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Emmanuel Agius

Second European Ecumenical Assembly - Graz
Reconciliation: Gift of God and Source of New Life


Emmanuel Agius

At the present juncture of human history, two tendencies of global proportions ca n be observed: on the one hand, spectacular advances in scientific technology, medicine and communications have opened immense possibilities for enrichžng the quality of human life; on the other hand, there is a growing consensus that the dominant economic system is impoverishing vast number of people. This system is eausing drastic depletion of resources, massive pollution of air, water and soil, and the destruction of other living creatures throughout the worid. Through the depletion of the ozone layer, extensive soil erosion, the extinction of species and global warming, current economic patters threaten the regenerative capacity of the biosphere.

European countries must not remain mere spectators in front of today's critical environmental conditions. ror tŮe European continent contributed immenseiy to the prasent en, ironmental degradation. The European countries are in more than one sonse the sourc– of this problem. The pattern of production and consumption practised in Western Europe are the potential roots of both reaional azad international disorder and corfliet. In fact, the very detailed report on the state of the environmont in the European Community published žn April 1992 together with its proposal for a fifth environmental protection action programme speaics for itself. The conclusion drawn in this report on the issue of air, wator and soil pollution, nature conservation, the urban environment and waste management are very clear. Despite the measures tak2n over the past ten years, the state of the environment has, on tha whole, deteriorated drastically, which means that there is still an urgent need to take action.

Discourse about ecological responsibilitv has therefore a special relevance to the European continent. Europe has a specÍal responsibilitv. Wlen speaking about the urgency of change, Europe must take a leading role to implement this change. The resources of the earth which God destined to all humankind, are not distributed justiy, for the Western European industrialized countries are consuming a great share of these rosourcas. This injustice must be redrssed fer the erfit of all present and fuzur generations!

'hat is the role of the churches in Europe in this situation? Because of their special role in civil society the churches cannot remain indifferent in

1 ethical discussions. Historically, they formed the moral and ethical foundation of so much of European society. So influential was the church in this continent, that Europe may still be considered in many respects as a Christian continent. Though in some countries the church has become a minority, however the Christian message still shapes the identity of European culture. European Christians have therefore a vital role as partners in dialog-ue with politiŚans to address the key issues of our times. The social and political challenge of European Christians is to join European institutions in the search for a viable model for sustainable development.

At the end of the second millenium, Europe is experiencing major and profound changes. People in East and West are coming together to build their "common home", but the house rules are not always known or mutually agreed. The "New Europe" which is emerging has brought about anxieties concerning its reconstruction and development. What Europe are we aspiring to? Can churches face the challenge to give a 'soul to Europe'? What attitude will Christian faith exert on today's commitment to the unification of the continent and to the building of a new Europe? More correctly, what impact will Christian faith exert within the hearts and psyche of the 'new Europeans'?

When we Christians examine Europc's vocation, we have to confront the challenge of the ecological crisis in the light of the Scriptizres and identify the criteria which ought to guide our response. We have to read correctly the signs of our times. The credibility of our message in Europe and beyond depends on our churches' ability to offer a vision out of the deep sources of our traditions, and to indicate alternative lifestyles. Churches must become a living witness of these alternative lifestyles! The churches' mission is to present a vision for sustainable development which unites economic, social and environmental spheres, and bring a much needed spiritual dimension to the ecologicai crisis. Churches must not remain silent and indifferent. Cžn the contrary, their voice must be proclaimed because they have a special role in civil society.

The Graz Ecumenical Assembly is a "divine kairos" for Christian churches, bearing grace, tidings and appeals from God for a 'new Europe'. T'he challenge of the churches' "new evangelisation" for Europe is not a project aimžng at the 'restoration' of the Europe of the past. Evangelisation must reach not just individuals but cultures as well. Indeed, the new evangelisation reveals the relationship existing between the Gospel and today s eulture of consumerism.

