International Orthodox Theological Association: Exciting News

Conference Planning | Publication Plans |Announcements
CONFERENCE PLANNING. IOTA plans to hold its mega-conferences
every four years: 2023, 2027, 2031, and so on. Unless there are compelling reasons to make an alternative arrangement, each mega-conference will
take place in January, starting no earlier than the 8th and ending no later than the 15th of the month. Plan accordingly.

In order to prepare each mega-conference, IOTA’s group chairs will hold an international symposium two years before each mega-conference on the model of the Jerusalem Symposium of January 2018. We are happy to note that we have the blessing of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to hold
the next Chairs’ Symposium in January 2021 in Egypt. In addition, IOTA
has a standing invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to organize its subsequent Chairs’ Symposium in Turkey. 
PUBLICATION PLANS. IOTA plans to launch its publications in 2020 with the Flagship Volume, which will include public addresses, group vision
statements, and institutional statements. IOTA Group Chairs will constitute an Advisory Committee to IOTA Publications. Individual conference
presentations have already been made available online on IOTA’s 
YouTube Channel (as videos, over 27, 000 views and 430 subscribers to
date) and on the Ancient Faith Ministries website (as podcasts).
ANNOUNCEMENTS. IOTA’s co-laborer organization, Orthodox
Theological Society in America invites papers on the topic of “Orthodox
Unity” for its annual meeting in Glenview (suburban Chicago), Illinois, on November 7-9, 2019. The deadline for the submission of the paper
proposals is September 1. Orthodox scholars residing outside of North
America are encouraged to attend as observers. For more information,
visit this page. The OTSA meeting is being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine,
Psychology, and Religion (OCAMPR).
YouTube Channel (subscribe for new videos)
Podcasts of Conference Presentations
IOTA Facebook Page (subscribe for regular updates)

Multi-Organ Lab-on-a-Chip for Cancer Drug Testing

For those of you keeping up with alternatives to animal testing, this is a further development:

JUNE 20TH, 2019  CONN HASTINGS MATERIALSMEDICINE

Researchers at Hesperos, Inc., a biotech firm based in Florida, have collaborated with Roche and the University of Central Florida to develop a multi-organ lab-on-a-chip system for drug testing. The device includes human organ-derived tissue constructs that allow for the efficacy and side-effects of anti-cancer drugs in various organs to be tested in a way that does not involve laboratory animals. The technique is another step for lab-on-a-chip devices in making preclinical testing easier, less expensive, and more humane.

Lab-on-a-chip devices for drug testing are an active area of research, with numerous devices being reported in recent years. The promise of such technology is substantial, as it could drastically reduce the need for laboratory animal testing for new drug compounds and could make such testing faster and less expensive. In the future, the technology could provide drug safety and efficacy data that are more relevant to human patients than those achieved using experimental animals.

Given the enormous sums of money spent by large pharmaceutical companies on drug testing, some are taking an interest in developing such technology. Roche was involved in the research behind this latest device, which contains multiple human organ-derived tissue constructs grown on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) , and circulating serum-free medium. The device allows researchers to test the tissue response to anti-cancer drugs, either alone or in combination, and assess both efficacy and safety at the same time.

For instance, in testing the device, the researchers showed that diclofenac, an anticancer drug, inhibited the growth of cancer-derived bone marrow cells at a specific concentration, but also reduced the viability of liver cells by 30%, indicating that such a dose may not be safe for humans. Often, the primary goal of such testing is to determine the therapeutic index of a tested compound, which indicates the range of drug concentrations in which a drug can have a therapeutic effect, without causing substantial toxicity.

“This is a game changer in the preclinical drug development process, which normally requires an animal model to measure therapeutic index, and in the case of many rare diseases requires testing in humans as there are no animal models available,” said James Hickman, a researcher involved in the study. “In addition, our system will allow testing of different therapies on small samples of a specific cancer patient’s tissue to help inform doctors about which treatment works best for each individual.”

Study in Science Translational MedicineMulti-organ system for the evaluation of efficacy and off-target toxicity of anticancer therapeutics

Further studies:

We recommend

  1. Sony Backing Organ-on-Chip TechnologyGavin Corley, Medgadget, 2013
  2. Microfluidic Chip May Replace Lab Rats in Drug ExperimentsEditors, Medgadget, 2015
  3. Portable PSA Testing Anywhere Using a Lab in a BriefcaseEditors, Medgadget, 2015
  4. A Pragmatic view of Preclinical In-vivo Imaging MarketMarketDataForecast, Medgadget, 2017
  5. u2018Lab on a Chip’ for Whole-animal StudiesEditors, Medgadget, 2007
  1. The mouse: the scientist’s best friendMedical News Today, 2015
  2. First lab-grown contracting human muscleHonor Whiteman, Medical News Today, 2015
  3. Skin replacement with blood and lymphatic capillaries grown in labUnivadis (UK), 2014
  4. Liquid biopsies “routine within five years”Univadis (UK), 2016

Endangered Species: Christian Responsibility

This is a fine article by Fred Krueger . Despite the American slant, it is easily transposed to other countries. Other Patristic teachings are found on our website:

‘The abuse by contemporary man of his privileged position in creation and of the Creator’s order “to have dominion over the earth” (Genesis 1.28) has already led the world to the edge of apocalyptic self-destruction, either in the form of natural pollution which is dangerous for all living beings, or in the form of the extinction of many species of the animal and plant world…’ . HAH Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios

‘For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation… these things are sins. ‘ . HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

‘A good steward is careful to protect the things of his Master’s house: he protects against destruction and decay. He would never permit pollution, rainforest burning, or the extinction of entire species.’ – HE Metropolitan +Nicholas of Amissos

SHOULD ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS BE CONCERNED ABOUT SAVING ENDANGERED ANIMAL SPECIES?

Critics sometimes claim that they get in the way of progress and development, and if they die out, it doesn’t really matter. There are thousands of other species. Is this a proper way for Christians to respond to this question? What is an appropriate way for Orthodox to understand the endangered species issue?

As background, let us recall that North America was originally blessed with some of the world’s most amazing wildlife. When European settlers first visited this continent they encountered Eastern elk and wood buffalo populating the forests of Appalachia; a huge 10′ to 11″ tall golden grizzly bear was in the river valleys of California; a unique jaguar roamed the Arizona desert. On the coastal waters of the Pacific the Stellar sea cow – a large 35′ relative of the Florida manatee – was hunted to extinction because of its tasty flesh. In the Atlantic the sea mink and the grey whale are now gone. In the skies, tens of millions of passenger pigeons filled the air; large flocks of colorful Carolina parakeets were in the forests, and the flightless great auk was on Atlantic islands. These creatures are all gone – extinct by the hand of a rapacious human society – as are many others including the once massive schools of salmon and steelhead that crowded western rivers; the huge flocks of ducks and geese that filled the skyways; and spectacular pods of whales that swam the oceans.

