ASIA/INDONESIA - "Through creation we reach the Creator": Caring for the common home on the island of Flores

Thursday, 20 June 2024 ecology   laudato sì   local churches  

Lic Creative Commons Jacques Beaulieu

Ruteng (Agenzia Fides) - Promoting respect, protection and love for creation is a way of getting in touch with the Creator, in the spirit of Francis of Assisi, in the spirit of the encyclical "Laudato Sì", said the President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Indonesian Episcopal Conference and Bishop of Ruteng, Siprianus Hormat, who explains that the simple gesture of planting a tree can have a deep spiritual meaning. He did this during the presentation of the new integrated ecological pastoral program presented in his diocese on the island of Flores, the "Catholic heart" of Indonesia, a predominantly Christian island in a predominantly Islamic archipelago. In the diocese of Ruteng there are about 90 percent Catholics (851,000) out of a total population of 950,000. The innovative pastoral program aims to combine actions to "care for the common home" with the sacraments and other important activities of the Church. During the celebration of baptism and first communion, for example, each family is given a tree to plant, "as a symbol of growth in faith and personal responsibility for the environment," explains the bishop.
The aim of the program is to "develop a new mentality of respect and care for creation in our communities and to promote a deep connection between faith and care for the environment," he says. According to Bishop Hormat, the program helps "combat the culture of waste" to reduce the use of plastic and food waste.
The Franciscan monk Father Wilibrodus Andreas Bisa is also committed to this. He gives young people who want to receive the sacraments and visit the parish for catechism a task: they should plant trees or grow fruit in gardens or on unused land. "We call them sacramental trees," explains the parish priest of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Tentang. "The young people become 'adoptive parents' of the trees they have planted and are responsible for their ongoing care. The more than eight thousand parishioners in the seven mission stations of the diocese of Ruteng appreciate what is known as "transformative pastoral care based on ecology". Each year, the sacramental recipients are given responsibility for planting and caring for trees, thus increasing ecological awareness, understood as a deeply spiritual sentiment that "is inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi and wants to take up the suggestions of Pope Francis, who always emphasizes concern for the common home and which we want to express in our actions, in concrete works: this is also emphasized by the encyclical 'Laudato Sì, which calls for collective action by all believers to care for the earth as our common home".
This is also the experience of Father Robertus Pelita, who wants to support the development of alternative energies through biogas in the diocese of Ruteng and, after educating himself and taking action, in just two years, produced biogas from the decomposition of organic waste, which is converted into fuel using domestic biogas plants built from old oil drums. This process involves the release of gases, mainly methane and carbon dioxide, when organic matter decomposes in an oxygen-free environment. After being appointed Chairman of the Diocesan Socio-economic Development Commission, Father Pelita began training Catholic laypeople in the diocese (in the districts of Manggarai, East Manggarai and West Manggarai) to install biogas plants in the communities, parishes or religious communities. Biogas production thus reduces the dependence of Catholics in the diocese on firewood, paraffin and natural gas for domestic use. These measures, said the Bishop, are the result of the diocese's commitment to preserving the environment, which is confirmed by existing activities such as the development of organic gardening to produce organic fruits and vegetables.
Bishop Hormat also spoke about the planned construction of a geothermal power plant in the area of the diocese in West Manggarai. The Church, said the bishop, supports this type of energy production, but "with a cautious approach": "Respect for local customs is fundamental, especially in Manggarai, where local traditions and community well-being are fundamental: it is necessary to ensure that geothermal projects do not disrupt these customs and have a positive impact on the local population." In October 2023, the World Bank, which had previously been involved in financing the project through the Indonesian government, decided to stop financing the project due to growing opposition from local residents. The energy project is part of the Indonesian government's national strategic plan to generate 35 megawatts of geothermal energy in 17 sites in the archipelago. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/6/2024)