Letter from Most Rev.Thomas K Oommen, Moderator, Church of South India:
Dear brothers and Sisters,
I do consider it as a privilege and honour to write to you as the Moderator of CSI before the advent of Lenten season. Forty days of Lent is often understood corresponding to the forty days that Jesus had spent in the wilderness, fasting and praying, before He began His public ministry. As we all know, following His 40 days of fasting, Jesus was tempted and challenged by Satan, in order to defeat His very purpose of advent, which Jesus overcame. Therefore, the churches all over the world observe these days of Lent as a time to reflect on God’s purpose for our life as well as to repent, abstain and reorient our lives to accomplish God’s will. Many use this as an occasion give up certain habits or fast from coffee, meat or chocolates. As we continue these rituals, I challenge all of you to go a step forward and deeper by initiating a ‘Carbon Fast’, in order to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation.
Carbon dioxide or CO2 produced by human activity is causing global warming which in turn is effecting in the climate change. In India, we are aware of climate change because of our warmer temperatures, swings between floods and droughts, and rising sea levels. Warmer temperatures and rising sea levels are undesirable because they will have negative impacts on agriculture, fishing, community developments, plants and animals that are important to our ecosystems and the protection of our coastline. These changes can affect our quality of life and threaten the survival of the natural world. Additionally other environmentally unfriendly actions (e.g. littering, cutting down our forests) make the impacts of climate change worse.
The Bible urges us “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation”. How will we proclaim the good news to the whole creation when there is no water to drink? As per scientific predictions, by 2070, one human being will have only two glasses of water to drink per day. By 2035, Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus rivers will disappear. Yes, Climate Change is going to affect all creations of God. A scorching heat wave in India has killed more than 1,500 people in the in 2015 as temperatures soared above 47C. Southern Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states are the worst-hit regions with more than 1,100 deaths, mainly caused by extreme dehydration and heat stroke. The situation in northern India is not too different, with Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh state, registering a record high temperature of 47C.In 2016, three hundred and thirty million people, more than a quarter of India’s population, were hit by drought. The whole creation has been groaning for water due to desertification, which is an irreversible process. Migration of poor people and wild animals is now common.
A carbon fast is a challenge to us to look at our daily actions, to reflect on how they impact on the environment. It challenges us to take some small steps – some of which will reduce our carbon dioxide output while others will help the environment – for a more sustainable world. In the process we may come to rediscover a different relationship with God, with His Creation and with one another. Moost of the CSI Congregations belong to the communities that are vulnerable to Climate Change. We create awareness on “Climate Justice” at the congregational level in these diocese. Further, re-read the Bible and reaffirm our faith from the perspective of Climate Refugees. We inspire the congregations to discern climate justice as an integral part of churches public witness today. We hope that the congregations would be equipped to involve in saving creations whose life and livelihood are under threat.
How do I take a carbon fast? Let the 40 days between the ‘Ash Wednesday’, to ‘Easter Sunday’, be a time of repentance, reflection and action. Each week shall have a theme with a prayer and actions for each day.
I recommend forming a small group within your church to meet after worship each week for discussion and taking action. The Carbon Fast will provide myriad ways your congregation could get involved in enhancing climate justice. These ways may vary from questions for group discussion to steps your church could take to conserve energy. Across the broad range of activities, there should be no shortage of possibilities that match the initiative and interest within your congregation. Even if forming a group in your church is not feasible during the Carbon Fast, the suggested church actions are prepared with steps you could personally take in your congregation and that you could complete in any community during Lent and beyond.
Join the Carbon Fast because you can change the world a little in 40 days, but more importantly you could change yourself a lot! How do I take a carbon fast? Read the daily verse, consider the challenge, pray, and then, where possible, do that day’s challenge or commit to doing it later.
From Ash Wednesday through to Sunday of this week we will spend the time preparing ourselves for the fast ahead by thinking about what makes up our environment – the air, the seas and oceans, the earth, plants and animals, human beings. Do we appreciate the value of all that is created? Read the Creation story, Genesis 1: 1-31. Reflect on the completeness of creation. This Sunday and on the Sundays during the Fast, make it a time of reflection and meditation. Look back over the year and how you use your Sundays: How much petrol do you use? How much do you spend? Do our lives reflect a calling to stewardship in responsible use and protection of the natural environment? Reflect on how you have treated the environment. Commit yourself to simple Sundays during Lent—spending time with friends and family, simpler food, less travel, enjoying God’s creation. Pray to God asking Him for insight, wisdom and courage to do the tasks ahead as we go on the road less travelled. Gracious Lord, as we fast from carbon, we mourn the destruction of so much of your creation. May we take up the challenge to walk the path less travelled, to restore more of your creation than we destroy.Help us to act with love and care for all that you have created.
Week 1 . This week’s challenge is to simplify our lives in terms of the things we own and acquire and how we dispose of them. Set their face against the tide of consumerism and to preach to the world by the simplicity of our lives. Increased consumption leads to increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming. Lent is a good time to de-clutter, live lightly and share with others in need. Identify some things to give away that others can use and find somewhere to donate them. Our environment is suffering because of garbage we produce that is not properly disposed of.
When the environment is degraded and the impacts of storms and extreme events are made worse, we can commit
- To reduce the amount of waste we produce.
- To be good neighbours and good stewards of the environment by not burning garbage, by packaging garbage properly and not dumping waste into gullies, rivers, the sea.