The urgency of this mission has seeped unfortunately very slowly in our churches' consciousness and conscientiotcsness. lhe irratianality vvhich charaeterize today's ecological situation in Europe was for decades only slightly recognized by the churches; the commitment of many Christians for the consorvation of creation was only their second or third priority. However, the churches' awareness of the ecological crisis lately has

2 increased considerably. In fact, more and more church-related organisations and movements have become involved in the ecological movement. Many churches have done important studies and are engaged in stimulating Christians to respond positively to their responsibility tovvards creation.

ZNill this Ecumenical Assembly in Graz bring about the final change? Is a common commitment possible to give a common vitness? Two years ago an attempt was made in this direction. Under the patronage of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Bishops' Conference (CCEE) an ecuznenical meetin on "Environment b and Development" was convened at the Orthodox Academy near Chania in Crete. The consuitation meeting brought together representatives from all Europe in order to exchange ideas and share their commitment in the field of the environment. This assembly reveals that ma ny churches are taking important init:atives. Another consultation mceting was convened at the National Park of Cireeo, Sabaudia, Italy, for the churches and their organisations in southern Europe.

What follows is inspired mainlv by the reflections and conclusions contained ín the final reports o£ these two consultations both of which focus on the responsibility o£ the European churches to give eredible witness in ecological issues.

1. The Concept of Sustainability

The Bruntiand Rpport and 192 United Nations Con.ference on Eni ironment and Deveiopment have helped to draw the world's attention to the issue of sustainable development. The de£inition of the te~m 'sustažnabilitv' is elusive. Indeed, its verv vagueness has lent its popularity . Same take it to mean thût old-fashioned economic ;rowth, qualifŚed bv a few environmental cautions, can eontinue. Others understand it to require a radicai redirection of the world's economic processes. Still others, observing the tension between economic grovth and ecological sustainability, see it as a contradiction in coneepts.

At the Crete and Circeo consultation meetings, participants emphasizerl. the importance for European Christians not only to recogniza the magnitude and cemple:c:fv of the ecological chalienge, but also to resist in the:r ocial azd political action the temptation to discount tŮe preblem by excluding from consideration certain dimensions implied in the coneept of sustažnable de ˇ elopment. It is therefore the task o£ the churches to tlleir mernbers bv removthe smoke-sereens which biur the coizct tf suLtainabiitr. Trz; folloving paragrahs are az at`err,pt to hiahiáht four important aspects without which the concept of 'sustainability' would be incomplete:

3 a) When assessing how sustainable a particular mode of development might be, it is necessary to take seriously into aecount the probability of risks that it might pose in the future. Technological development has altered the nature of human action which can now, more than ever before, have consequences which extend far in space and time. Reports on the ecological erises give whole lists of dangers and suggestions how to overcome these dangers. The general tendency is to analyse each single situation and to propose adequate solutions. Each problem is tackled on its own. Some statisties proof the dangers, while other statistics propose solutions. However, the crux of the problem is that the single dangers of the contemporary situation are accumulating global future risks and burdens.

There can be no sustainability unless risks are eonseientiously ealeulated and avoided. Ecological probiems are world-wide because the consequences of our actions on the present and the future knoZv no frontiers, neither geographical nor ideological. These risks mav be caused to the natural environment, to the next generation in the so-called developed world, and to the present generation in the developing world. Responsibility is the fruit of foresight. Therefore, risks need to be analysed by considering the following steps: taking into consideration all the possible eonsequences of our actions, or lack of action; the possible scale on 1-hich such consequences could occur; the probability that such consequences might actuall. oceur. It is often the case that avciding one set of risks involves accepting -- or even seekzng -- others.

Given the eomplex world we live in todav, opting for one specific strateg in one particular segment of the economy mav well entazl seriozs risks in different sectors. In avoiding such risks a set of guiding principles may be applied, amongst which the foilowing are most evident:

a} the best eziclence pr:n:p?e.This means that we should .obtain the best evidence before weighing un what action to take to re:rLdy an environmental problem, especiali;, if large resources are likely to be involved. b) the precautionar principle. This recognizes that there are limits to how far we can expect "best evidence". We still need to understand much about the effeets of human activity on the environment. Where a threat to the ezvironment is serious and imminent, we eannot afford to wait for a higher de ee of proof before acting to prevent darnage. Thus for global warming, although the correlation of atrnospheric emissions and climate change still awaits con£irmazion, we cannot wait until we see full evidenee, because bv the time we do so, much serious damage vvill hav e been done.

