‘The Bible is not good news for human beings alone, but for the whole Creation’
Prof Dr Mathew Koshy, the Director of the Church of South India’s Department of Ecological Concerns, describes how Christians in India are waking up to environmental issues. USPG has been partnering the Church of South India since its formation in 1947. Prof Koshy advises USPG on our environmental work.
Munroe Island – in Kerala, South India – is sinking because of rising sea levels. And throughout India, we are no longer able to predict the weather because of climate change – we can no longer predict when the rainy season will start.
There is drought. Crops are failing. Poor people are taking out loans from the banks so they can afford to eat, then they become suicidal because they cannot pay back the loans. Suicide is very common.
These poor Indian communities are innocent – they are not responsible for climate change – but they are experiencing the negative effects.
So we are asking the developing world to change their development paradigm – to transition to non-polluting green technology. We have to stop burning fossil fuels and focus instead on solar energy.
My concern for the environment accelerated in 1989 during a visit to Japan. I met people with Minamata disease, which is caused by mercury poisoning, and was told it was chemical waste in the fish they eat.
When I returned to India and spoke about our Christian duty to care for the environment, I was initially ridiculed. I discovered that Christians and Hindus had very different attitudes: while Hindus find God in nature, Christians think in terms of subduing the earth and they are killing nature. So I decided I needed to start warning my fellow Christians about the damage we are doing.
I convened a meeting of all the bishops and told them about my concerns. Some joined me and asked me to set up an ecumenical forum. We started preaching about the need to protect the environment. Later, I was asked to start preparing resources to inform and inspire the churches about the issues.
Growing interest in green issues
Today, there is much more interest in green issues. Instead of ridiculing me, people respond positively! I think it’s because people can no longer ignore the impact of global warming. Now, most CSI parishes have an ecology committee and, of the 3,500 priests in CSI, at least 100 are committed to the cause and speaking regularly about these issues.
We have a particular focus on schools. We started a Green School Programme and are teaching sustainability. The students learn by carrying out a green audit of their schools, assessing such things as recycling, the efficient use of water, the quality of air, and so on. CSI has links to 1,900 schools, so we’re reaching a lot of young people with a positive message.
We’ve also set up an eco spirituality centre, and our ministerial colleges have incorporated green theology into the curriculum. We have also published books with sermons and bible studies to assist the clergy.
We’re also supporting some of the poor communities most affected by climate change by teaching disaster preparedness and installing solar panels so there is less need to cut down trees for firewood.
Those of us with a passion for the environment remain in a minority – in a culture that continues to prefer traditional energy production over green technology.
Our responsibility to protect Creation is essential to my Christian faith. The Bible is not good news for human beings alone, but for the whole of Creation. This is why Noah let in all living beings on the ark – God has a concern for bio-diversity.
The mission of the church is the redemption of the universe. We have to work with God to redeem nature. We have to protect the integrity of Creation.