Publication: The Times Of India Kochi;
Date: Mar 4, 2014;
Section: Times City;
Non-Catholic denominations adopt nuanced approach
Support The Need For Environment Safeguards As Recommended By Kasturirangan & Madhav Gadgil Reports
T Ramavarman | TNN
Kochi: Unlike the Catholic Church which is stridently opposing the move to carve out ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats and prevent unbridled development activities in the region, many major Christian denominations in Kerala are taking a more nuanced stand on the need for environment safeguards as recommended by the Kasturirangan and Madhav Gadgil reports.
Though only the Church of South India (CSI) has come out openly against the Catholic Church’s stand, various church leaders have hinted that protecting landed interests and maintaining its hold on the laity could be reasons why the Catholic church has taken the stand it has on the roiling Ghats issue.
The belligerent posture of the Catholic Church, which has the largest following in the state, has surprised some leaders of the non-Catholic church denominations. Interestingly, this happens at a time when Pope Francis has categorically come out in favour of conservation and described degradation of environment as a “confessional sin”.
“Personally, I don’t understand why there is so much of noise on the environmental panel reports. I had visited the places where intense agitations, like burning of jeeps and properties had taken place. I have serious doubts whether they were genuine protests or engineered by interest groups like the mining lobby, and unfortunately some groups within the church had supported them,” said Yuhanon Mar Meletius, Bishop of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
He claims degradation of environment is against the core Christian values. “In contemporary society, nature is the most abused and attacked entity around us, and we should be starting our Lent with due apologies to the nature and asserting our resolution to protect it,” said Bishop Yuhanon Mar Meletius.
He claims the church has significant following in the hill ranges, and some of them may be engaged in activities like mining. “But their interests will not dictate the stand of the church,” he said.
Mar Yuhanon Joseph, Episcopa Chaldean Syrian Church of East feels fear of losing hold over the laity in the hill ranges of the state could be a major reason why the leaders of Catholic Church are taking such a belligerent posture.
“The church as a whole stands for environmental protection. However, environment cannot be protected by depriving the means of subsistence for the human beings. Some sections in the farming community in the hill ranges have a feeling that the environmental panel reports will deprive their livelihood. Catholic churches may be fearing that they would lose their ground if they don’t join their agitations,” the Episcopa said.
Apprehension that the church is wittingly or unwittingly playing into the hands of vested interests is prevalent even among those who are sympathetic to the demand for adequate protection to the settler farmers - mostly Christians - in the hill ranges of state.
On several occasions, the catholic church-led campaigns assume dimensions of an onslaught on the e nv i ro n m e n t a l awareness evolved in the state through sustained initiatives from the days of Silent Valley campaign in the f i r s t h a l f 1970s.