Firefighters try to put out fires in forest and peatlands surrounding Palangkaraya city in Central Kalimantan last October. Bishops in the region are calling on all citizens to do what they an to protect the environment. (Photo by AFP)
The eight bishops serving in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo Island, are voicing concerns over the environmental destruction in the region caused by the mining and palm oil industries.
"Kalimantan is in very bad condition because of mining activities done both legally and illegally. As a result, five provinces in this region are now broken," Bishop Petrus Boddeng Timang of Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan, told ucanews.com Feb. 12.
Deforestation, a result of the mining and palm oil industries, also has damaged the region's natural balance, he said.
"Deforestations started in the 1980s. Then rubber plantations came in, but they didn't last long. Palm oil plantations followed. The expansion of the palm oil plantations remains, and it ignores the local people's communal land right," he said.
Bishop Timang and other bishops serving in the region issued a joint pastoral letter, which was read during Mass Feb. 10 at parishes on Kalimantan, calling on local Catholics to protect the environment.
"The letter must be seen as a moral message to managing nature … by not prioritizing the economic interest," Archbishop Agustinus Agus of Pontianak told ucanews.com.
In their pastoral letter, the bishops said greed and irresponsible behavior was the main cause of environmental destruction.
"(People's) way of thinking, which is greedy and irresponsible, has driven them to grab profits as much as they can without considering the fact that the environment needs to be protected," they said.
They called on local Catholics and institutions to take action to protect the environment.
"Efforts should be taken in parishes, mission stations, schools, dormitories and families," they said.
Divine Word Father Frans Sani Lake, coordinator of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Kalimantan, said one action that churches can take is to plant trees. Citizens must have a plan before it's too late, he said.
"A concrete effort to show our actions during this Lenten season is to take part in protecting peatlands and planting trees together with the government and the society. Besides, we need to have a good plan on preparing the lands for rice fields. In order to reduce fires and haze, we need to start thinking about intensifying the lands for fields," he told ucanews.com.
Additional reporting by Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta