In October Bill Ray, the Anglican Bishop of North Queensland, and Tim Harris, the Catholic Bishop of Townsville, released a joint statement “In the Care of our Common Home: Sister Earth”. Recalling numerous past Christian leaders who have reminded us of our inter-connectedness with all of creation they say, “For Christians, this care for our common home is not an optional or secondary part of our daily living, rather it is “an essential part of our faith”. They go on to say that our dominion over the planet needs to be understood in the sense of “responsible stewardship” especially to future generations.
The Bishops' statement also draws attention to Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home, the document on the environment released by Pope Francis in June 2015. Laudato Si is not addressed to Catholics or Christians alone but to every person in the world – such is Pope Francis’s concern for a planet where we no longer respect Nature as a shared gift.
Pope Francis uses these words to describe the deterioration of the planet: “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth.” Pope Francis calls us to a new way of viewing creation as well as a new, simpler life style.
Issues highlighted in the statement from the two Townsville-based bishops include the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change and threats to the Great Artesian Basin posed by proposed mega-mining developments in the Galilee Basin. Also singled out are the entrenched racism of many towards Indigenous people, increasing inequality in Australia, and the need to restore a moral compass in financial services and economic management.
The bishops urge us to look critically at some of the modern myths in Australia today: “individualism, self centredness, self-absorption, progress that is unlimited, the unregulated market, competition and consumption as a remedy for all ills.”
The Bishop’s statement finishes with a call to action. They remind us of the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si, “In this day and age, unless Christians are revolutionaries, they are not Christians.” They challenge us to “turn around” the way we see nature, the way we care for Creation and its people, and to live more simply with less negative impact on the environment.
To help all people of faith begin this process of “turning around”, this Saturday, the workshop “Justice, Climate and Responding Ethically” will be held in Townsville. This is a collaborative, multi-media workshop in which participants will explore what a faith-based, ethical response to global warming might look like in this time and place. It will be presented by Thea Ormerod and Tejopala Rawls from Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).
Thea Ormerod and Tejopala Rawls acknowledge that information about global warming can be overwhelming, so the workshop begins with acknowledging and validating our emotional responses. We will then explore the ethics of climate change, building a sense of our shared morality and values. We will then hear some inspiring stories of people taking action, from local communities who have made their operations more sustainable to people collectively standing up for a better future for coming generations.
Understanding that Adani’s Carmichael mine project is a sensitive issue locally, Thea and Tejopala will share why and how ARRCC is standing against it. This will open the way for a facilitated dialogue firmly grounded in mutual respect.
Thea Ormerod is a practicing Catholic, semi-retired social worker, grandmother of seven and has been President of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change for ten years. She is a long-time social justice advocate and experienced workshop presenter.
Tejopala Rawls is an ordained Buddhist in the Triratna tradition, who has worked in the environmental movement for most of the past twenty years. He is a climate change leader within a worldwide Buddhist community.
The workshop takes place on Saturday 18 November from 10am to 3.30pm at the Conference Centre at the Mater Hospital, 21 – 37 Fulham Rd, Pimlico. Cost: donation.
Registration details and more information at https://www.facebook.com/events/142018559759648/
• This article was first posted on True North, Peter Hanley's blog on community and sustainability. We thank him for permission to re-post it here.