RELIGION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The meaning of Religion is wide and is interpreted as man's search
for salvation and his turn towards the absolute. This search is
the originating cause of the various religions.
From his creation, man appears to be dependent on a higher power
since he reached the point of deifying elements of nature and
worshipping creations instead of the Creator. The positions of
different religions on environmental issues range from being variant
to negative. There have been, and still are, religions that consider
nature a bad creation. Christianity however has a Founder who
was Born, Crucified, Entombed and Arisen from the Dead, Returning
in Glory to "where He was before".
Our Orthodox Faith is more than just a religion, but rather,
God's revelation of the truth and consequently, the revelation
of the true relationship between man and his natural environment.
Nature which surrounds us is a creation of the God of love. There
is nothing on this earth that does not have its Creator. The Book
of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, testifies to
this: "In the beginning, God created the sky and earth"
(GenI.I.). This belief in God the Creator we express through our
Symbol of Belief: "I believe in one God, Lord of the Universe,
Creator of sky and earth, of all things visible and invisible".
Man was created and placed on this world to "labor and protect
it", meaning that God appointed man as administrator and
warden of the world. To enjoy the world, to utilize and develop
the natural world, but also to protect, take care of it and preserve
it. HOW? By remembering the Creator, staying close to Him, being
dependent on Him, accepting His will, and, cooperating with Him.
What actually happened and continues to happen is known to us
all. Man preferred the road of autonomy, independence and deification
of his own powers.
He rejected, even showing contempt for, His will and His Commandments,
this being the essence of the Original Sin which marks the beginning
of the so-called ecological catastrophy.
If man turned against God it is even simpler for him to turn
against nature and the environment. Godless man becomes an abuser
of the proprietory rights granted to him, an exploiter of the
gift of God, using the environment in a senseless and egocentric
manner, and while destroying it commiting a sin which in turn
It is to this man that Christ comes. He assumes human body and
enters this world to bring salvation, salvation from sin and every
kind of deterioration, and deliverance from death itselft. His
salvation work, the immense undertaking of saving man and the
world, assumed throughout the ages through His Church, proposes
faith as an the answer and the solution to the ecological problem
- proclaiming that:
a.The epicenter of life and the world is God's Son Jesus Christ.
This, according to the teachings of our Church, means that the
solution of the environmental problem of our times depends solely
on the proposition of relationship between man and his physical
b. The physical environment, as a creation of God and a gift of
His love for us, as well as an entrusted consignment to us, requires
respect, love, protection, and concern; "Nature was created
for man, not man for nature" (Mark V. 27)
c. The world that surrounds us is not a mere object for gainful
utilization but is also a revelation of God and man's sacred destiny.
What is needed today is a new theoretical relationship between
man and his environment.
d. Man, acknowledging his erroneous choices and seeing their devastating
results, must decidedly strive to achieve a personal change for
the better, the sacred, the highest. This is the road of salvation,
the road of return towards God, the return to ageless values called
for by Christianity. This escape of the present impasse not only
seems impossible under the present circumstances, but we can say
that the mass desstruction of mankind and the world appears to
Our Church with its embedded Orthodox Christian tradition, further
contributes to dealing with the problem through its noticable
and special position on the natural environment. Basically, a
Christian must respect himself and God the Creator in order to
be able to respect the environment in which he lives. The present
condition of our environment is related to the spiritual and moral
status of modern man. The basic value of Christian life is sufficiency,
in other words, the rational use of material things. A Christian
does not seek wealth, he is content with what is necessary in
order to live. The adherence of man to God's will is of definitive
importance in dealing with the ecological problem. Experts claim
that "sufficiency" and "ecological ascetism"
would contribute immensely to solving the problem of our times.
Justice, as a way of life - along with love - are very important
for our relationship to the natural environment. Consequently,
Christian scientists are called upon to contribute to the control
of environmental pollution and to the discovery of new materials
and sources of energy. The Church is certain that their faith
will bring about enlightenment from God so that may continiously
discover effective solutions for the varioius problems. It is
pleasing to see that the interest in the environment is not a
priviledge of the few but has been transmitted to government officials
and to the top of the Church Hierarchy, evidenced by the recent
event on the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarch where a lot
of useful information was heard on the subject. A few days ago
a conference was held on board a ship aiming at saving Efxinos
Pontos from environmental catastrophy, with the Patriarch emphasizing
- while in Thessaloniki - that his concern is expanded to the
Aegean, the Mediteranean, and the Ionian Sea.
The Church blesses and supports all those interested in and working
for the protection of the environment.