ASIA/INDONESIA - Prayer for the care of Creation: the experience of the Jesuit Agricultural Center in Central Java
Salatiga (Agenzia Fides) - "Agriculture connects people to God and makes them aware of the value of Mother Earth". This is the fundamental principle that guides the "Kursus Pertanian Taman Tani" Agricultural Center (KPTT) run by the Jesuits in the city of Salatiga, in Central Java. The Center celebrates and lives the "Season of Creation", inaugurated yesterday, 1 September, "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation", a time that will last until October 4, to raise awareness, at the universal level, on the theme "Let justice and peace spring forth", according to the various initiatives promoted by the "Laudato si' Movement".
As Indonesian Jesuit Dieng Karnedi SJ, a staff member of the Agricultural Center and delegate for the "Reconciliation with Creation" of the Indonesian Jesuit Province explains, the KPTT Agricultural Center has been operating for 59 years as a boarding and a day school teaching organic agriculture.
"We have learned that agriculture brings us a deeply spiritual, ecological and eminently formative experience", explains Mr. Karnedi. When we ask our students, participants in our programs or our visitors how they feel after participating in courses, at internships or simply after a short visit to the Centre, the most frequent answer is: they experience a feeling of joy. It is the joy of discovering, of getting involved, of belonging, of being committed directly with Creation. This fact is for us an immense source of consolation and encouragement to continue our activities.
Another notable consequence is the growing awareness of the importance of agriculture, coupled with an appreciation and desire to practice it on an ongoing basis. Participants in the training programmes, promoted by the Center "are happy to be directly involved in the growth of the different crops they have planted: from seed to germination, to the growth phase, to flowering and fruiting", continues the Jesuit. "It is an awesome process to witness the growth of a small seed into a large plant, bearing stems, leaves, seeds and fruits. What is most fascinating is to get to realize that all parts of the plant provide food and can be transformed into different products useful to humans," he notes.
KPTT believes that agriculture "is not just an act of cultivation, but an activity of deep connection with God, which works in all of us, sparking joy and wonder and serving as motivation for our daily lives". "If spirituality is something that connects us to God, for us agriculture is a spiritual encounter that connects us to God. We like to say that we learn to find God in agriculture", notes the Jesuit.
Furthermore, this activity also becomes an opportunity for mission: "Agriculture - notes Karnedi - can be a means of sharing the Good News, especially among young people. Young people today are deeply aware that our world is facing a food, energy and climate crisis. This is an opportunity for us to promote ecological awareness, inspired by Laudato si', by concretely involving them in the planting of agricultural crops and their cultivation, and by deepening the spiritual meaning of each gesture".
The Indonesian Jesuits have thus discovered that agricultural projects can be an opportunity to bring young people together and walk together. In 2022, more than 1,600 young people came to KPTT for lessons, internships and visits. Some of them expressed a revival or interest in agriculture and decided to study and work in this sector to build their future. Since June 2023, 1,050 people have come to the Center to learn, understand and practice agriculture. "It is our particular mission: to accompany, educate and guide the lives of people on a path of search for the truth about themselves, in their relationship with their neighbor, with Creation, with God", they note.
The ecological movement within the Indonesian Jesuit province finds expression in several communities that celebrate the "Season of Creation". For example, in Yoyakarta, a city also located in Central Java, the students at De Britto College wanted to clean the river around their campus as part of their study program and undertook planting activities as part of their nature workshop.
Sanata Dharma University, also located in Yoyakarta, took 70 students to KPTT to introduce them to ecology and agriculture, while Canisius College organized an excursion for 180 students to enhance their environmental awareness .
The Indonesian Jesuit Province has formed a team to further promote this apostolate and plans to transform the agricultural center of KPTT into an "ecological pastoral center" which, in addition to courses on agricultural techniques, will be able to offer permanent training and apostolate programs aimed at promoting, in particular at the benefit of young people, the preservation of creation and the themes addressed in Laudato si'. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 2/9/2023)