(By Dr. Francis Gonsalves, SJ)
Kolkata — The angels sang: “Glory to God, and peace to people of goodwill!” on that first Christmas Day. That same song was amplified by religionists, governors, professors, scientists and corporate bigwigs at Kolkata on December 22-23 at the at the 10th World Confluence of Humanity, Power and Spirituality” organised byteh SREI Foundation under the Chairmanship of Dr. H. P. Kanoria.
At the world ‘Confluence’ there were discourses and discussions on diverse topics, mainly, spirituality and its relationship with religion and humanity, spirituality’s role in good governance and global growth, its relevance in an exponential world and its power to counter ecological imbalances. The session “spirituality and nature—climate change” was anchored by Sir Mark Tully, former Bureau Chief of BBC, with Pujya Swami Chidananda Saraswatiji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji representing Hinduism and Dr. Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz presenting the Islamic view. I provided a Christian perspective.
Bemoaning the fact that ecological crises are not being adequately addressed by legislators and politicians, Sir Mark Tully read a line from Amitav Ghosh’s book, The Great Derangement Climate Change and the Unthinkable, opining: “The most promising development in the environment movement is the growing involvement of religious groups and leaders in the politics of climate change.” Tully said, “Let’s listen to voices from faith communities on how spirituality can respond to climate change.”
“Yeh man mange more” Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji said, “Is the root of our ecological crisis.” Man’s mind is a wellspring of needs and desires. Our materialistic “more, more, more” mantra can only be satisfied by industrialists producing more. This results in pollution of air and water, felling of trees, industrial wastages, etc. Sadhvi Saraswatiji advocated a change of mindset with meditation and a changed lifestyle embracing vegetarianism.
Pujya Swami Chidananda Saraswatiji stressed that in Hinduism: (a) every yagňa is an acknowledgement of divine benevolence, as well as symbol of human surrender; (b) it’s more important to ‘be’ than to ‘have’, and, (c) purity creates balance, while pollution engenders imbalance. He remarked: “Although our ‘shelves’ are full (of consumer goods) our ‘selves’ are empty,” He emphasized the need for a world-family-feeling: vasudhaiva kutumbakam.
Dr. M.A. Parvaiz, Founder-Director of the Islamic Foundation for Science & Environment and VC of Maulana Azad National University, Hyderabad, said: “Three important commands of the Qur’an with regard to care of the environment are: (a) We, human beings, are created as ‘trustees’ or ‘custodians’ of the planet and its resources. (b) Earth’s resources are for all of us, and as the flow of resources in nature is according to the need (as per laws of diffusion), hence the same Laws of the Almighty should operate in human societies. (c) Utmost importance must be given to balance, ever ensuring justice and equity.”
I said that the Biblical God is ‘Creator’ (mother-like Father) as well as ‘Re-Creator’ (Son, Jesus) and ‘Trans-Creator’ (Holy Spirit) who “blows where it wills”. We are all created in the “image and likeness of God”–interconnected and interdependent—and must thus protect, preserve and promote all of God’s creation. I explained that Pope Francis’s “Laudato Si’” not only invites Christians but all people of goodwill to work for an “integral ecology” and a “new heaven/earth”.
I feel that the so-called Abrahamic or Prophetic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) must retain their prophetic ‘word’ character and denounce climate change—exposing its disastrous effects on the earth’s poor, while the Indic or Cosmic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) can help us be more ‘spirit’ sensitive, viewing God-humans-nature in advaitic (non- dual) communion.
As action plan, while seeking to combat climate change, we ourselves could C-H-A-N-G-E as follows: (a) “C” for ‘Conversion and Change’ of ourselves, (b) “H” seeking ‘Harmony’ between the divine-human-cosmic in every aspect of life; (c) “A” anchoring ourselves to our ‘Aadhar’ or ‘Absolute’: God; (d) “N” for ‘Networking’ with all peoples, movements, sciences, religions, ideologies for new initiatives; (e) “G” for ‘Global Goodwill’ and ‘Gender-sensitivity’ and (f) “E” ensuring ‘Eco-friendly’ and economical environs for everyone.
At the inaugural session, when religionists, politicians, scientists and corporates symbolically poured water on a globe and we all took at pledge to work for justice, fellowship and peace, I faintly heard the angels sing, again: “Glory to God, and peace to all peoples of goodwill.”
This whole discussion on ecology, and other speakers, can be seen on the web-link of the “10th World Confluence of Humanity, Power and Spirituality”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv67ndH-9yQ