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Kalimantan Bishops Issue Pastoral Letter On Environment


January 14 2008

The eight Catholic bishops of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo Island, have called on local people to pay serious attention to preserving the environment.

"Destruction and damage to the environment has become a big concern because it threatens the continuity of life on earth," the bishops wrote in a recent pastoral letter. They stressed that "every inhabitant of this planet must be aware of the importance and urgency of taking concrete actions to save our earth from destruction."

The Catholic prelates issued their letter as a follow up to the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held Dec. 3-14 in Bali. More than 10,000 people from more than 180 countries attended the event.

The Kalimantan bishops´ letter was read out at Masses on Jan. 5 and 6 in all churches in Kalimantan. Local Catholics told UCA News they are discussing its implementation at parish and neighborhood prayer meetings.

"Forest fires, excessive mining, conversion of forests into farmland and accumulation of trash in densely populated areas have brought an "increase in water, land and air pollution," say the prelates, led by Archbishops Hieronymus Bumbun of Pontianak and Florentinus Sului Hajang Hau of Samarinda.

They and Bishops Blasius Pujaraharja of Ketapang, Giulio Mencuccini of Sanggau, Agustinus Agus of Sintang, Fransiskus Xaverius Rocharjanta Prajasuta of Banjarmasin, Aloysius Maryadi Sutrisnaatmaka of Palangkaraya and Justinus Harjosusanto of Tanjung Selor warn of dire consequences. The Church leaders blame environmental destruction for horrific disasters such as droughts, floods and landslides that they say are threatening human beings and the earth itself.

Their letter, Save Our Earth from Destruction, further identifies the problem as having political, economic, social and cultural dimensions. They see this as requiring an integrated response from all parties.

The bishops cited Pope John Paul II as emphasizing in his 1979 encyclical Redemptor Hominis (redeemer of mankind) that respect for the natural environment is a fundamental part of Church social teaching.

The bishops also point to the 2005 pastoral note of the Bishops´ Conference of Indonesia, the 2005 Grand Synod of the Indonesian Catholic Church and the 2008 Lenten Action for Development, all of which encourage Catholics and others to respond to take concrete action to protect the environment.

According to the Kalimantan bishops, people´s aggressive pursuit of worldly pleasures is the main cause of environmental destruction. "This mentality does not care about the integrity of the environment and harmony of all creation," they say.

Thus the environmental crisis is basically a moral issue, as Pope John Paul II observed in his 1990 World Day of Peace message, they note. This is why repentance is required, they say, adding that "the way we do this is by treating the earth and all Creation in a responsible way, because this universe is created by God for his glory and for the welfare of humans."

The bishops call on the government and all people to help preserve the environment by stopping illegal logging and by planting trees. They also encourage parents and educators to instill a love for Creation in children from an early age.

"None of us can deal with this serious problem alone," they acknowledge. "Nonetheless we must do what we can because we are part of this earth."

Local Catholics say their parish priests and parish pastoral councils are now discussing what kinds of trees they will plant in their respective areas.

Meanwhile Father William Chang, vicar general of Pontianak archdiocese, told UCA News clergy, laypeople and Religious in all parishes and mission stations must follow up the bishops´ "very relevant" pastoral letter with action. The Capuchin priest, who attended the U.N. conference in Bali, said on Jan. 3 that all seminarians should study the issues involved so they can facilitate appropriate action.