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SAVING THE FIG TREE

This blog originally appeared in Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter. My thanks to NCR and to author Marya Grathwohl* for permission to use it here. I welcome Marya as the first guest blogger on ecospiritualityresources.

Our moment in the Universe Story

It’s meditation time. I sit at my wide window, candle lit, a braid of sweet grass smoldering. Billings Sunrise 2 (1000x750)Sunrise, pink, magenta and glare of gold across a big sky, bronzes Eagle Sandstone cliffs that tower above my Billings, Montana, home. [Photo by Ms. Denny LeBoeuf.]

Laid down during the Late Cretaceous, 100 to 66 million years ago in the heyday of the dinosaurs, the massive cliffs appear to be the remains of a long barrier island that stood between a coastal lagoon and the shallow inland sea that flooded most of North America during that time.

Today, dawn is flung from that barrier island into my home and heart.

I know that the Earth community stands on the brink of another ending, the end of the Cenozoic, heyday of flowers, birds, mammals and, recently, humans. I am pondering a sacred scripture, wisdom laid down a mere two thousand years ago: Jesus’ parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-9). Can this wisdom stand as a barrier to the destruction increasingly caused by industrialized, militarized, human societies on a rampage of fossil-fuel burning? Better yet, can it inspire a new human-Earth harmony?

I think so.

Four Gospel insights for addressing climate change

The economically savvy vineyard owner instructs his hired vinedresser to cut down the unproductive fig tree. It’s taking up valuable garden space and gulping scarce water. “Wait,” says the vinedresser who respects the fig tree. …

Step one in God’s Action Plan for a flourishing Earth Community: Stand up and stop the destruction.

85369_990x742-cb1414687886This is not easy. It requires steady, long-haul, nonviolent resistance to violence against Earth. It means solidarity with people who live near toxic waste dumps or vast oil and gas fracking sites, with families living downstream from the chemical run-off of factory farms or the horror of oil “spills.” It demands speaking an inconvenient truth about our ruinous addiction to fossil fuels.

And it demands providing positive, Earth healing alternatives. Jesus, the parable teller, does just that. He’s observed farmers carefully.

“Let me dig around the fig tree, water it, apply some manure,” suggests the vinedresser.

Step two: Learn how Earth works and follow that.

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Apply Earth’s methods to how we do transportation, home heating and cooling, agriculture and health care.

Design vehicles that glide through air like fish through water, running on solar powered cells. Create buildings that generate more energy than they use, and that recycle the wastes they generate. Plant seasonal gardens. This is known as biomimicry.

“Now, let’s give the fig tree some time. Wait a year,” says the vinedresser. Ah ha! Don’t be in a rush.

Step three: Embrace the pace at which Earth does things.

I reach into my prayer basket for a version of the 23rd Psalm from Japan. There are few, if any, herds of sheep in Japan. In Wyoming a cowboy preacher called the Lord “my buckaroo.”

“Lord, You are my pacesetter, I shall not rush. You make me stop for quiet intervals, providing me with images of stillness which restore my serenity. You lead me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind. You guide me in peace. Your timelessness keeps me in balance. You anoint me with oils of tranquility.” Gracious instructions for how to give the fig tree of Earth, and our soulful creativity, time to heal and regenerate.

In due time, enjoy the nourishing figs.

fig-fruitJesus’ listeners, familiar with the kings and prophets of Israel, see a crowd of images around a fig tree as they hear the parable. In 1 Kings, the peace and security of Judah and Israel is described as each family enjoying their vine and fig tree (4:25). In Zechariah, the people are told to invite each other to “come under your vine and your fig tree” (3:10). Inherent to this idyllic imagery is a scrupulous economic system of just distribution of land, goods and labor, as well as adequate food for all, shared. The story of Jesus feeding the crowd of thousands is evoked. Equitable economic systems are the rock solid foundation for a flourishing Earth and peace among all peoples.