Undesirable effects on the natural environment are to be restricted in order to safeguard the qualitv of life of bnth present and tuture generations. The amount of today's risks are endangering God's order of

4 creation. What right do we have to create more risks and burdens for far- distant unborn generations? The opportunities for both present and future generations to live well should not be reduced by our current econornic development. But we have to fulfil this duty not to compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, at the same time as we have to meet the needs of the present generation. The opporhznities of future generations can only be guarantied if the present generation does not deplete the stoek of nature, but rather preserves and maintains it. We have to keep in mind that ve did not inherit the world from our ancestors, but we borrowed it from our children.

Europe reaches sustainability when its countries remain as rich in resources and opportunities for future generations as were ínherited from the past. I1 practice, this means that renewable resources are consumed no faster than they can be renezved, that non-renewable resources are eonsumed no faster than renewable substitutes can be found, that wastes are discharged at a rate no greater than they can be proeeeded by nature and human devices. This aspect concerning our responsibilities for future generations is a central point for Europe. European countries are responsible for the ecological destruction. Europe carmot be eoncerned only wíth its own destiny, nor care only for its own future. It is not a matter of a future for Europe, but rather about the role of Europe for the future world.

b) For the churches, sustainacilitv is inseparablv linked with a renewed call to justice and peace. Our ecological responsibility demands a strong eommitment to justice and peace in a sustainable society. The world is entrenched in a c?adly form of injustice. While a fevv of the inhabitarzts of the vvorld enjoy an unprecedented affluence and power, millions languish in crushing poverty, hunger and oppression. Sustainability presupposs willinb ess to share the gifts of creation within the limits imposed by humanity. Ch.zrches are called to be the voice o£ the voiceless and to be the advocate of the powerless who are suffering from poverty and exploitation. International justice demands that the fundamental needs of all must be met. Intergenerational justice inspires our churches to be concerned for the life of future generations: they should inherit a planet whose resources allow them to develop and enjoy life with dignity.

The~e will be neither peace nor jiistice if not within a creation respected for itse?f by evervone. It is therefore imperative that Christians and the churches recover the meaning of sin by- rendering it rnore comprehensive and by identifyžng also as sin every offence against the creation of God. Violence towards creation is a sin against God. St. Ambrose (c.337-397), bishop of lIilan, referred long ago to "injuries done to nature". Together ;ith ho anostle Paul we can aff "h3t the crzation groans becausc of the r grave forms of violence done to it. Violenee is exercised by hiunan beings on creation through wastage and the lack of respect for its resourees. This leads to the extinction of many species of animals and plants, the

5 reduction of genetic diversity, destruction of habitat, and the permanent pollution of many rivers, lakes, seas.

Sustainability presupposes peace and at the same time conditions it. Conflicts and wars represent an acute danger not only to hurnan life but also to the integrity of the environment; they must therefore be avoided on thžs ground. Old differences and long-standing ethnic and cultural rivalries, which for many decades were dormant, are now resurfacing with a vengeance. The resurgent nationalism is becoming a serious threat for Europe"s stability and peace. It is evident that violence - present or potential - remains a critical issue in the lyledzterranean and in Europe. For alI those devoted to peace, justice and integrity of ereation, solidarity and reconciliation are essential and urgent imperatives for all.

These present negative energies in ELirope have to be checked by the establishment of a true culture and a true pedagogy of peace. In some European regions, one gets the impression that people are cohabiting rather than cooperating. Non-violent means should be sought for preventing and resolving conflicts. As to the positive side, we can perceive powerful dvnamics of peace and reconciliation in many places, thanks to the commitment of xnany persons and institutions, ineluding churches.

c) There can be no justice and peace without radical changes. In place of the present groZvth-oriented, throvvavvay pattern of consumption, new models are re:luired. It has become more and more clear that there are limits to human expansion on planet Earth. There is mountíng evidence that some human actiZ∑ities alreadv exceed the limits of the earth"s carrying.capacitf. Tle concept of 'environmental space' lias already guized ground. Environmental space is the total quantity of energy, non- renewable resources, agriculture land and forests that we can use globallv without impinging on the access of future generations to the same amount. Each person in the world has the right (but not obligation) to use an equal amount of envirorunental space in term of global resouces.