Week 2 – Food and Forests
This week’s focus is on the importance of trees and forests and how food production can affect greenhouse gas emissions. Forests provide valuable ecological and environmental services. The Church of South India, with 4.5 Million believers, is the only Church in India which has taken a strong stand in favour of the Gadgil committee report to protect the biodiversity of 1600 km stretch of Western Ghats. Planting sapling and nurturing is a spiritual work. In some dioceses, after Marriage, the first task the couples perform is planting a sapling on the campus of the Church. There are congregations that welcome the invited guests attending respective meetings by giving a sapling of a flowering plant. Such healthy practices are worthy to be emulated.
Forests are the main source of oxygen in the atmosphere. Trees directly remove carbon dioxide and store it as wood and foliage. Trees planted near buildings reduce the demand for air conditioning, and electric power production. By planting a tree you can help to reduce emissions. You could plant fruit trees in your church, community or school, during Lent or commit to planting a tree during the rainy season.
Producing food organically through backyard farming will result in lower GHG emissions. Organic farming locks CO2 in the soil by relying on natural methods of increasing soil fertility. Consider starting a backyard garden using organic material. Simultaneously, consider supporting local farmers during Lent who use natural methods to produce their foods.
Week 3 – Energy and Transportation
This week’s action is to reduce energy used for light, power and transport. Reduce your use: Reduce emissions. One of the ways to reduce emissions is simply to conserve on electricity. Every time you turn off or don’t use electricity, less fossil fuels need to be burnt. Fuel used in transportation is also one of the biggest contributors to global warming.
The CSI is promoting solar-absorbing panels to generate electricity in all the institutions owned by the CSI. CSI promotes the use of solar energy wherever possible. The ecological department of CSI synod is giving seed money for selected institutions for changing over to solar energy. There are several simple ways of saving energy, saving money and reducing emissions. Consider plugging out the charger when the phone is fully charged. Attach the TV and other appliances to a power strip and plug it out at night. When you purchase electrical appliances select only five star appliances. Find other energy-saving tips and share them with friends. Note that the motor vehicles that are not serviced use more energy and release more emissions. They also pollute the air and contribute to the health problems of others. Make sure your engine is serviced and your tyres properly inflated. This will help with clean air for all.
Week 4. Conserve water. It is said that most of 20th Century wars were for oil but that of the 21st century will be for water. In India, not only the innocent and poor people but also the whole nature, the flora and fauna, are echoing Jesus’ words, “I am thirsty”. This is due to the scarcity of water, consequent of the Climate Change. We have forgotten that water is a divine blessing to be treasured, to be shared with all creations, to be protected for future generations.
World Water Day is observed annually on March 22. The theme of year 2017 is “Wastewater”. Raise awareness of World Water Day. There are several simple ways of conserving water. Find water-saving tips and share them with friends. Reduce or eliminate your consumption of bottled water. Boil or treat your water instead and get a re-usable bottle and fill it up. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. If we allow the water to run for only 2 minutes or less, we can save up to 70 gallons of water per week! If you have children, teach them to do this. Fix leaking taps, houses and toilets. Global studies show that about 10% of the water used in homes is wasted because of leaks. A leak of only 1 drop per second, wastes 2,400 gallons per year!
The CSI promotes digging mud pits in all the lands of our churches and our institutions, in order to harvest rain water. Due to climate Change water scarcity is a serious issue. CSI is promoting rain water harvesting in order to mitigate water scarcity. If you would like to recharge ground water train the ‘running’ rain water to ‘walk’, ‘walking’ water to ‘crawl’ and the ‘crawling’ water to ‘stop’. Do not allow the rain water falling on the roof top of our churches/institutions and in the campus to flow away.
Week 5 – Reduce, Re-use, Recycle Waste
This week’s challenge is to reduce waste. Some materials such as certain plastics and polystyrene take hundreds of years to degrade and some such as styrofoam are not easily recyclable. There are several ways to reduce waste. Recycling paper by using both sides of the paper will not only save money, but also reduce the waste going to landfills. Consider going styrofoam free and take a container for your lunch. Use paper or glass plated meals for meetings during the Lent. How many ways can you use a plastic bag? After you bring them home from the shop, what happens to them? Think of ways to reuse ‘Shopping bags’. Can you use them again when next you shop? Think of three ways to reuse plastic bags and share with a friend. We have become a ‘throw-away’ society. If anything stops working we throw it away and buy a new one. We are generating a lot of e-waste and it is becoming a problem for the environment. Waste Management education in schools, with pupils designing posters, writing essays, staging a drama, and making other presentations about recycling. As a hallmark of operation our phrase is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse.” Some Dioceses are supplying portable biogas plants to all parsonages-converting kitchen waste to fuel. Is there something you could fix instead of throwing out? Consider doing so and helping out the earth. Share your experience in CSI life magazine and on our website.
Our fossil-fuel based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy is not viable model for the world. The alternative is a solar/hydrogen energy economy, an urban transport system that is centred on advanced – design public rail systems and a comprehensive reuse/recycle economy. The cities are to be designed for people and not for cars. We have to build an economy that will support, not undermine, future generations. Only by coming together can we solve the climate crisis. Our churches are an excellent place to begin. God is calling us to be the change we long to see. Let us engage this spiritual discipline, grateful for all, God has entrusted to us, and trusting that with God all things are possible.”What does God require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8
Yours in His Service
Most Rev.Thomas K Oommen