Step four in God’s Action Plan: create equitable economic systems.

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The Fig Tree. This humble image of God’s stalwart shalom for the whole Earth community energizes us. It sweetens our aching efforts for just distribution of Earth’s goodness. It strengthens us as we work to transform massive, entrenched unjust systems into local, resilient communities that flourish by guaranteeing our rights to housing, food, water, education and meaningful work. And, developing economic systems from that. We feel at home as vinedressers.

And who is Jesus’ vinedresser? “My Father,” he says. (Jn 15:9)

I step through my front door into sunset. The cliffs are aglow. I hear a scream and look up in time to catch glimpse of a pair of red-tailed hawks in a glide beneath them. No need for candles. Light everywhere.

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*An Oldenburg Franciscan Sister since 1963, Marya Grathwohl lived for more than 30 years in African American, Crow and Northern Cheyenne communities, as teacher, principal and pastoral minister. She is the founding director of Earth Hope, and works in environmental restoration through farming, restoration and other ecology projects.

Nuclear Weapons and Our Future

Doomsday Clock 

1147On January 22, 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight. Kennette Benedict, the Executive Director of the Bulletin, spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate and emphasized “this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it.”

The threat to the ongoing Universe Story, and the call to those who treasure our sacred planet and our interconnection with all being, is inescapable.

Extent of Danger

The U.S. government is very anxious about Iran’s and North Korea’s developing nuclear weapons. (No doubt both countries are anxious that others have weapons and they don’t.) They want to enrich uranium, but enriched uranium can be developed into plutonium that breaks down with an enormous release of energy and destruction.

Consider the relative destructive power of nuclear bombs:
– One kiloton equals 1000 tons of TNT. Think of it as one cube.
– 15 kilotons (15 cubes) were dropped on Hiroshima.
– 21 kilotons (21 cubes) on Nagasaki. Most readers will have seen pictures of the resulting wreckage and are aware of the approximate number of civilians killed.
– Then imagine 15,000 of those cubes — the power of Castle Bravo, the bomb detonated in 1954  by the U.S. at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands.
– Firepower has certainly increased since 1954.

Almost 16,300 nuclear weapons exist in the countries known, or assumed, to have them: the US, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, the UK, North Korea, and Israel. The United States has about 4,800 weapons now, enough collective destructive force to lay waste to every country on Earth.

One wonders not just about the morality of that fact, but the logic. Of the many wars and aggressions in progress today, how many would be solved by dropping a nuclear weapon? How many of the causes of conflict might be solved or reduced if funds were spent in other ways?

Continuing Destruction

As plutonium decays over hundreds of years, it continues to release radiation. This contaminates the environment and threatens human health. In Japan, people are still suffering the consequences of the bombs dropped in 1945.

Testing the weapons is also destructive of human health and the environment.

U.S. Budget Ramifications

President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget calls for $585.2 billion
for the Pentagon. (Compare that with $71 billion for education and $8.6 billion for the environment.)
The Energy Department’s nuclear weapons and other programs total an additional $35.6 billion for 2016.

1-trillion-dollarsObama’s plan proposes to rebuild the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal: the warheads plus the missiles,  planes and submarines that carry them. The National Defense Panel, appointed by Congress, found that the price tag over 30 years could be as much as $1 trillion. That’s $1,000,000,000,000, or 1,000 billion, or the piles made with $100 dollar bills shown next to the truck and the person standing beside it.

What will taxpayers get for that money besides threats of accidents, continued international arms race, and loss of money needed elsewhere? Nuclear weapons do precious little to address the threat of terrorism; nothing to counter Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria; nothing to counteract the growing risk of cyber attack; nothing to address the causes of conflict.

Crimes Against God and Humanity

In 1984 the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that It is evident that the designing, testing, manufacture, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons are among the greatest threats to the right to life which confront mankind today, and concluded that The production, testing, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons should be prohibited and recognized as crimes against humanity.