Pioneers saw this original abundance as evidence that God “shed His grace on Thee,” as the 19th century hymn “America, the Beautiful” proclaims. They arrived at this conclusion because the Scriptures repeatedly teach a respect and care for the animals. This we read in many different places in the Bible so that it becomes an inescapable conclusion for Christians.

Here are several examples from Scripture.

The Witness of the Bible on Animals.

When God created the animals – even before He created people – He gave them a divine mandate to multiply and fill the earth. They therefore have a command from God to continue their species. As humans we are to honor their responsibility to fulfill what God has commanded regarding the design of the world.

Humans are given dominion over creation, including the animals. Dominion means that we are to treat God’s creation as the Lord would treat it. (The English word “dominion” derives from the Latin word “dominus” which means Lord, or to be as the Lord.) This implies love, care and thoughtfulness as well as concern for the welfare and the future of what God has placed into human care. It does not and never did mean a simplistic domination of the animals or the earth.

God tells us to replenish the earth – which means to put back what we take. Replenishment applies to the earth and everything in it, including the animals. We may take from creation to live, but we must ensure the continued fruitfulness of the land and the species which dwell on it. The mass killing of the buffalo on the American plains or the extermination of the passenger pigeons disregarded this command to replenish the earth – i.e., to maintain its fruitfulness.

God directed Adam to name the animals. This was not an arbitrary process. In Hebrew each letter has meaning that relates back to the qualities in the nature of God. The naming of each animal required a deep discernment of its inner essences and an identification of those attributes within creatures that connect them back to their Creator. The ancient responsibility to name the creatures reminds us that humans are priests of creation, charged by God with its care and keeping, but also with an accountability for a right relationship between heaven and earth.

At the time of the Flood, God commanded Noah to save each animal species. Notice in this story that God was more concerned about saving each species than He was about saving the sinful people. After the rains fell, God allowed those people to drown who would not listen to Noah, but He ensured that the animal species were all preserved.

After the Flood God makes his covenant with Noah but also with all the animals in the ark. This covenant declares that as long as they obey God, there will not again be another great flood. If God can make covenant with Noah and his descendants in perpetuity, including the animals, His acknowledgment of them in a contractual manner means that He intends for them to survive into the future. Humans should not abrogate what God has intended by causing any species to be exterminated.

In the Psalms the author repeatedly presents images in which animals, plants, and trees coexist in a cosmic harmony. We read an epic vision in Psalm 103/104 in which there are places appointed for the animals and the Lord oversees the whole creation. The author then concludes “in wisdom hast thou made them all” (Ps. 103:24). Several lessons emerge from this sequence. As creation gives praise to God and exists in adequacy and simple sufficiency, not excess, this serves as a model for human behavior. The fact that creation is imbued with wisdom means that the order, balance, harmony, and beauty with which God has assembled the world should serve as the model and guide for how we are to structure and build human society. The implication is that we should make room for the animals and plants, and not allow their elimination.

A further implication is that wisdom is essential for a harmonious world. Because wisdom is accessed only by theosis, spiritual striving is fundamental for each person. This allows us to live consciously connected to God’s wisdom and therefore to discern and foresee the consequences that our actions have upon each other and the biotic world.

In the last book of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, St. John the Evangelist writes that in the end, all the animals of earth and the creatures of the sea will join us in heaven and “sing in the choir,” giving praise to God (Rev. 5:13). If the animals are destined to sing in the heavenly choir, we should recognize this by respecting their place in the world.

The Witness of the Fathers and Saints

Just as the Scriptures are clear in their teaching about animals and their importance, so are the saints. They offer a rich and varied commentary that takes us deeper into an awareness of the connectedness of life. In particular we should note the different reasons that the saints offer for respecting animals.

Tertullian (160-230), an early father from the second century, declared that not only are the animals created by God, but they have their own form of prayer.

‘Cattle and wild beasts pray, and bend their knees, and in coming forth from their stalls and lairs they too look up to heaven, their mouths not idle, Making the Spirit move in the fashion of their own kind.’

Origen (185-254), considered “the Father of Theology” by early Christians, tells us that there is a divine art in the structure of the world and in the distribution of the creatures: ‘The divine art that is manifested in the structure of the world is not only to be seen in the sun, the moon and stars; it operates also on earth on a reduced scale. The hand of the Lord has not neglected the bodies of the smallest animals – and still less their souls – because each of them is seen to possess some feature that is personal to it, for instance, the way it protects itself. Nor has the hand of the Lord neglected the earth’s plants, each of which has some detail bearing the mark of the divine art, whether it be the roots, the leaves, the fruits or the variety of species. In the same way, in books written under the influence of divine inspiration, Providence imparts to the human race a wisdom that is more than human, sowing in each letter some saving truth insofar as that letter can convey it, marking out thus the path of wisdom. For once it has been granted that the Scriptures have God himself for their author, we must necessarily believe that the person who is asking questions of nature, and the person who is asking questions of the Scriptures, are bound to arrive at the same conclusions.’ . Commentary on Psalm 1, 3 (PG 12, 1081)

St. Jerome (341-420), one of the western fathers and a historian of the early church, reminds us that we admire the Creator for His creation of the animals, even the insects. He tells us that the mind of Christ is present even in the small creatures as well as the large: ‘We admire the Creator, not only as the framer of heaven and earth, of sun and ocean, … But for bears and lions, and also as the Maker of tiny creatures: ants, gnats, flies, etc. So the mind that is given to Christ is equally earnest in small things as in great, knowing that an account must be made in the end for even an idle word.’

St. Basil the Great (329-379) says that we should care about the animals because the Lord has promised to save and redeem them as well as we humans:

‘For those, O Lord, the humble beasts that bear with us the burden and heat of the day and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind; And for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, We supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou has promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world. ‘

St. John Chrysostom (347-407) writes that we should respect animals for many reasons, but “especially because they have the same origin as we do.” This should remind us that we are all connected.

St. John Climacus (509-603) relates that each animal embodies some portion of the wisdom of God:

‘Nothing is without order and purpose in the animal kingdom; each animal bears the wisdom of the Creator and testifies of Him. God granted man and animals many natural attributes, such as compassion, love, feelings… for even dumb animals bewail the loss of one of their own.’

St. Isaac the Syrian (640?-8th century) describes a person who has a charitable heart in terms of how that person relates to the animals.