Given the limited "environmental space' available to Europe, it is evident  sustainability in each European country cannot be reached without a radical change. The crises cannot be solved siznply by a neyv orientation of society. Those who are committed to ecological moveznents are correct in ciaiming that what we r;eed is not a matter of eorrecting but rather ot altering radically the current course of ev ents.

The roots of the ecological crisis is the consumption-greed in the so-called developed world. In 1970, the 20% rich of the world's population uses 73.9% of the global resources. In 1989 this had increased to 82.7lo. The 20 o of the very poorest has l.'' of the total resources at their disposal. It is not the law of nature that it should be this way: We cannot claim that we do not know these facts. We do know, and the churches are called to be a prophetic voice in our Vestern world. Sustainable development cannot be realised wžthout a radical change of direction. When terms like

6 "sustainable growth" or "sustainable development" are used, often the assumption is made that the present course of society can essentially be maintained. We understand sustainable growth to be a contradiction in terms. Human demands on creation must not grow, but be reduced. Wherever possible Christians may join forces with people of other religions and other philosophical persuasions and seek to build up the consensus which is needed for change.

A major shift in patterns of production and consumption is called for, beginning with the wealthy nations. The dominant 'dev elopment' model is called into question as economically and environmentally unsustainable, morally unjust, and spiritually debilitating. In view of the principle of sustainable f uture which requires an equitable sharing of resources, the countries of Western Europe rnust assume a special responsibility for making,changes in their patters and levels of growth and consumption.

Each European country must first of all quantify the current state of their environmental space. It is irnperative that each European country becomes aware, for instance, that it has a limited amount of aricultural land that must bo usod sustainably; that it has a limit to CQZ emissions; and that it has a finite amount of non-renewable resounces. European countries must strive to reach sustainability within a period of one generation. Tho vear 201– is consid.ored as £ar enough away to redistribute most categvries of the envíronznental space to a large ectent. Central anc.i Eastern countries need also to act urgently to address their serious pollution problems. A society that takes seriously into aecount the limits set bv God, distinguishes itself from a soriety that is inspired by consumerism, as many Europeans are living nowadays. The future of Europe will be better off with our altered behaviour to consumerism.

Vested intersts in indust:ialised sociefv are powerful and are tno often firmly opposed to enlightened voices calling for protection of the environment and the ecosystem. Because of the determined effort to undermine the seriousness of problems still arising from ecological irresponsibility in industry, the churches must be resolute in their determination to play a prophetic role in defence of the integrity of ereation and against injustice.

d) Sustainable development in Europe eannot be reached unless we set limits to technoiogical e£ficiency. T'ho shrinking of resources indÔcate that technologv must be kept within limits. Energy is one of the cornerstones of the European economy . But it also causes some of the heaviest damages to the envzronment in Europe, especially global warming. Europe is using £ar too much ener r pL,Y ?ita anci has a fa.r grat depenc.iLnce on fuels. If Europe's energv consumption were made global, catastrophie envžronmental Śamage would ensue.

Ó The problezn of road and air transport and mobility has emerged as one of the central issues in sustainable development for Europe. Environmental reports indicate that the European transportation system needs a fundamental re-orientation from its current unsustainable poiicy. Some claim that the"polluter pays policy" needs to be applied seriously. Moreover, energy eonsumption must be reduced in order to mitigate the effects of global warning. The industrialised countries are causing the majority of these emissions. Since developing countries are aspiring for further development, deveioping nations are expeeted to significantly increaso their emissions over the next decades .

The ecological crises confronts the churches with a eentral message of the Christian tradition. For hundreds of years asceticism was a self-evident attitude against eonsumerism. This tradition has been lost during the last years of development. Is it not perhaps the responsibility of the churches in Europe to rediscover the meaning of asceticism in today's culture? We need to change our lifestyle. The urgent need for reconciliation -- between industrialised and developing countries, between rich and poor within each country, and also between humankind and God's creation as a whole impels the cllurches to encourage Christians to rethink their very Iifestyle. A sustainable society requires sustainable lifestyles.

