From eco-theology to eco-justice

By Archbishop Job of Telmessos

At the beginning of June I was honored to be invited to participate in the Third Halki Summit organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, thirty years after the very first Patriarchal Encyclical was issued in 1989 by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios, asserting that the Church could not remain indifferent before the ecological crisis. For thirty years now, the Orthodox Church has been preaching eco-theology, that is to say a theological perspective on the protection of the creation and a theological perception of the contemporary environmental crisis. Perhaps the time has come for the Orthodox to implement their ortho-doxy by an ecological ortho-praxis, or in other words to incarnate their eco-theology by an eco-justice in each one of their parishes.

In order to give a good hint of what can be practically undertaken in each one of our parishes, I presented the most recent World Council of Churches resource rooted to the congregational level of churches’ engagement in ecological and economic justice, a document entitled “Roadmap for Congregations, Communities and Churches for an Economy of Life and Ecological Justice”, which is a very practical invitation to our parishes to join a pilgrimage for an Economy of Life and climate justice, to commit to make changes in the way people live, to share successful ideas and to encourage one another. The publication is the fruit of a work led by Rev. Norman Tendis, WCC consultant for Economy of Life, who was one of the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash on 10 March 2019.

The “Roadmap” offers a 5-step program to change the way we deal with the economy and our ecological surroundings in the following areas: Living in accordance with the covenant with God and creation, Renewable Energy & Climate Protection, Just and Sustainable Consumption, Economies of Life and Networking.

By living in accordance with the Covenant with God and Creation, the document calls our parishes to support and practice small-scale, life-giving agriculture, create community gardens and provide access to clean water. The document invites our parishes to contribute to resolve this problem by organizing community gardens. Parishes should also respect the human right to water, promote water as a public good, and say no to bottled water where tap water is safe or look for alternatives, where it is not.

By promoting renewable energy and climate protection, the document calls us to monitor energy consumption and move towards renewable energies, promote climate-friendly mobility and deal with energy and materials consciously. Why not install solar panels, build a community-run, small-scale hydroelectric dam, etc.? Also, posting timetables for public transport, bicycle parking and sharing, setting up one of the many carpooling or car-sharing systems, installing charging points for electric cars, or, above all, reducing the need for mobility by re-regionalizing the daily life economy are practical projects which are suggested for our parishes.

The document calls for a just and sustainable consumption by buying ecological, fair, and regional, reduce waste and by recycling. For instance, the meals in our parishes can provide fairly traded coffee, tea, juice, and chocolate, and vegetarian food. Promoting vegetarian food is something the Orthodox, who have such a strong tradition of fasting, could easily do in periods of fasting, during which the environmental dimension should be underlined, taking into consideration experiences such as “fasting for climate justice” that was taken over by the World Lutheran Federation. The document also reminds us that there is no need to use beverages in plastic bottles and calls us to reduce waste and encourage recycling.

The document speaks also of economies of life, inviting communities to create places for moneyless interaction, practice alternative economic models and just finance. The document suggests a very simple beginning: a shelf where people can deposit things they don’t need anymore and others can take items for free, organizing free shop, second-hand shops, food-sharing-points, repair cafés, skills-exchange networks, producer-consumer networks, and much more.

Finally, the document emphases networking. It suggests naming contact persons for economic and ecological justice, to raise our voice on economic and ecological issues in our communities and beyond and to network with other communities and initiatives. Our parishes should be networking with other neighboring Christian communities. It is encouraging and joyful to be part of a movement, to build alliances with other congregations, communities, and initiatives in our own countries and worldwide. We need to look for good initiatives in our surroundings, and to learn from, accompany, and share them.