‘What is a charitable[compassionate] heart? It is a heart which is burning with a loving charity for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons – for all creatures. He who has such a heart cannot see or call to mind a creature without his eyes being filled with tears by reason of the immense compassion which seizes his heart. A heart which is so softened can no longer bear to hear or learn from others of any suffering, even the smallest pain, being inflicted upon any creature. This is why such a man never ceases to pray for the animals, for the enemies of truth, and for those who do him evil, that they may be preserved and purified. He will pray even for the lizards and reptiles, moved by the infinite pity which reigns in the hearts of those who are becoming united with God.’

St. Guthlac (673-714), one of the most revered and beloved of the early British saints, tells us that holiness tames the animals:

‘Brother, hast thou never learned in Holy Writ, that with him who has led his life after God’s will, the wild beasts and wild birds are tame?’ . (Felix’s Life of St. Guthlac)

His biographer, Cynewulf, considered the first great Anglo-Saxon poet, called St. Guthlac “the great hero of our time.” He then describes the saint through a narration on how the animals related to him:

‘Triumphant came he [St. Guthlac] to the hill; And many living things did bless his coming. With bursting chorus and with other signs The wild birds of the hill made known their joy Because this well-loved friend had now returned. Oft had he given them food when they were hungry, even starving, they had come straight to his hand and from it they ate their fill.’ . The Song of Guthlac

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), the great Russian novelist who was spiritually formed by the monks of Optina Pustyn monastery, teaches readers to look beyond the superficial appearance of things into the mystery of Christ hidden in all people and all things. In this view, he reflects the traditional Russian Christian attitude toward the land and the loving respect which is required of each person toward the earth and all its creatures:

‘Love the animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble their joy, do not harass them, do not deprive them of their happiness, do not work against God’s intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you – Alas, it is true of almost everyone of us!’ . The Brothers Karamazov

A simple conclusion from the foregoing is that the Scriptures and the Saints agree that care for animals is a Christian concern. Both sources point to a spiritual obligation to respect the animals. They remind us that Christians have a responsibility to treat animals with a holy regard because they are God’s creatures and because they have an appointed place in His creation.

The Conclusion of Biologists and Scientists

The studies of biologists and scientists indicate that we have not done a good job at preserving the world’s living endowment of creatures.

Even though God has bestowed a great abundance of animal and plant species on the world, that abundance is in fast decline. As a society we are causing a rapid drop in the diversity of creatures that is threatening extinction for a quarter of all mammals, a third of amphibians, and half of all coral reef species, according to a 2009 report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In assembling their report on endangered species, the IUCN found that many more species are now in peril of extinction than when a similar study was conducted five years ago. According to report editor Jean Christophe Vie, “Biodiversity continues to decline. It’s happening everywhere.” Mr. Vie said biodiversity threats need to be highlighted and combated, even at a time when world leaders are preoccupied with economic recession. Unlike financial markets and debts, extinction is irreversible. Once a species disappears, it is gone forever.

Mr. Vie urged that governments and citizens undertake a series of lifestyle changes to lessen the use of energy and reduce consumption, redesign cities, and reassess the environmental consequences of globalization – producing goods in poor countries where wages are low and transporting them thousands of miles for sale in places where wages are high, such as the United States and Europe. Vie added that the danger from global climate change will only make this situation worse.

In Europe, “about 50 percent of all animal species are vulnerable,” observes Barbara Helfferich, a European Union spokeswoman. “Habitats are shrinking and a lot needs to be done. We are not doing enough to halt biodiversity loss.” Part of the problem is that most people fail to see how their actions have consequences for the natural world.

To illustrate the interconnectedness between human actions and creatures, examine the story of a malaria epidemic in Borneo. The World Health Organization (WHO) tried to control the disease by eradicating mosquitoes by using DDT, a pesticide now banned in most countries. The DDT did its job and eradicated most of the mosquitoes. But then a series of unexpected consequences began to unfold. The pesticide also wiped out the wasps that had controlled the local thatch-eating insects. The result was that the straw roofs on the local huts began to collapse. At the same time the DDT poison accumulated in the lizard population because the lizards ate the dying mosquitoes. This caused the cats which dined on the lizards to bioaccumulate the DDT and die from pesticide poisoning. Without cats the rat population multiplied and unleashed a ferocious epidemic which infested fields and villages and decimated the food crops. To cure this larger problem, the WHO was forced to parachute in 14,000 new cats to control the rats in what officially became known as “Operation Cat Drop.”

The lesson from this situation is that by using a dangerous pesticide to remove a serious insect pest, nature’s balance was disrupted and the intended solution caused far more problems for the local population than the problem which originally existed. This sequence of unexpected consequences shows that solutions to problems must be in harmony with nature and they must not create additional new problems.

Why are we concerned about losing animal and plant species?

God gave the world such an abundance of different animals and plants, it might seem that if we lose a few, it wouldn’t make too much difference. In fact this is not true. Each creature is important and should be preserved. Here are several perspectives that should help to understand this situation.

When humans cause a species to go extinct, this demonstrates that we are living out of harmony with God’s commands and His creation.

The very existence of species that are threatened because of human impact tells us that we are living in a manner that is destructive to the life of the world. Endangered species are evidence of a failure to respect and have holy regard for what God has created on earth. If we disregard these species, retribution will likely come through a loss of the services which animal and plant species provide. For example, the island of Borneo possesses some of the world’s most amazing orchids. Estimates are that between 2,500 and 3,000 orchid species grow in its humid, but botanically unexplored rainforests. Many of these flowers are not yet catalogued by science. These orchids are highly valued for their exotic aromas and their amazing color combinations. But these orchids are endangered because of illegal logging, gold mining, and the clearing of forests to grow palm oil, and especially the illegal collecting and selling of wild orchids by orchid hunters who respond to high consumer demand for these beautiful flowers. Already these pressures in just the past decade have led to the extinction of hundreds of orchid species. According to a Global Forest Watch report, Indonesia is losing its forestlands so quickly that at the current rate of loss, Borneo’s forests could vanish entirely by 2015[30].

Our lifestyle is causing an accelerating rate of animal and plant extinctions.

Presently the world is losing an estimated 8,500 species per year. These species are disappearing for a variety of reasons, including pollution, habitat destruction, the introduction of invasive species, the early impacts of climate change, hunting and over harvesting, and the sprawl of cities due to growing human populations. This represents the loss of roughly one unique species every hour, or about 2% of all animal and plant species over the year. When this total is added to new estimates of how global climate change will increase the extinction rate, scientists report that by the middle of this 21st century (by the year 2050), we will be faced with the extinction and disappearance forever of roughly 50% of all the world’s species! Imagine how the world would be if half of all the animal and plant species disappear?