Churches should not only emphasize the urgenev of adopting a lifestvle inspired by sirnplicity of life and sobriety, and the rjesti.on of a eonsumeristic mentality, but they must also be a credible witnoss. Churches ought to be good examples in practising a sustainable lifestyle which reflects the wholeness and holiness of creation. We must ret-Iiseov er that it is life which rendors preezous what we possess, and not our possessions which make IÔfe precious. In other words, we must rediscover poverty {in the sense of sobrietv) as a positive and liberating challenge and as an opportunitv through the recovery of the meaning of fasting, asceticism, the Sabbath rest and the Jubilee year.

2. Theological Insights

Is this holistic interpretation of the future and of sustainabilitv present in our churches? Are the above-mentioned perspectives an integral part of the churches' vvitness? The ansvver to these questions Ôs untortunately in the nega tive. The churches were so much involved in issues of justice , particularly about the technological and economical development of southern countxies which eropped up after the second World War, that they have generally been slow in responding to the threats to the environment. In tlze post-World War II, developnent polícies adopted by rnanv governments and supported by ehurclZes wer built around the notion of ever-inereasing 'gro,.rth' which meant the production of more and more goods. People evervwhere believed that there is no foreeeable limzt to this kžnd of grovth. This utopia eaused immense environmental harms to the detriment of both present and futuro generation.s.

8 The churches' involvement in environmental issues is at its infaney. Even today some churches do not recognise the urgency of a Christian response to the dangers and risks faced by humanitv. Moreover, the belief that this new mentality about ecological responsibility is too pessimistic and the result of a doomsday mentality, was supported by a number of churches. Unfortunately, the rich heritage of theological insights on our ecological responsibilities went into oblivion for many centuries. The rediscovery in our tradition of the theological underpinnings of sustainability is of utmost importance because, for us Christians, we do need to knocv not only what we have to do to save our one and only Earth, but above all we have to know why vve have to do it. Churches should never cease to proclaim this message.

How could we explain this situation? The message of Crete states clea rlv that the hesitaney of the churches towards the ecological crisis is not a matter of chance. The reason behind this hesitancy is the fact that the churches were not theologically and spiritually prepared for the ecological crisis which is more than a new theme f or reflection. In order to grasp the crux of the ecalogical prol.,lem, a radical ehange ivas needed which does not come ov ernight. TŮeologlcal assumptions need to be renewed and rethought. In order to overcome this problem, theological reflections are needed not onlv on academic levels, but also in the the sphere of people's life - sermor5, the litir , the spiritual life and daily living. Ecologicai concerns mu: t move to ihe centre stage of the churches' pastoral zninistry.

Ecological responsibility is an essential part of the Christian faith. Stasvardsl:ip i.mlies carin 7 ma r:agement, not salfish explvitation; it involves a coneern for both present and future generations, and a recognition that the world we manage has an interest in its own survival az:d well-being, incependent of its value to us. It is important to observe that the churches' support for the concept of sustainable development is a corollarv of the Cbristian belief of the universal destination of created , goods. Early Christian theologians insisted that all earthly goods belong to all generations. Since material goods of the earth are the eommon patrimony of all humankind, both present and future generations have the right not to be excluded from access to the earth's resources. Note the rich theological insi5'r.ts of the following words, written not by a contemporary theoicgian but by St Jolzn Chrysostom (c.37-07) who lives. in the fourth century:

lIark the wise dispensa tion of God ... He has made certain things common, such as the sun, air, earth, and water, the sky and the sea . . Their bonefits are dispensed equally to all brethren ... And mark, th,.t ccneerning thžngs that remain in common there is no contention but all is peaceable. But when one at-tempts to possess himself of anvthing, to make it his ovvn, then contention is introduced, as if nature herself were indignant.

