This evening three doctoral students of the K.U.Leuven’s Faculty of Theology presented at the Forum for Liberation Theologies perceptions on the global climate crisis from the perspective of the geographical contexts.
Mathew Saji Kanayankal from Kerala, India, brought narratives about water depletion due to poor people’s struggle for existence and to the abuse of ground water reserves by transnational enterprises, e.g. in the case of the so-called Coca-Cola crisis. He emphasized the importance of the real struggle of the people in the face of the failure of policy makers who are involved with the interests of such transnational enterprises. The struggle, which started with a slogan as “Fresh air … Fresh water … Our birthright,” caught the attention of the local and international media and led to protest marches that resulted in the so-called Plachimada Declaration. It clearly states that water is not a commodity.
Jude Likori from Kenya told us the story of the Mau Forest Complex, a very important region for its trees, its water resources that feed Lake Victoria and through it the Nile region, its rich variety of animal species, and its wonderful “friends of the forest,” the Ogiek people who care for the forest while they live in them. Governmental tribal policies lead up to an invasion of the forest areas, massive cutting of the trees and eviction of the Ogiek people, who are considered to be squatters. This creates a critical humanitarian situation, for which foreign humanitarian help is then requested. In the meantime, animals suffer and there is an increasing desertification of the Rift Valley. This crisis requires that the government be called to accountability and to answer both on the humanitarian level and structurally.
Reynaldo Raluto from the Philippines discussed the effects of global warming on the so-called Ring of Fire bordering the Pacific Ocean, especially in the Philippines, where the increasing extreme weather conditions (e.g. taiphoons, rains, accelerated sea level rise, increasing land and sea temperatures) are made even worse by human-induced disasters. Several actors, amongst which the government and several members of civil society, the press and the Roman Catholic Church (the bishops’ conference of the Philippines was the first to publish, in 1988, a letter on environmental challenges: “What is happening to our beautiful land,” that was the occasion in 2008 for a new pastoral letter, “Upholding the sanctity of life”). Rey also referred to the important work done by two Jesuit institutions: Environmental Science for Social Change, and the Manilla Observatory.
In the conversation that followed these three presentations, the discussion focussed on the complex international situation, political and financial, with regard to the environmental challenges. Indeed, the crisis is a crisis of global governance and there is a real danger that the money flows generated to increase the environmental resilience of poor countries become trapped in corruption and abuse. Several participants highlighted the importance of initiatives coming from the people and from civil society, in the awareness that people and governments can be mobilized to act seriously.
The evening was particularly worthwhile, because the resource persons, through very concrete narratives, illustrated complex political, financial and entrepreneurial issues. Several participants to the Forum also emphasized the importance of religion, theology and spirituality, but there was not enough time left for debating those perspectives.
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