That UN statement echoes the 1965 Vatican II statement: Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Pope Francis, in his World Peace Day Message, 2014, reiterated the stand taken by the Catholic Church for decades: I make my own the appeal of my predecessors for the non-proliferation of arms and for disarmament of all parties beginning with nuclear and chemical weapons. 

The Austrian Pledge 

vienna-conferenceIn December 2014 the Austrian government hosted the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Participants issued the Austrian Pledge to cooperate with all relevant parties in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks. (Sign here: www.goodbyenuk.es/take-action.)

Relevant Quotes 

Christians might keep the nuclear threat in mind as they decide what they will do this Lent. Everyone can consider the calls implied in the following quotes:

Jesus: Put away your sword; Father, forgive them; Whatsoever you do to anyone, you do to me; . . . for I was hungry and you fed me . . . .

Albert Einstein: You can’t solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them.

Buckminster Fuller: You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Abraham Lincoln: The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him [sic] a friend.

Pope Paul VI: If you want peace, work for justice.

Cornelia Connelly: Actions not words.

Which quote(s) might help you respond to your call to reverse the nuclear threat and create a better future? Your comments are most welcome!

5 Ways to Reduce Human Trafficking

• The month of January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

• Pope Francis’ January 1st World Day of Peace, 2015, message* is “Slaves No More, But Brothers and Sisters.” 

• January 11, 2015, is National Awareness Day: Human Trafficking.  

• Feb. 8, 2015, Catholics worldwide will keep a Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

*Pope Francis’ challenge includes recognizing the “equal dignity” of our brothers and sisters who are enslaved and exploited, and to work to end human trafficking, trade in migrants and prostitutes, slave labor, and the enslavement of women and children.

(For 2017 information, see https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2016/12/26/trafficking-ritual-2017/.)

Information, ways to help, and a prayer ritual follow. Please consider sharing this with others.

1. Know the Extent of the problem 

Types-of-human-trafficking1Trafficking in children is on the increase, according to the latest report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons was released November 24, 2014, in Vienna, Austria and shows that one in three known victims of human trafficking is a child – a 5 per cent increase compared to the 2007-2010 period.

Girls make up 2 out of every 3 child victims, and together with women, account for 70 % of overall trafficking victims worldwide. A recent study from Walk Free, an anti-slavery organization, puts the number of slaves at around 36 million, which is 0.5% of the world’s population. 36 million is a little over half the population of Britain, well over the population of a number of European nations, including Greece, and just about the population of Scandinavia put together. When framed in those terms, that number starts to seem pretty terrifying — though even one person in slavery is a serious matter.

2. Know about trafficking laws. In the U.S.: HumanTraffickingDec292012

President Obama has signed into law H.R. 4980, also known as the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. This bipartisan legislation aims to reduce child sex trafficking, increase adoptions and improve child support collections. It was introduced in the House by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act will encourage states to combat sex trafficking among youth in foster care, promote normalcy for foster youth, help move more children from foster care into adoptive homes or the homes of relatives, and increase the amount of child support provided to families in which one parent resides outside of the U.S. The legislation is fully funded.

3. Three Action Steps from Project IRENE: projectirene@aol.com:

• Buy Fair Trade Key Chains 

f1771b72-5e79-4b6c-be87-e88fc533253fPoverty is one of the many factors which make individuals vulnerable to trafficking.  Key chains made by women at the Regina Center in Nongkhai, Thailand provide income generating opportunities for women.  The women can stay in their villages and keep their children in school.  These are two effective strategies for reducing sex trafficking.

These key chains are $5.00 each.  The Regina Center is one of the partners of HandCrafting Justice which is a member of the Fair Trade Federation.  These key chains can be ordered at ECPAT USA.  Go to www.ecpatusa.org.  Email address is info@ecpatusa.org.  Even though buying a key chain might seem an insignificant act, ponder the impact of everyone reading this information deciding to gift others with these key chains during the holiday season.

