Peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to you, dear brothers and sisters, in these different time zones.
On behalf of the WCC, and particularly on my own behalf, I would like to express our gratitude to Rev. Dr Chad Rimmer and the entire Season of Creation ecumenical steering committee.
The theme of 2020, “Jubilee for the Earth”, is more than timely. And we consider the situation of our countries, our people, our nations, we realize that we are dealing with a fundamental part of our spiritual heritage, our present commitment to restore relationships and, more important, to ensure intergenerational sustainable livelihoods.
The WCC, many years ago, tried to address this same thing from “Just, Peace and Sustainable Society.” It did not go very far and, let alone, modified that theme to be “Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.” It was during that process that the ecumenical partners and movements began to engage also with the International financial institutions. Thus, the theme of this year comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of preparedness of the world to cope with what some people called “plandemic” has inevitably reminded us of humanity’s broken relationships with Creation and with each other. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated many of the inequalities and inequities and injustices that are prevalent in most of our nations.
But this pandemic also offers us, particularly as Christian communities, inspiration from our faith communities to craft the way forward, to bring healing and transformation, and ensure that justice and dignity are brought to relationships we have with each other and with Creation and the environment.
The concept and practice of jubilee helps us to have insights into about five concepts: rest, restoration, replenishment, reconciliation, restitution.
The space during jubilee, that is provided at the time after every six years, the seventh, is precisely to facilitate integrated and mutually dependent relationships based on production and consumption of goods as per need and not greed. A practice that would concur with our Lord’s prayer “give us today our daily bread”. It should enable relationships between the Earth and the other creatures to have a sustainable living by resting and restoring the necessary properties and components of life. It is also supposed to provide space for community participation, individual participation in the various sectors of society.
The bedrock, therefore, of life-giving, vibrant and sustainable world is dependent on the quality of our relationships with each other and with the environment and the level of accountability we have to each other and the Creation. The ecological state of our planet, the socio-economic situation of our communities, the wellbeing of Creation, the livelihoods and the dignity of people, and the mental and physical health and security of people, especially the most vulnerable, food sovereignty and security that people enjoy are all connected,
Brothers and sisters, this is the time again to confront and interrogate our economic paradigm because this economic paradigm that believes in exploitation, that believes in no limits to anything, is what has rendered most of our communities voiceless, poor, excluded from the tables of decision-making, contrary to what our Lord Jesus asked. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus talks about setting the captives free. In this case, the captives are of a particular model of economy that is violating every relation on Earth. We have also oppressed people who are now under the yoke of these forces. The current economic practice, therefore, is not one that can ensure sustainable relationships, sustainable living.
Therefore, “Jubilee for the Earth” should result in a new economic paradigm, as stated in Leviticus. Most people will say it is not possible, it is not doable, that we have too many people on earth. But it is possible.
“I am because you are, and you are because I am”. The Earth is for you. The Earth is also for me. We can only survive together if we take each other as equally made in the image of our Creator. Jubilee is about rejecting and exposing global and national forces that continue to steal, kill and destroy all forms of life. Thereby, creating a web of injustices, oppression and death.
This economic system has no regard for any form of life except maximization of profit. A jubilee movement that this year’s Season of Creation uses to invite all Christians, and all men and women of faith to join is one that advocates for life in fullness, as John 10:10 reads. Our political systems require challenging from our leadership in the ecumenical movement, which we constantly done, but becomes more important today, because of what we are facing that is unprecedent.
The book of Genesis talks about God creating, stopping, seeing and saying: “It is beautiful. It is good.” Can we say that today? Deforestation and forest depredation continue to take place at an alarming rate, contributing significantly to the ongoing aggressions to the environment and the increasing human vulnerability too. In times of pandemic, “Jubilee for the Earth” is to respect and conserve forests, protecting the diversity of Creation and indigenous people, who are guardians of the Creation, most significantly.
To conclude, brothers and sisters, this year, the LWF’s theme for Season of Creation invites all of us, including men and women who are of god will, who want to see a planet restored, reconciled in relationships, who like to see communities that are happy to pass on to a new generation that we have hope.
Justice, as Amos puts it on Amos 5:24, is not only for the scarce of human beings, it is also in our relationships. It is my prayer that ecumenical steering committee of the Season of Creation will find methods of reaching out to many local Christians and communities who are struggling to survive and who would want to participate in ensuring that we bring about change. The experiences and important lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic demand that we mobilize ourselves as Christians, and men and women of good will, to come up with robust methods and activities to mitigate the existing negative relationships with the Earth. Change is possible, brothers and sisters. Let us commit ourselves to advocate and accompany one another as we journey to restore God’s creation and the image of God in every living thing. Thank you.