9 The Crete report indicates that above all the attitude of human beings towards nature had to be rethought. Who are we in our relationship to God and to creation? The Scriptures speak about a particular image of the human person before God. The human person has above all other created objects the ability and the consciousness to praise the Creator. The human person is a part of nature not apart from nature. The human vocation is to live in eommunion with creation. Beyond doubt, this imaae of the human person vis-a-vis creation was underestimated for many eenturies.

Another important point is God's continuing presence in ereation. God has not only ca lled the universe into existenee. He is present in its continuing life. God cares not only for human beings but for all creation. Destruction of creation is therefore disregard of God's presence: it is a sin against God. Every attack on the creation is an insult to the Creator. As the poet T.S. Eliot states: a wrong attitude towards nature implies, somevhere, a wrong attitude tovards Gac.

With what hope should we face the future? Between the present reality and the eschatological fulfilment of God's kingdom, we have to eonstruct God"s kingdom on earth. "Thy Kingdom como" is our daily prayer. This perspectžve confirms the conviction that human history is future- oriented. It o£fers a motivation for a critical attitude towards our relationship with creation. In history, the povver of God's kingdom is alreadv at work. We need to rekindle or faith in God's Spirit ivho is strivin; to renevv the earth and to lure it to its f:nal fulfilrnent. Cur selfish and exploitative attitudes should never hinder the wvrk of God's Spirit present in creation.

y'hat is lackina, hovvever, is hope and contidence in the futuro. Churches a must proclaim a message of hope in the face of everv sign of destruction. This hope in the future, which is in God's hanv's, is not fÔtaiism. The hope of God's kingiom is a source of freedom. God's graca in jesus Christ and the eaparity of the Spirit should be a source of joy, inspiration and encouragement. Precisely because hope frees us £rom the ideology of growth and progress, it gives us the strength to face the challenge.

3. The Responsibilities of Euzopean Christians

The process of economic development in Europe, bcth East and IÔest, over the last decades has caused environrnental and hunan damage. Ioreov er, there are imbalances between the Western- and the Eastern European countries; between the rich and the poor within European countries; betveon mnst of the eountries of Europe and developing countries and beJeen present and f;t,zr ∑neations. ybThat does th:s mean to European churches? yVŮat , role do Europea.n Christians have in their social and political commitment? Let me consider reflections: '! 

10 1. Time is ripe enough for the European churches to start collaborating more closely with each other and with all relevant organisations in the environmental issues. In many countries Christians have becorne active in ecological movements. It is interesting to note that this Second European Ecumenical Assembly in Graz coincides with the meeting of Government representatives, experts and NGOs held at the U.N.O. in New York to examine critically the implementation of Agenda 21 during the last five years since the Earth Summit was held in Brazil. To ensure the implementation of sustainability in all countries, Agenda 21 encourages countries to develop their own national, local, subregional and regional strategies. It is therefore the responsibility of European Christians to collaborate and coordinate actively with all relevant agencies, such as governments, NGOs and the scientific community, to adopt concrete programmes for the implementation of Agenda 21. European Christians must engage themelves strongly in eampaigns to promote a sustainable Europe. l4loreover, in some eountries structures have been built whicb make the churches' commitment for the conservation of creation easier and stronger. However, the networking of these activities and collaboration in European countries is at its initial stage. It is of utmost importance that this cooperation will continue to develop. It is a fact that the ecologzcal erisis will never be solved by one country, so much so it c3n be solv ed by a particular church. lIore than in any other area, the churches on a universal level must cooperate with each other in environmental issues.

?. In Europe there must be more and more díalogue between the West and the East. I think that the churches have a responsibility to foster and promcte this dalogue. urin tl3e last dccades we had in Eurape two systems and ideologies which5 though at loggerheads with each other, both promoted the ideology of economic growth. Now, we are all faced ivith the censeuences of this philosophy. The important cuestion we havc tc raíse is the following: to vhat extent are European Christians in a position to bring toge!her the West and the East? The laek of economic development is responsible for much of the darnage in Central and Eastern European eountres. Now it is believed that the 'blessed' Western European svstem will bring prosperity and will solve the ecological problem. Spreading a 'Western' model of society to Central and Eastern Europe nr develcping countries through the use of developrnental aid nceds to be cuestioned by E,zropean Christians active in socio-economic and political lize. In Crete participants trom Central and Eastern Europeail eountries expressed their view that the consumption-based societ; characteristic of Western Europe at present is not the model they would wish to f ollow.