The extinction of animal and plant species threatens the food supply The world’s food supply is dependent upon the entire web of life for vigor, vitality and an ability to provide sustenance for a hungry human population. Every biological process has excess capacity built into its design to ensure strength and resilience. If one species disappears, there are sometimes others which can be substituted. However as we lose species, we remove components from a working biological system. For perspective, imagine you car. How would your car run if someone removed a few parts from your automobile each week? It would not take long before the car would no longer operate properly. The food chain is similar. If we lose the ability to pollinate crops, a service which insects, birds and small mammals provide, about one-third of all fruit and vegetable crops would no longer bear fruit.

Presently the U.S. is experiencing a steep decline in bee populations, mostly because of pesticides. Some top pollinating species are now down to only 4% of their historic numbers. As we lose pollinating insects, the food chain becomes at risk. This is a sobering situation because the world has a growing population, but a declining agricultural base. A declining food supply coupled with a growing population means future hunger and starvation in some parts of the world. Protection of endangered species becomes protection for a healthy food chain and a healthy population.

The human economy is dependent upon the right functioning of nature

Humans depend on ecosystems such as coastal waters, prairie grasslands, and ancient forests to purify their air, clean the water, and supply food. When species become endangered, this indicates that these ecosystems are degrading. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that losing just one plant species can trigger the loss of up to thirty other insect, plant and higher animal species. Some individuals who have not examined the issue declare that the economy is what is important, not these species. They forget that the economy rests upon the right functioning of the air, water, soils, plants and all of the other elements of the living environment. The fact is, the economy should be seen as a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. Healthy human society rests upon clean air, clean water and a vigorous ecosystem. Without a healthy environment, healthy families or a healthy economy cannot exist.

Nature holds cures for diseases that have not yet been discovered

Public health advocates add another argument for protecting plant and microbial species. They observe that we scarcely know what valuable medicines many of these unexamined species contain. For perspective only a small percentage of the world’s plants have been examined for medicinal values. To elaborate on an example from the previous chapter, just twenty-five years ago, loggers considered the Pacific yew tree a “trash tree.” Pharmacologists then discovered that the bark of this thin, scraggily tree contained a unique compound, taxol. This bioactive chemical turned out to be a potent drug in the fight against lung and ovarian cancers. Because of the unique substances in the bark of the Pacific yew tree, tens of thousands of people now live who previously would have died. Like unread books in a library, species may have value that only becomes apparent after they are properly studied.

What Are the Solutions?

Solutions to save endangered animal and plant species take place at several levels:

(1) in the home and local parish, (2) in the community by the shaping attitudes and influencing public policy on endangered species, and (3) in the halls of government.

Here are suggestions on what you can do in your home and parish: —

*Develop respect and reverence for all life, including animals. Cultivate a consistent pro-life attitude. As you respect God’s life in creation through the creatures, you are respecting what God has created. Know that in a reduced and diminished manner, the animals also bear some portion of the image of God.

* Learn about the endangered species in your area. Before you can protect endangered species, you should identify them. Learn about their place in the local environment. Find out where they live and why they are endangered. Education and information are essential in protecting them. Make an effort to observe them and see them as God’s creation. Tell your friends and family about the birds, fish, and plants that live near you and your community.

* Minimize herbicide and pesticide use. Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice, but they are hazardous pollutants that harm wildlife at many levels. Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade; they build up in the soils and from there migrate into the food chain. Predators such as hawks, owls and coyotes are harmed if they eat tainted or poisonous animals. Amphibians, especially frogs and toads, are especially vulnerable.

* Recycle all wastes and buy sustainable products. Buy recycled paper, and other sustainable products like bamboo and certified Forest Stewardship Council wood products to protect forests and forest species. Never buy furniture made from rainforest wood. Recycle your cell phones because a mineral used in cell phones and other electronics is mined in gorilla habitat. Minimize the use of palm oil because forests where tigers live are being cut down to plant palm plantations.

* Plant native vegetation. Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies helps to pollinate your plants. Invasive species compete with native species for resources and habitat. They can even prey on native species directly, forcing native species towards extinction.

*Make your parish and home wildlife friendly. If you live in a rural area, secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals. Reduce the use of water in your home and garden so that animals that live nearby can have a better chance of survival. Disinfect bird baths to avoid disease transmission. Place decals on windows to deter bird collisions. Millions of birds die unnecessarily every year because of collisions with windows. You can help reduce the number of collisions simply by placing decals on the windows in your home and office.

*Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species. Overseas trips can be exciting, but souvenirs are sometimes made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the illegal wildlife market. Avoid items made from ivory, tortoise-shell, or coral. Be careful of products made from or including fur from lions, tigers, polar bears, sea otters, crocodile skin, live monkeys or apes, most live birds including parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches, some snakes, turtles and lizards, some orchids and cacti, or medicinal products made from rhinos, tigers, Asiatic black bear, or any other endangered wildlife.

*Restrain harassment of threatened and endangered species. Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Shooting, trapping, or forcing a threatened or endangered animal into captivity is also illegal and can lead to their extinction. Don’t participate in these activities, and report them as soon as you see an incident to your local, state, or federal wildlife enforcement office.

* Protect wildlife habitat. The greatest threat that many endangered species face is the destruction of their habitat (i.e., the places where they live). Scientists say that the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. Wildlife, just like people, must have places to find food, shelter and raise their young. Logging, over-grazing, mining, oil and gas drilling, and development all cause habitat destruction. As you protect habitat, you also protect whole communities of animals and plants.

* Encourage parks and protected wild areas. Parks, wildlife refuges, and other open space should be protected near your community. Open space provides great places to visit and enjoy. Support wildlife habitat and open space protection in your community. When you are buying a house, consider your impact on wildlife habitat.

*Harmonize your lifestyle with God’s creation. As Orthodox Christians who submit to the Scriptures and Holy Tradition, we must face the seriousness of the extinction threat. We are to take the steps in attitude and lifestyle that will prevent the extinction of species and preserve the abundance and biodiversity which is essential to the flourishing of life.

Action must also take place by the larger community and by state and national government. Without government participation, individual action will not be sufficient.

* Preserve the Endangered Species Act. Legislation by Congress provides a first line of protection for most U.S. endangered species. This is our modern Noah’s Ark. Once designated as endangered or threatened, a species cannot be destroyed nor can its habitat be eliminated. Private landowners should be recognized and applauded who voluntarily protect rare plants and animals. All these efforts need to continue and expand to keep our natural heritage alive.

*Develop parish public policy advocacy. Orthodox parishes must become informed and active regarding the preservation of habitats and biodiversity. They must learn how to stand up for what God has created. This means that they should consider advocacy together with other community groups to ensure that development and industrialization do not impair the integrity of wetlands, streams, fields, and forests.

