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posted Aug 18, 2015, 4:27 AM by Myanmar Signis

  "An Inescapable Call to Environmental Morality"

"It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenge now before us" (#105). #LaudatoSi                         

It is appropriate that we gather today on a topic that is being discussed with much concern all over the world after our Pope released the Prophetic Encyclical, LaudatoSi Si.  We from Myanmar have arrived here after  two weeks of torrid  experience of seeing thousands of our country men and women marooned, homeless in one of the major catastrophes in Myanmar history. Last two years saw  two mega disasters :  Cyclone Nargis in 2008  killed more than 150,000, impacting the lives of 2.3 million people, making 800,000 people homeless.    It was the seventh biggest natural disaster the wounds
of which  will take decades to heal. But  we live through torrid times last two weeks.   The whole town of Kalay,where Bishop  Felix comes from  was  sunk under  huge sheet of water, destroying homes and  leaving thousands as disaster refugees.  Half of the town of Hakha has been destroyed by landslides.  Nearly 1.7 million people are affected.   The livelihood of 37 million farmers  is sent into a spiral
 of destruction and debt.                           

Myanmar is  a candid case of  climate change.  Before  Cyclone Nargis happened, for 75 years we did not have a natural disaster of that intensity. Though manmade disasters like oppression and dictatorship was unrelenting cruel to our people, nature was kind, provided  everything to our poor, we have not had any disaster.   But Cyclone Nargis was a shocker.   It originated in India, expected to hit Eastern India, then Bangle Desh.   It changed course because of the ocean currents,  affected by global warming and hit an unprepared nation at night. 150,000 lay dead.  800,000 homeless and 2.4 million  directly affected. That wound is yet to heal.  Thousands of  poor families have  been put into roller coaster debt and destruction.  Our  poor did not even knew the word global warming but they are victims of  climate change for the last ten years.  

As  the Holy  Father has indicated, there is a conspiracy against the  poor. Some of the rich countries that totally have a 6 percent of the population of the world produce 40 percent of green house gases.  But natural disasters have been attacking the poor countries for the last thirty years. 90 percent
of the deaths due to natural disasters come from poor countries.  Holy Father points out  -  In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: 'Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest”(#48).               

 Holy Father calls for a cultural revolution. A cultural revolution from the unbridled   consumerism that commodifies even the most sacred sensibilities  has  been destroying the beauty of human relationships, destroying millennium  bio diversity . Holy Father sounds a warning : Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage whi

ch they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of eco

systems which may be gravely  upset by human intervention" (#190).      

 Globalization has seized  South East Asia  with a vice like  grip.  Asian Tigers - including Thailand, Korea, Indonesia  underwent the painful process of  changing into market  economy some with  disastrous  results.   Markets have created  jobs. But  Markets have also  raped the nature, destroyed the
dignity of human families through  human trafficking. Our region has the dubious distinction of the  biggest human  trafficking area. The  diagnosis of the  ills are well documented  by  our Holy Father.  But
our  gathering today is chall

enged to  give a contextualized  response.

A new Culture of  Eco Justice, Inter dependence. Holy Father analysis  points out how the eastern Religions had a greater respect to  nature. East  Asia is the home to the Theravada Buddhism.  This
marga has  guided its followers with a deep respect for all living things and all living beings.   Even the falling of a leaf from the tree should deeply sadden a true believer.  The  spirituality of inter dependence was found in  Eastern societies with animism  deifying all natural elements including water, air and rain. Holy Father  has pointed out that there has been an exploitation of the word ' dominion over creation".     A true hermeneutical reading of  Genesis accounts  especially the verse 2: 15 " the  Lord God put the man in Garden of Eden  to take care of it and to look after it".   Genesis looked for harmony between man, nature and the Divine.    Sin ruptured this relationship.  Mutual hatred, God  denial ended with  ruthless exploitation of nature for profit. As the Holy Father  points out, the environmental crisis has become a moral crisis. "When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person's heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the common good also disappears" (#204).

We stand at the cross roads of history.  We have lost so much of  flora and fauna in the last 50 years.  Forests and rivers are continued to be destroyed.  Mekong river,  Irrawaddy river and so many rivers in  East Asia are dangerously exploited.   What  was  sporadic attacks on  our eco system has  now turning into  chronic illness for our planet. So our gathering here need to impress upon all of us the urgency of purpose. The evil is marching with  glee, destroying human families, destroying God's gift of nature.  The dance of the devil is arrogant .   Our silence will be criminal.   Since the problem is  moral, it needs a moral response.  No one is excused from this duty :  As Martin Luther King Jr  warned  "  Some are
guilty, all of us are  responsible". Our  breaking of the bread today  is  a sacred ceremony but also
challenging ceremony.    Everyday 30000 poor children die of starvation. These  children are victims of poverty, war and  mismanagement.  But increasingly they are victims of environmental degradation by the companies and  profit oriented industries. We break bread on the altar surrounded by an unjust world that buries  10 million children every year  because of starvation.    This silent genocide
is mostly due to the conspiracy against the weak, conspiracy  against nature.

Holy Father's  message is a wakeup call to the church in East Asia.  Let our deliberations come out with  practical solutions, starting with  how to make our churches deeply sensitive to environmental issues,  and we need to  join hands with the  like minded forces in the struggle towards protection of nature. Stewardship of Creation is a moral duty. I do hope  this urgency is translated into action in our deliberations.

Cardinal Charles Bo