CLIMAT – Quand un Papou nous ramène à la raison

2018 ECOLOGIE Mgr RibatParole de missionnaire et de cardinal : « La meilleure manière pour moi de servir quotidiennement les gens de mon peuple est de lutter contre le changement climatique. »

Mgr John Ribat, 60 ans, est l’archevêque de Port-Moresby en Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée. De fait, il est aussi le premier cardinal du pays. Il est aussi membre des missionnaires du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus. Son souci autour du dérèglement climatique vient de ce que son pays est directement confronté à l’élévation du niveau de la mer. Tout comme les côtes des USA, comme l’ont montré les évènements liés à la tempête Harvey il y a peu. Et c’est aussi pour cela qu’il partage sa réflexion dans un grand quotidien américain, pour aider à réveiller les consciences de ce pays grand producteur de gaz à effets de serre. C’est à cette fin que le cardinal a aussi tenu un discours devant le Congrès américain, interpellant les responsables politiques à prendre soin, eux aussi, de leurs peuples, en luttant ensemble contre le dérèglement climatique en cours.

About 18 months ago, I was at home in Papua New Guinea when a papal ambassador visited me with unexpected news. The Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea was receiving its very first cardinal, and it was I who had been appointed.

From that life-changing moment, one question has been foremost in my mind: how to best serve my people? For us in Papua New Guinea, as for many people here in the U.S., the answer is both simple and very challenging. One of the best ways to serve everyday people is to address climate change.

A concern that confronts residents of both the U.S. and Papua New Guinea is our rising seas, which are driven upwards by melting glaciers and warming waters. I come from a nation of islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, and rising seas mean that water creeps constantly closer to shoreline homes, schools, and businesses. Of course, sea level rise also threatens homes and livelihoods in the U.S., with the highly populated economic powerhouses of Miami and New York City being prime examples.In the U.S., the incredible scenes of flooding in Houston that Hurricane Harvey brought us were likely a result of a fairly normal storm meeting abnormally warm coastal waters. For us Pacific Islanders, a similar event occurred in 2008, when 65,000 people were displaced by this combination of sea level rise and weather.

My vocation has led me to hours of crisis inside the homes and businesses of many people who suffer the consequences of a warmer world. As a person of faith, I believe that God calls us to care for one another. Because climate change hurts so many people, solving it is central to our faith. That’s among the reasons why it’s been the subject of papal teaching for decades, starting with Saint Pope John Paul II, continuing through Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and finding expression today in Pope Francis. Last week, I visited the U.S. Congress. There and elsewhere, I spoke with leaders from both sides of the political spectrum who see, as I do, that addressing climate change is one of the most important ways to serve our sisters and brothers in Christ. I learned that the U.S. military has identified climate change as being one of the world’s biggest threats.

The science on climate change is clear. It is driven by the enormous amounts of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas that we burn. Of course, these fuels have been essential to our modern prosperity, and we owe miners and oilmen a debt of gratitude for the difficult, dangerous jobs they’ve held that made that prosperity possible. However, we now know that burning these fuels releases gases that act like a blanket in our atmosphere, where they trap the sun’s heat close to the surface of our planet. This wreaks havoc with our planet’s sensitive thermostat, leading to warmer seas (and the extreme storms they generate), changing rainfall patterns (and more conflicts among subsistence farmers), and wider territory for mosquitoes (and the malaria they carry).

These challenges reveal that climate change isn’t a political issue, but a human issue. The good news is that we do have the power to turn this around. Scientists, businesses, and faith leaders are already working hand-in-hand to solve this crisis, and they are already creating good jobs and energy choices. Clean energy now supports more jobs in the U.S. than coal does. We have a terrific start. But we’re deep into a crisis that affects all of us, and we need to pull together to face it. Much more ambition is needed, right away, to protect creation and all of us who share it.

People in Papua New Guinea and people in the U.S. face many of the same challenges when it comes to climate change. As the congressional leaders I spoke to return to their districts this year, I hope that they will share with their communities the good news that they are serving their people by addressing climate change.

On pourra lire aussi avec intérêt un autre entretien réalisé à cette occasion où le cardinal souligne le lien entre prédation envers la terre et pensée colonialiste.