* Acknowledge and support positive actions. Parish creation care ministries should acknowledge and commend companies that have pledged to stop purchasing lumber from endangered forests. They should encourage Church and other purchasers of wood and paper products to make serious efforts to avoid purchasing products made from endangered forests.

* Cultivate civic responsibility for our nation’s laws and policies. Write the United States Congress and the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Interior Department (especially its Fish and Wildlife Department), as well as state governments, and urge these departments to refrain from efforts to abolish or undercut established policies and initiatives to protect endangered species. Ask them to preserve wetlands, to minimize road building in national forests, and to preserve roadless wilderness areas.

* Urge local government to refrain from unnecessary development. The parish ministry of God’s creation should ask the President and the Congress to respect God’s creation. They should call upon our leaders to drop plans to explore for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This will have serious adverse effects on this unique but fragile ecosystem upon which many kinds of wildlife as well as indigenous people depend. We should urge government, industry, agriculture and individuals to face the urgency of energy conservation and to accelerate the transition from a fossil fuel base to a solar and alternative energy base for the economy.

* Teach young people respect for animals in parish schools. We should educate young people and encourage parish members to acknowledge the Orthodox vision of creation. This vision discerns Christ and the Holy Spirit as our “Heavenly King” who is “everywhere present and fills all things.” The implications of this vision should be taught to all children and emphasized to all adults. The statements of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and our other hierarchs on the care of God’s creation should be read and there should be opportunities to deepen faith through awareness that Orthodoxy implies a lifestyle of restraint, conservation and frugality in our use of the world’s resources.

Through the actions listed above, we extend the life of the Church into the life of the home and society. In the process we articulate an Orthodox way of life that is consistent with Jesus Christ, constructive, and earth healing. The more these guidelines are embraced, the more the consequences extend beyond endangered animal species into the larger society. These actions fortify the parish in virtue, strengthen families in the love of God, and teach children in a manner that provides stability into the future. For those who embrace these guidelines, the practice of respect for creation will strengthen spiritual vitality and bestow an ability to withstand the assaults of a coarsening culture upon those who strive to follow the Way and the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘Scientists emphasize that climate change has the potential to destroy the entire ecosystem which sustains not only the human species but also the wondrous world of animals and plants. The choices and actions of what is otherwise civilized modern man have led to this tragic situation, which in essence is a moral and spiritual problem which the divinely inspired Apostle Paul articulated with colorful imagery in underlining its ontological dimension. “For creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected it… For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now” (Romans 8:20,22). ‘ – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew September 1, 2008

‘We in the Orthodox Church see Creation as the foundational concept by which we understand all environmental issues. When a creature is created, that creature has meaning, value and purpose. This is true whether that creature is a human person, an animal, an insect, a plant, a tree, a geological formation, or an astronomical body. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of creation as a foundational concept. It means that we must accept the reality of every creature as meaningful. ‘ – HE Metropolitan +Nicholas of Amissos Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

In affirming the sacred images, the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 787) was not primarily concerned with religious art, but with the presence of God in the heart, in others and in creation. For icons encourage us to seek the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be filled with the same wonder of the Genesis account, when: “God saw everything that He made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1.30-31)….

‘Icons are invitations to rise beyond trivial concerns and menial reductions. We must ask ourselves: Do we see beauty in others and in our world? The truth is that we refuse to behold God’s Word in the oceans of our planet, in the trees of our continents, and in the animals of our earth. In so doing, we deny our own nature, which demands that we stoop low enough to hear God’s Word in creation. We fail to perceive created nature as the extended Body of Christ. Eastern Christian theologians have always emphasized the cosmic proportions of divine incarnation. For them, the entire world is a prologue to St. John’s Gospel. And when the Church overlooks the broader, cosmic dimensions of God’s Word, it neglects its mission to implore God for the transformation of the whole polluted cosmos. On Easter Sunday, Orthodox Christians chant: Now everything is filled with divine light: heaven and earth, and all things beneath the earth. So let all creation rejoice.’ – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew . Fordham University, October 27, 2009

‘It is unfortunate that we lead our life without noticing the environmental concert that is playing out before our eyes and ears. In this orchestra, each minute detail plays a critical role. Nothing can be removed without the entire symphony being affected. No tree, animal, or fish can be removed without the entire picture being distorted, if not destroyed.’ – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Moscow, Russia, May 26, 2010

‘Far too long have we limited our understanding of community, reducing it to include only human beings. It is time that we extend this notion also to include the living environment, to animals and to trees, to birds and to fishes. Embracing in compassion all people as well as all of animal and inanimate creation brings good news and fervent hope to the whole world.’ – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew June 30, 2004

The ecological problem is fundamentally a spiritual problem


Following on from the last post on St Isaac’s teaching on a compassionate heart, here is further commentary from HE Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, made on World Environment Day, June 4th 2019.

“The ecological problem is fundamentally a spiritual problem”

“47 years have passed since June 5, 1971, when work began for the first World Environment Day in Stockholm, as part of the United Nations consultation. For the first time, the political, social, and economic dimensions of the ecological problem were discussed, with the aim of taking corrective measures. Since then, June 4 has been set as a World Day for awareness and information on environmental issues.

Every year, on this day, we say that we “celebrate the environment!” However, this expression shows that for many, after so many years, ignorance and indifference still exist in the area of environment. Because it is not a celebration, but a day of reflection and taking stock of the efforts made to protect creation. It is a decisive day for the renewal of the fight for the salvation of our house, which was offered to us by the Creator, our planet Earth.

I have many times expressed the opinion that quite often, the discussions and the demonstrations on this subject are reminiscent of dialogues of the deaf. While in theory, all of us perceive the critical state of the issue and many do take initiatives or strive eagerly to contribute to its resolution, the problem remains and has not been corrected. 

But above all things, we must be led to the true knowledge of ourselves, in order to correctly interpret the word and the blessing of God given to the first created beings, with regard to creation and environment: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28).

The world is not the result of coincidences or accidental necessities, but is was conceived by the Creator as a springboard for salvation. We human beings have, or at least say we have, a regulatory role in creation, as its crowning. However, we often forget our relationship with God and our place in creation. We become autonomous, guided by dominating concepts and behaviors, which are oppressing towards our fellow beings and the environment.

The saints of the Orthodox Church, having accomplished the purpose of their existence as human beings and participating in the divine glory, show and teach us ecological idea. Thus St. Isaac the Syrian defines the merciful heart as “a heart burning for the whole creation, for people, for birds, for animals, for demons, and for all creatures.” As for Saint Cosmas of Aetolia, he prophesied that “people will become poor because they will not love trees.”

Therefore, the ecological problem is fundamentally a spiritual problem, with enormous moral dimensions. If we do not free ourselves from egocentrism and eudemonism, if we do not have an ascetic vision of creation and of our rational and conscious use of material goods and wealth, the ecological problem will spread, instead of being stopped. This is why the fundamental challenge of World Environment Day is for all to repent, to return to God the Creator, and to reintegrate ourselves in the perspective of the divine plan for creation and the environment.”