• Encourage More Information in Libraries

Ask libraries to purchase materials related to trafficking.  Possibilities include What I Have Been Through Is Not Who I Am; Not a Choice, Not a Job; Rape is Rape; Girls Like Us; The Natashas; Trafficking in Persons Report, published annually by the U.S. Department of State; Life Interrupted.

• Purchase fair trade, sweat-shop free products (clothing, chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.). 

4. Reduce Runaways

Another way to reduce trafficking is to reduce the number of runaway boys and girls. They are prime targets for traffickers. If all the youth who run away in the United States lived in one city, it would be the 5th largest city in the country. If you notice runaway young people in your neighborhood, or anyone who shows signs of abuse or restricted living, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.

 5. Pray, including with others

My thanks to Rose Mary Meyer, BVM, at Project IRENE (projectirene@aol.com) for the follow prayer that I have slightly adapted:

Human Trafficking Prayer 

Opening Prayer 

All: Creating and compassionate Source of Life, living and acting within each part of your cosmos, we gather to pray for an end to human trafficking, which degrades all those, created in your image, who suffer from, who profit from, and who perpetuate, this crime against humanity.  We pray for strength to continue our anti-trafficking efforts, so that all may experience the preciousness of human life.  Amen.

Reading

UnknownWe remember Sudanese St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), patron for victims and survivors of  human trafficking.  She was kidnapped when she was seven years young and sold into slavery.  Her abductors gave her the Arabic name Bakhita which means “fortunate one.”  She was sold a number of times.  She met the Canossian Sisters, and was baptized and confirmed, taking the name Josephine Bakhita.  She entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossia in 1893.  Canonized in October 2000, she became the first Sudanese saint.  Let us give thanks for this Sudanese woman who personally experienced being trafficked.  May she advocate with us for justice for trafficked persons!    (“The Saint of Human Trafficking,” Theresa Baldini, MM.  Maryknoll Magazine)

Reading 

Pope Francis has spoken about trafficking a number of times.  image-493He reflected:  “I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of human trafficking! …  Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved?  Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor.  Let us not look the other way.  There is greater complicity than we think.  The issue involves everyone!  This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.”    (The Joy of the Gospel)

Shared Silence

Litany Against Trafficking

Alternate readers. Response:  Source of All Life, may our efforts to end human trafficking be effective.

We mourn the degradation of those who are victims of human trafficking:  Source of All Life, may our efforts to end human trafficking be effective.

We rejoice in the efforts to gain knowledge and understanding of the tragedy of human trafficking: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve the human trafficking associated with sporting events: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in the anti-trafficking training of hotel, restaurant and other personnel in geographic areas near major sporting events: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve our failure to drink only Fair Trade coffee and to eat only Fair Trade chocolate: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in consumers who are becoming more aware of and committed to purchasing Fair Trade products whose production aims to be traffick-free: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve the lack of local anti-trafficking laws: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice when people advocate for anti-trafficking laws in cities, counties, states, and nations: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve our inattention to trafficking in our local area: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in those who take seriously their connection with all other human beings and make calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 888 373 7888:  Source of All Life . . . .

Reflection:  Take a few moments to try to absorb the immensity of the global, national, and local trafficking reality as well as the possibilities for actions to stop this human tragedy.

Instrumental Music and Reflection, ending with

All: In our hearts, may each of us commit to an action that is possible—prayer, education, other actions. 

Reflective Silence to choose your commitment

Commitment and Closing Prayer

All: I commit myself to fulfilling the action I have just chosen in order to show solidarity with members of the human family who are trafficked.

 Creating and compassionate Source of Life, we thank you for your love of each of us.  May we model your love by our concern for our trafficked sisters and brothers.  May they experience in their lives the power of being treasured by us and our efforts to free this world, locally and globally, of human trafficking.  This we ask in great confidence now and in the future.  Amen.

Music such as We Shall Overcome, City of God, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace