You are the Man!

2015. október 07., szerda

This year’s theme of the Week of Creation was climate justice, which we are hoping to understand better and better through the parable Nathan told David.

The cover features the two-faced Rio de Janeiro, a scenic metropolis in Brazil. The photo encapsulates the themes and problems of this year’s celebration of creation. We can see a city whose shocking double layer is evident from this composition: the rich live in beachside skyscrapers, while the masses are exiled from the city. Despite efforts to reverse the trend, the population of the slums in the mountainside favelas continued to rise between 2000 and 2010, from one million to 1.4 million. Since the erection of new buildings is prohibited, those living here are extending their living space literally towards the sky, with some favelas having as many as eleven storeys.

This is the city, with a population of 10 million, which in 2014 hosted a football world cup despite daily protests: those against the event wanted to draw the organizers’ attention to the current health, education and social problems. Preparations are already under way for the 2016 Olympic Games, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, amid not only grave social controversies but also a significant environmental impact. Let us see two examples. The first one is that 70% of the city’s waste water is dumped into the ocean, making the beach of Rio an ideal place for infections. The second: the Olympic golf course is being built on the area of a nature reserve, and is watered with 5 million litres of water every day, while many locals are suffering from a lack of water during periods of drought.

What is more, this is the same city that in 1992 hosted an Earth Summit, during which the so-called Agenda 21 was adopted, outlining tasks with a view to the 21st century. The conference was attended by representatives of 175 countries, who discussed issues of protecting the biosphere and biodiversity, as well as sustainable development. This meeting in Brazil became the forerunner for subsequent UN climate change conferences. With the present publication and its theme (climate justice), we also have the upcoming climate conference in mind, to be held in Paris later this year. We believe that we as Christians have a responsibility, and also certain things to say regarding this matter. When it comes to climate and related issues, we may be tempted to think that these events and processes are on such a scale that we have nothing to do with them. Perhaps King David was going down the same path towards his fall, and that is why Nathan the prophet had to shake him awake: “You are the man!”, which means: This is about you; you are the one who is responsible.

The issue of climate change is about people, just like the parable the prophet tells the king. A rich man and a poor one. Which side are we on? The story, which we were intrigued by in the Ecumenical Working Group, is about someone realizing that they are on the wrong side and they need to change. Creation protection begins on the level of the individual: with me and you. We are saddened by the truth in Pope Francis’s words: the Earth, our home, is turning into a garbage dump.

We should not believe that climate change is not a Biblical issue. It is indeed a central theme of the Scripture from the onset. From a barren land, God created a habitable home, a garden, and filled it with a multitude of creatures living in water or land, including us, human beings. Had He not created a favourable climate for man, no human life would be possible on Earth. This is a core element of His gift to us.

We have been given a planet. These days there is active research into the possibility of finding so-called super-Earths, that is, extrasolar planets similar to Earth. There is a tight race among astronomers, but at times there are conflicting pieces of information regarding even the existence of a presumed planet. With our current apparatus, it is not easy to locate or prove the existence of distant planets. It is seldom mentioned, but the fact that such planets are many light years away from us means that reaching even the nearest super-Earth with our current technology would take centuries. God gave us a favourable climate on this Earth. Unfortunately, it is typical of our early 21st-century mentality that we as “consumers” consider our home planet to be a “commodity.” This attitude makes us contemplate the idea of fleeing, rather than saving and preserving what we have.

The process of fleeing is already evident within the planet. The current extensive migration has become a pressing issue in Europe, but apart from economic migrants and political refugees, we will increasingly have to deal with climate change refugees as well. The first such instance took place in 2013: a family from Kiribati, a Pacific island, applied for refugee status in New Zealand. The reason they cited was the rising sea level, which was endangering their homes as well as the quality of drinking water, and destroying their crops.  

The idea of climate change refugees, however, is nothing new. It was for climate reasons – because of the famine – that Abram was forced to flee to Egypt, and Jacob’s family experienced a similar situation. While helping refugees is important, it is more forward-looking to strive to tackle the underlying problems. This is the sustainable way, the key to ensure the future of upcoming generations. We hope that the prophetic words of the 2015 Week of Creation make us all more aware of climate change issues, and prompt us to do what we can, each on our various levels of responsibility.

We wish all of you a blessed celebration of creation!


Written by László A Khaled

The author is a Methodist minister, member of the Ecumenical Working Group for Creation Protection, which developed the theme and materials for this year’s Week of Creation.

Translated by Erzsébet Bölcskei

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