What is a compassionate heart?

Having just had a meeting with other animal advocacy/justice groups and hearing/feeling the great compassion in the room, I thought i would add here St. Isaac’s teaching on inclusivity, which extends to all of God’s created beings. This is another key component of an Eastern Orthodox position on animal suffering and sooooo much earlier than St Francis:

“And what is a merciful heart…the burning of the heart unto the whole creation, man, fowls and beasts, demons and whatever exists. So that by the recollection and the sight of them the eyes shed tears on account of the force of mercy which moves the heart by great compassion…Then the heart becomes weak and it is not able to bear hearing or examining injury or any insignificant suffering of anything in creation…And therefore, even in behalf of the irrational beings and the enemies of truth and even in behalf of those who do harm to it, at all time he offers prayers with tears that they may be guarded and strengthened: even in behalf of the kinds of reptiles, on account of his great compassion which is poured out in his heart without measure, after the example of God.”[1]

In this teaching, St. Isaac draws us back to the key point of Image of God – mercy, love and compassion “are after the example of God.”To ensure the correct translation, I sought advice from the expert on Syriac studies, Dr. Sebastian Brock who confirms that ‘compassionate’ is the closest to the original Syriac meaning.

[1] Isaac, Mystic Treaties, Ch. 1, Homily 7.

HALKI 111 SUMMIT ON “THEOLOGICAL FORMATION AND ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS”: Reflections.

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew recently hosted the third Halki Summit from May 31st to June 4th, 2019. The summit convened distinguished representatives of Orthodox theological schools and seminaries from all over the world, and focused on the theme of “Theological Formation and Ecological Awareness.” Some 50 delegates from over 40 institutions were in attendance.

Summit participants heard addresses by prominent environmental theologians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant), and discussed ways in which ecological awareness and compassionate care for animals, could be fostered and advanced in Orthodox institutions of higher learning throughout the world by means of courses and other programs related to creation care.

The ultimate purpose of this event was to promote environmental sensitivity, including compassionate care for animals, in the core curricula of theological institutions by continuing the spirit of dialogue and exchange expressed during the two previous summits; as well as the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s long standing concern and ongoing initiatives over three decades for the protection of the natural environment.

Presenting my book to HAH Bartholomew, Halki 111, Summit, 2019.

My role was to speak on behalf of the animals and I outlined how compassionate care for animals has always been an integral part of Orthodox theology and offered avenues for academic exploration of the theme. In order to facilitate engagement, I presented each institution with a copy of my recent book which outlines many early and contemporary examples of compassionate teachings. It offers a theology of compassion and integration rather than that offered by the existing dominant theology of separation.

I argued that it is time for us to turn away from the utilitarian arguments of Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas and turn instead to early and contemporary Orthodox teachings which advocate extending justice and mercy to the non-human world.

I also asked that we accept offers to participate in projects such as the Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare, even if we are unsure of our ability to commit to their findings. Establishing an Orthodox voice in the West should be part of our collective Mission to ‘spread the good news of Christ’ and Mission was the overarching theme of my presentation.

In the question and answer section of our session, I was asked two questions – one on Personhood and the other on Animal Experimentation, neither of which related to my presentation. I admit to being taken back by such questions from an audience consisting mainly of theologians but it indicates that they too are interested in such topics. I was comforted by comments from a senior theologian that i successfully defended my position but I would have preferred that questions had focused on the topic of education, rather than the two most emotive themes in the Animal Protectionist world.

There is now a steering committee, which will try to keep the spirit of cooperation and collaboration moving forward and hopefully we shall soon see positive changes in academic and seminary courses.

You can learn more about the Halki 111 Summit and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s environmental justice positions  on the website.
https://www.patriarchate.org.

German Circus Replaces Live Animals With Cruelty-Free Holograms

This is an interesting post on how circuses can exist without the use of animals.

Circus Roncalli in Germany recently unveiled a stunning and innovative act featuring computer-generated holograms of wild animals. The act — brought to life by projectors, lasers and lenses — is not only enchanting to watch, but also completely cruelty-free.

Circuses have been entertaining people throughout the world for centuries, but they’ve recently come under scrutiny for their treatment of the animals used in their shows. The failure of the circus industry to effectively address these concerns has resulted in dwindling ticket sales.

Circus acts commonly feature wild animals, including elephants, tigers and camels. While in the wild, these species traverse vast ecosystems where they can express their natural behaviors. But in the circus, they are forced to live in captivity and be carted from show to show.

According to PAWS, circus animals spend almost 96 percent of their lives in chains or cages. Many animals have minimal stimulation. And highly social species, such as elephants, may be isolated from conspecifics. This deprivation can have serious deleterious effects on the mental well-being of animals, who often display signs of distress while in the circus.

When the animals are performing, they may be forced to do demeaning tricks that treat these majestic species as props for human entertainment. The tricks, such as having elephants perform handstands, are far outside the animals’ normal behavior.

To get the animals to complete these tricks, cruel training tools — such using bullhooks, whips and rods — may be used. Undercover investigations have revealed instances of circus staff repeatedly hitting elephants, as well as whipping a tiger 31 times in less than two minutes.

roaring lioness sitting in a circus arena cage

Credit: NejroN/Getty Images

In recent years, public sentiment has shifted as more people have become aware of the cruelty circus animals endure. A 2019 poll found only 30% of people believe circus animals are treated well, and over 50% support the prohibition of wild animals in circuses.

Bans on circus animals have been popping up in the United States at the local and state levels. In 2018, New Jersey became the first state to ban the use of wild animals in traveling acts. At the city level, both Los Angeles and New York City have also banned using wild animals in circuses.

The circus industry has been slow to adapt to concerns over animal welfare. Ringling Bros. closed down in 2017 due to declining ticket sales — likely a result of changing attitudes toward circus animals. Although Ringling Bros. stopped using elephants in its performances the previous year, the change was too small to salvage the company’s reputation.

The recent hologram animal act at Circus Roncalli illustrates how the industry can use ingenuity to keep the spirit of the circus alive without sacrificing animal welfare. Other circuses should follow suit. And soon they may need to if the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act — which would ban the use of wild animals in traveling acts — becomes law.

The circus is beloved throughout the world for its awe-inspiring acts showcasing people with incredible talents — from the tightrope walkers to the jugglers and trapeze artists. But if the industry does not evolve past animal cruelty, the shows may soon be closing their door.

