked.”

As a Pilgrim Church, our final destiny is beyond this earth. Yet, we have a responsibility, as stewards of creation, to care for the earth.