3. io r-:llne t-c'':,:2e a.b;ut Euroe's future is pc.,ssible víthout concenz o for souri:ern countries. :Iaintaining living cond.itions in European countr:es must not be dealt with in isolation from issues of justice and deveicpment in t'e countries of the Southern hemisphere. The system ∑hich :s responsible fcr todav's destruction of nature has its roots in us.

11 Knowingly or unknowingly, the southern countries are affeeted by the development of today's technology and industry. Development and protection of the environment in the industrialised countries must be sustainable world-wide and open up opportunities for developing a dignified and ecologically-friendly living standards in the developing countries as well as in the countries of Easter Europa which are undergoing a transition. Thus the future of Europe is linked with the future of southern countries. Environmental studies and reports on ecology wrongly treated the Western and Southern erisis as two independent problems. Can the churches in Europe serve as a guardian to protect the interests of southern countries?

4. At the Circeo meeting, churches, Christian assoeiations and ecumenical organisations living in the South of Europe expressed their concern for the future of the Iediterranean Basin whose sÔtuation is particularly serious. 'They observed that the Churches has taken little notice of the problems faced by the Nlediterranean countries. The region eonstitutes one single geographic, economic and ecological unit Zvhich cannot be politically managed without recognition of its unified character. A large part of the pollution of the IIediterranean waters origínate in countries of Eastern Europe and the Blaek Sea. Addressing the problem requires therefore a pan-European political cooperation. Sensitive ecosystezns, such as the coasts and arid lands, have suffered destructive industrial, tourists and agricultural dei∑elopment. One estimates that there yvas a loss of 60'o o£ the coastal zones since 1940. Strongly marked by t∑iolenee, the Mediterranean region is characterised by economic, social and eultural eonflicts caused bv severe disparities between the North and the South of Europe. Faced with this cluster of problems one notes the lack of sucess in negotiations between governments of iIediterranean stats who appear unable to arrive at a consensus. The role of the churches is to help reach this eonsensus, through ccoperation with other religions. During the Euro-:l,fediterranan Confrenee of Barcelona (1995), countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin deelared to establish "a zone of peace, stability a.nd seurity in the area, including the possibility of bringing into eooperation for this purpose a Euro-Mediterranean pact". Churches must first be aware of this Deelaration and then co-operate with government and non-governmentai organisations to implement its objectiires. Though it might appear difficult to implement, this attempt would strongly contribute to the process of reconeiliaion in the Nlediterranean re on.

. Not only intra-religious but also inter-religious dialogue is a challenge for Christians in Erope. Churches have the responsibility to instigate the closest and most urgent cooperation not only betTveen Christians of different confessions, but als vvzth non-Lh.ristiarts in the area of environmental refleÁtion and action. The questíon of our future is common to all of us, regardless of religious confession. The importance of promoting dialogue and co-ope~atien bet,veen the monothoist:ic reliions in the Euro-Iylediterranean area eannot be overstated if peaceful

12 coexistence is to prosper in the region. The three religions share the common belief that we are responsible and have common stewardship of the planet-earth entrusted to us by God.

These questions indicate that the issue about the future must become an important item on the European churches' agenda. We must go a step further beyond discussions and meeting. We need a European Council for the Environment, which will have the mandate from the church to debate theologically, spiritually and pastoraily about the future of Europe. Is this ecumenical meeting in Graz not an opportunity to take a decision in this directžon? The European Coiuncil for the Environment will act as a guardian for the interest of both present and future generations. In this way the churches would fulfil an advocacy role with regard to the ecological crisis.

The process begun in Basel and continued in Graz cannot be arrested. On the contrary, it must be taken seriously and accelerated. The current challenge of the survival of our common heritage in the Euro- Mediterranean region is unprecedented. Let us hope that the mechanisms already established as well as the good will of all Europeans and their churches would meet this challenge!

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