Climate Change, Colonialism and Christianity: An interview with Cardinal John Ribat and Karenna Gore / 29 mars 2018

Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has become a powerful voice for action on climate change, while Catholic leaders from vulnerable countries have emerged as some of the issue’s greatest evangelists. Recently, Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea, visited the United States to meet with members of Congress about the carbon crisis. During his stay, Cardinal Ribat spoke with Nexus Media about climate change and Christianity. He was joined by Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and daughter of former vice president Al Gore. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

There are many Christians in the United States who believe that only God can change the weather, and for this reason, they reject the idea that humans can cause climate change. What do you say to people who hold that point of view?

Cardinal John Ribat: In the creation story, God gave the world to us — to till it and also to care for it — and if there are things that need to be corrected, then we do our best. We try our best to really be part of that.Pope Francis came up with an encyclical to really make the world aware. And when he addressed this to people, he did not address this only to just Catholics. No. He addressed this to the whole of humanity, and this is because this world is created for all of us. We are living on this one planet. For that reason, we are responsible.

There has been some research looking at the pope’s encyclical that found that, in some ways, it backfired with conservative Catholics in the United States. It seems like partisanship and ideology are driving a lot of the discussion around climate change. How should faith leaders deal with that?

Karenna Gore: There are always problematic aspects of the marrying of religious and political agendas. In this case, I think that a lot of that is cultural. I think that it’s a matter of being open-minded and open-hearted on all of our parts to understand where people are coming from, but then to unmask where there has been misuse and perversion of the scripture.To go a little bit deeper, I think we can talk about how stewardship has been interpreted. To be good stewards of the Earth, from the Book of Genesis, is often held up by conservationists within the Christian tradition as a central belief through which we can see that we are called to protect creation, to recognize our oneness with it, to recognize the sacred within the natural world.It is also frequently cited by [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt, by Donald Trump. It’s been co-opted to mean a license to pillage. And that is not unrelated to what the colonial agenda was. So, I think it goes right back to when the Christian belief system was co-opted by the forces of empire and colonization.

There is a lot of that within the Christian community now. When you see the use of stewardship as a concept meaning that we should continue to dig and burn the fossil fuels within the Earth, it is nothing more than an illusion, and it is not real. There is a human instinct in many cultures to see a separation and a superiority of humanity, and that is a fallacy.We really believe the solution to climate change lives in a deep exploration of its root causes, which include a theological error of the idea that humanity and nature are separate. We can see very clearly from science that we are connected — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the living beings that are part of our food chain are deeply connected.

You mentioned the historic relationship between colonization and the Church. Can you explain that?

Karenna Gore: When we talk about interfaith dialogue and religions, the traditional way of doing often includes only Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — and certainly that’s a very robust interfaith dialogue, but then when you add the non-Abrahamic traditions of Hinduism and the Indic traditions, and Buddhism and the East Asian traditions, you often have a very different conversation about whether nature itself is a subject.Indigenous traditions often hadn’t been included in the category of religion or faith or interfaith dialogue, and the reasons for that are complex, and they’re deserving of a larger discussion. But it’s largely a result of colonization and the view that the papal bulls of the fifteenth century took that indigenous people were part of the flora and fauna of a land, and they were meant to be conquered and subdued in the name of the church.

It seems that many former European colonies, including Papua New Guinea, are especially vulnerable to climate change. Cardinal Ribat, why is climate change an urgent issue for your country?

Cardinal John Ribat: The United Nations has defined refugees as people leaving their homes because of danger. People are leaving [Papua New Guinea] not because of danger, but because the island is disappearing. Their home will no longer be there, and that is the difficulty.We do not come from a continent, and that makes it difficult for us to live comfortably, because we know that, on the island, the sea around us is rising. People dig a well to get their water, but the well is no longer drinking water. It is already salty because of the constant rise of sea level.

Knowing that the United States is pulling out from the Paris Climate Agreement, to us, is really kind of a concern. It is really an issue for all of us, for all nations. It is not an issue only for some. It is for the whole world to come together and see how can we better address this issue of global warming.This is a call to us now, when we are witnessing a lot of events happening around the world that should make us think, “What have we done?” or “What can we do here?” Of course, God’s help is there all the time for us, and He’s the one who gave us this Earth to live, to till and to care for.For me, seeing the situation we are in, and just to keep quiet — for me, this is not the way I should live my life.

By Nexus Media, with Cardinal John Ribat and Karenna Gore

 

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