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It's our turn to lead! Reflections by a Jesuit on the Earth Day, April 22

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*It is Earth Day once again, and on this 45th anniversary when the focus of every citizen is on what are we doing to Mother Earth, the theme that is suggested is “it’s our turn to lead”. The publicity material speaks about “the most exciting year in environmental history. The year in which economic growth and sustainability join hands. The year in which world leaders finally pass a binding climate change treaty. The year in which citizens and organisations divest from fossil fuels and put their money into renewable energy solutions.
These are tough issues but we know what’s at stake is the future of our planet and the survival of life on earth. On Earth Day we need you to take a stand so that together, we can show the world a new direction. It’s our turn to lead. So our world leaders can follow by example.”
So it’s our turn to lead! India is a classic example of how sustainable development is thrown to the winds: the ‘corporatisation’ of the country; the anti-small farmer land acquisition ordinance; a ‘development’ model which caters to the rich and the powerful; the desperation to further nuclearize the country; the total insensitivity to the environment and to ecological concerns - are all powerful indicators to show that it is the ordinary citizen who needs to come out on the streets and to lead the country on issues that may have serious repercussions for future generations.
The lead article in today’s ‘Times of India’ (ed. Ahmedabad page 1) speaks about how the Gujarat Government is pressuring the Central Government to lift the moratorium on some of the country’s critically polluted industrial clusters – Ankleshwar, Vatva (in Ahmedabad) and Vapi - which was a decision of the previous UPA Government in 2010; besides, the National Green Tribunal on the basis of a petition filed by Trupti Shah and others has sent a notice to the Government of Gujarat regarding the Statue of Unity Project on the Narmada River which is bound to create serious ecological problems for the whole State.
Significantly, April 22 is also the day on which the Jesuits celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of the Society of Jesus. It was on this day in 1541, exactly seven months after the approval of the Society of Jesus and two weeks after Ignatius of Loyola was elected its first Superior General that he celebrated Mass with his other companions at the altar of Our Lady in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome, during which they also made their solemn vows.
The care of the earth has been a consistent concern in the way of proceeding of the Jesuits since the last several years. In 1999, this concern was highlighted in a document ‘We live in a Broken World’ and this was furthered with an even greater commitment in 2011 with a path-breaking document ‘Healing a Broken World’.
The General Congregation 35 of the Jesuits emphasises that “Our response to environmental and ecological concerns is therefore a mission: our apostolic response. “As servants of Christ’s mission we are invited to assist him as he sets right our relationships with God, with other human beings, and with creation.” (D3#18)
It is more than just a coincidence that ‘Earth Day’ and the feast of Mary, the Mother of the Society of Jesus’ are observed today: April 22nd. It is a powerful reminder that “the care of the environment...touches the core of our faith in and love for God.” (GC35. D3 #32); while any activity, however cosmetic, is certainly welcome.... we are indeed called to do much more! It’s our turn to lead!
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* Director Prashant, Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, Ahmedabad

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