18 Apr 2019 Story Sustainable Development Goals

The Church of South India is taking action

Chennai, Assam, Okhi and Kerala of India have been experiencing heavy floods, cyclones, forest fires and droughts since 2015—hundreds of people lost their lives and properties. Now, a forecast of a below average monsoon is expected in 2019 after last year’s erratic rainfall that flooded Kerala and crippled agriculture in eastern and western States. This is a cause for worry to millions of Indians: should the monsoon turn out to be deficient, it will add to the pressures on rural employment and the economy.

With forest fires being the order of the day, wild animals are increasingly venturing out of the forests to safe areas. Recently, wild animals came out of the forests at Munnar, Marayur, and Chinnar, posing a threat to estate workers living in the tea plantations. Though some wild animals such as elephants and gaurs migrate to escape fires, others aren’t able to do so. The damage to biodiversity is therefore expected to be huge, considering that the impact on reptiles, small animals and other creatures may lead to the loss of an entire ecosystem. It is estimated that over 1,000 ha of forests, plantations and grasslands had been destroyed in this climate disaster.

The State of Global Air, published by Health Effects Institute of 2019, stated that exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution resulted in over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017, making it the third highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking. Globally, each year, more people die from air pollution-related diseases than from road traffic injuries or malaria.

This health-pollution nexus leads to socio-economic and cultural negative consequences leading to conflicts, displacement, migration, food insecurity, and alienation of the poor and marginalized from their own niche and resources.

The Church of South India affirms that Climate Justice ministries form an integral part of the mission of the church, for God's covenant was not only with Noah but with all living creatures of the Earth. Mathew Koshy Punnackad, Honorary Director of the Church of South India Synod Department of Ecological Concerns said: “This needs to be restored! Failing will always lead to natural calamities that would be beyond the control of humans and their ability to protect themselves from the catastrophe.” He added that further misuse or abuse of God's creation will lead to fatal consequences. The Church, and other faiths, are called to continue the redemptive mission of God. It is necessary to explore the connections between the care of creation and the redemption of all creation.

The Church of South India, in collaboration with the Faith for Earth Initiative of UN Environment, along other partners, are organizing an international conference from 1 to 4 August 2019 at the Church of South India Synod Centre, Chennai. “We are providing free boarding and lodging to all our participants,” said Punnackad. “We welcome those who are interested in participating in this international fellowship from educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, and faith communities interested in eco-research, and willing to share experiences. The conference will be a common platform to present the models of sustainable living, mitigation and adaptation to climate change. We want to challenge students and teachers for a new approach and to inspire them for a relevant ecological ministry.”

“The Faith for Earth Initiative of UN Environment promotes faith and interfaith engagement on fighting climate change and dealing with environmental challenges at the global, regional and local levels. Our support to the Church of South India Synod conference aims to promote green practices and behavioural change of the participants,” said Iyad Abumoghli, Director of the Faith for Earth Initiative. 

The Church of South India Synod Department of Ecological Concerns has published a Green Protocol for the Church and is hoping that the participants will acquire the needed knowledge to implement it across India. The protocol discusses issues of water conservation, renewable energy, waste management, beating plastic pollution and afforestation, among other environmental challenges.

For more information about the conference, contact Mathew Koshy Punnackad, [email protected]