Towards a Greener Attica – Film preview

This film began the recent Halki Summit 111 which focused on the need to adapt Academic and Seminary education to include care for the creation/animals. It relates to an earlier event (below) and speaks to many environmental and ecological concerns and indicates potential answers to the problem of climate change – including changes in our diet.

An Eastern Orthodox Tale from Jerusalem

We have just received this email from a young Canadian man who first contact us, declaring that he was studying Orthodoxy and pleased to see that there is an Orthodox charity trying to educate Orthodox on various aspects of the animal suffering theme. At one point he had reservations and we are pleased that our mission played a small part in his continuing with his studies. He is now Orthodox and visiting Jerusalem. Here he describes a familiar story to many across the globe, who cooperate with God by working to reduce the suffering of animals. I briefly touched upon the subject of neutering in my presentation at the Halki Summit 111 and this story describes why their is a need to make it clear, through our priests, that the Orthodox Church does not prohibit the neutering of animals. This position aligns with all Animal Protection groups who teach that this is the only way of humanely dealing with the intransigent problem of over-population of cats and dogs. Here is his recent experience:

I have been in Jerusalem about a month, visiting, and during that time, seeing various religious sites, with a friend, Vladimir. During that time I met Tova Saul, a veteran cat rescuer who has been doing this for 40 years in the Old City of Jerusalem. There is a serious cat overpopulation problem in Jerusalem and all of Israel and the Mediterranean region, resulting in about 200,000 feral cats in this city alone. You see the cats everywhere. They have become a regular fixture of the city – but there is a great deal of suffering they experience that we don’t see: most of the kittens die, in cat nests in bushes and alleyways, soon after birth.

Sadly, most people here are indifferent to the fate of animals – which is largely true everywhere, but in this place it includes an indifference to cats as well as other species. And I am told there are many feral dogs in the country, outside of town. Tova is the only person I know of here who goes out to trap-spay-release them. She seems to be well-known internationally for her good work, as this National Geographic video illustrates:  https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/0000015a-d3d8-d979-adfa-ffff9fd70000  and this article https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-midnight-jerusalem-old-citys-cat-lady-prowls/ and this BBC video:   https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-40869159/jerusalem-s-cat-lady-crossing-boundaries.

There appears to be little in the way of government support for this, and she and a handful of other rescuers in this country do this work as volunteers. Even working full-time they cannot keep up with the problem. See attached chart to see how 12 cats can produce 2 million within 8 years – and the only reason the world is not totally overrun with cat is that most kittens die a slow and cruel death. Cat rescuers who do trap-spay/neuter-release are trying to prevent that needless suffering. If Tova spays one cat it prevents the suffering of hundreds, if not thousands, in time.

Human beings domesticated cats about 5,000 years ago, and thus it is our moral responsibility to mitigate their suffering however we can. Humane population control is the best way. Adoption is a secondary measure but doesn’t begin to solve it. Tova manages to save many kittens and find adoptive homes for them, mostly in Tel-Aviv, with volunteer help from a couple of women, Tali and Svetlana. She has a website with details about how one can donate through PayPal to her work.  https://holylandcats.wordpress.com/how-you-can-help/  I would much rather give to this than to a charity where most of the money goes to overhead and large salaries. I know that 100% of the money for this goes to animal welfare and rescue efforts.

She buys food and sees that they obtain medical care with this money. She also has a car that she uses and from the looks and sound of it, it’s in need of a lot of mechanical work. Without it should not get to the vet to have them fixed. Some good people donated funds for an electric cart for her to use as well, to move traps around in, in the alleyways.

She applies medicine to their eyes to prevent blindness (eye infections in kittens are common), and takes them to the vet, and nurses them back to health, to where they are adoptable. And there is the non-stop trap-spay-release work.

Here is her latest video of rescue efforts for kittens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnanEZsAbWM&feature=youtu.be    In the video you can see that the Old City is a labyrinth of narrow alleys. It has been around for about 3,000 years and is composed of residences, shops and markets, synaogogues, mosques, and churches.

Here is another video, I took, of Tova explaining her cat rescue work and video to two Dutch cat rescuers who come here regularly to take cats back there to be adopted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCxxBQfI8jQ  There are more videos on her website.

The entire Mediterranean has a cat overpopulation problem, due to the warm weather year-round. Hindering the problem is not just widespread indifference but also religious and the cultural bias of people who think we ought not to interfere with animals’ reproduction. And apparently lack of funding and incompetence on the part of the government in dealing with the issue (see https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-as-stray-cats-multiply-spaying-programs-lag-over-lack-of-funds-1.5468628).

From the article: “chairman of the animal rights caucus at the Knesset”, Itzik Shmuli, points an accusing finger at the Agriculture Ministry. “The current policy is simply a criminal policy, creating a situation in which the main agency that is supposed to be eradicating animal distress is directly causing it,” he said. “When instead of supporting neutering programs, they choose the approach of ignoring [the problem] or proposing crazy suggestions such as flying cats abroad, they are just making the crisis worse  and increasing the suffering of the animals.”

The Minister of Agriculture is indifferent because the general populace is indifferent, so ultimately that change must come from a groundswell of concern – and I would argue that religion ought to be an instrumental force in that. If it is not, then religious authorities are failing to use it properly for the good of the world, contrary to many of the teachings of these religions.

There is a fear of animals among many Orthodox Jews and Muslims that results in their rejection fo the idea of animals as pets. A cultural and religious bias here is taught at an early age. Children are taught to avoid animals, going against their natural instinct to be curious about them, and befriend them. Of course part of it is that many people here eat animals – sheep, goats, cows, chicken (but not pigs) — and all these animals suffering horrendously their whole lives in factory farms and during live transport and slaughter – just like everywhere else on this planet – except that some say that kosher and halal slaughter is more cruel as the animals are fully conscious during it, in contrast to being stunned by an air-compressed bolt.

In Tel-Aviv – a largely secular city – there is now a growing vegan movement, illustrating the fact that where religion has failed secular rights ethics seem to have succeeded – at least in part.

A lot of animals must suffer heat stress during livet transport as it is so hot here: there is a “Stop Live Transport” protest group in Tel-Aviv. They did this when the Eid festival happened, at the end of Ramadan, when millions of sheeps and goats were transported on ships from Australia in terrible conditions, with many dying en route.

It is not just in this region: I saw the same cultural bias in eastern Europe, resulting in packs of feral dogs running loose, and no effort to help them except from a handful of women operating as volunteers. What money the government allocated for the dog shelter ended up being stolen there by officials and the dogs were starving to death in the shelters, in the most abysmal conditions. The women came and raised money to feed them and spay/neuter them and to find homes for them in the EU – though most were not saved and the needless suffering there continues, simply because there are too many and not enough people who care. It’s the same all over third world countries as well. It’s only in the West that dogs and cats seem to find favour, but even there many or most just end up in high-kill shelters who inject or gas them to death, to keep numbers down.

Lack of concern for animals goes against the grain of a child’s natural curiosity and concern for them, so a lot of Tova’s work is focused on teaching young children to be concerned for them. She wants to devote more of her energies to education at this point, but she needs help. I can envisage a program where young adults go out with her to help and that way learn from her how to trap and care for cats.

I have been out with Tova on three occasions late at night to trap cats in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City (it is divided into Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian Quarters). On just those three nights she trapped a dozen female cats and the were all spayed at the vet the next day – and this in the long run will prevent tens of thousands of kittens dying of disease, starvation, injury, and flea bites – just from three nights’ work. Tova goes out alone in the middle of the night to do this, in sometimes completely dark alleyways where you have to find your way slowly or risk tripping, and there are often men out there in these alleyways, and Jews have been knifed in the Old City even while I was here – but  even as a lone Jewish woman at night in dark alleys with Arab men she is completely fearless and says she doesn’t think about it. Mostly the people we meet – young Arab men and boys out very late at night, some drinking and smoking – are curious about what she is doing, and some are even supportive.

One Muslim boy of about 12, named Joseph, says he saved several kittens himself and offered them to Tova, but Tova’s place is already overrun with cats, many of them rescues. She has an interesting story about one of the worst incidences she experienced: three Orthodox Jewish Hasedim teenage boys who argued with her and hindered her work and called her a “Nazi” for helping animals. It ended in them all being taken to the police station. She said “say that one more time and I will dump this hummus on you!” The boy did and she put hummus on him. He called the police and hours and manpower were wasted sorting it out at the station.

I ran into an Orthodox Jewish man last night near the Western Wall who was also curious about it and took some photos of her work with his phone and grasped in broken English what it was about. But Tova is single-minded in her work and doesn’t like to stop to educate everyone on it, so she goes out very late (often after midnight) to do this work, when there are fewer people to interfere with it.

Cat are noctural, and wherever she goes in the Old City she calls to them and they know the sound of her voice and come running. She gives them some food and inspects to see if they are male of female, and if the latter, pregnant or not. She has an experienced eye and can tell right away. She traps only females and keeps the males away from the trap with food and sometimes spray from a water bottle. This is a sort of triage, because there are so many and one females can produce generations of new cats. She will catch in one night as many as the vet can take the next day. She has been working with the same vet for the last 25 years. She has a routine and is very experienced at catching them. I am told to stand back and just watch. I am there just to observe and to help car the traps.

Tova talks to the cats as they mill around her, in the narrow alleyways of the Old City. Once in the trap, the cat is scared but she consoles it and covers it with a blanket to provide it with the sense that it is hiding. My help to her was in carrying the cages. We go past checkpoints at the Western Wall, where she is allowed to park her car by special permit.

The last few times we have been going to the Small Western Wall just inside the Muslim Quarter and last night it was pitch black but we managed to see by moonlight and a light from her phone. She knows who she intends to catch and has seen them before or hears reports of females in certain areas. She goes with this plan in mind and does not stop till the females she wants are caught and in her car. At dawn she takes them to the vet. She must have had countless sleepless nights like this over the years.

Tova, I should add, is an Orthodox Jew, originally from Philadelphia. We disagree about religion – she is a religious exclusivist who is not fond of any other religion or even other forms of Judaism — and expresses herself strongly on this point (especially against Jews becoming Christians), but I respect her freedom of religion and speech, and I especially respect her great dedication to animals. To work for 40 years for animal welfare as a volunteer, day after day, night after night: this is a life well lived. I have been to her place for Shabbat dinner three times now and there is always a new guest – often from American or Europe – and she shows them the Western Wall and explains its history colourfully. The dinner is both kosher and vegan and always very good. She is a great host, and makes a living from running a space for ‘air B&B’ and doing travel guide tours. We went with a cat rescue couple to Hebron one day and met a Jewish boy who had rescued a donkey from abuse.

She has a good story about the one time she went on vacation, to Thailand, and allowed herself the luxury of being selfish just once. It did not last long. The bus she was on ran over a puppy in the middle of the jungle and she got off to rescue it. The bus went on without her and she luckily managed to hitch a ride with the puppy just before night fell in a strange land with no shelter. The people who picked her up where Christian missionaries who took her a town where she managed to find medical care for the dog, after considerable trouble, and the dog’s life was saved and he was adopted there. She ended up saving many dogs there – so her one effort to be selfish did not work. ‘Hashem’ (God) would not allow it for a moment, it seemed.

She was helped in this good work by several kind people at the time. It’s the same in Jersualem: there are often people willing to volunteer to give some small help, though there can always be more. Most nights she is out alone and has no help. To solve this problem there must be more people to step forward, and there must be widespread education of children, to urge them to care for animals. There is an SPCA in Jerusalem but I am told by everyone who knows of it – including its own representative – that kittens who go there are put down. It’s a ‘high-kill’ facility, simply because there are too many and not enough homes. Few get adopted. They are sitting in cages there in large numbers. I want to go film this before I leave this part of the world.

I did manage to rescue two kittens from the street since I have been here: one was adopted in Tel-Aviv, but the other is still with me, hiding in a box which is sitting on my bed in a hotel room. I pet her as type this and she plays with my hand, and purrs and is recovering. She is less adoptable than the first, because of fear. She was trapped inside a car motor for 20 hours before being released in front of about 40 Orthodox Jewish children. I don’t know what to do with her now or where there will be a home for her.
All the rescuers are full up with cats and there are not enough homes for them all – and as I said, most die a terrible death, of disease and flea bites and dehydration. I did not expect that my trip to the Holy Land would end up this way, but I am glad it did.

Please consider donating to HolyLandCats (https://holylandcats.wordpress.com/how-you-can-help/) and feel free to share these videos and this email if you feel like it.

7 Attachments;Preview YouTube video Haredi Boys, Greek Sisters, and Armenians Request Kitten RescuesHaredi Boys, Greek Sisters, and Armenians Request Kitten RescuesPreview YouTube video Cat rescuer Tova Saul talks with Dutch rescuers, Jewish Quarter, Old City, Jerusalem.Cat rescuer Tova Saul talks with Dutch rescuers, Jewish Quarter, Old City, Jerusalem.

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Climate Change Is the Symptom: Consumer Culture Is the Disease

For those of you who visit the site regularly, you will know that we continually urge individuals to act and make changes to their individual lives. This brief article articulates similar views.

A new report makes clear where much of the blame lies for our warming planet.

By Emily Atkin June 11, 2019

To save the planet, mankind must rapidly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. But where should we be reducing those emissions from? What would make the biggest difference?

Journalists and environmentalists often answer that question by looking at which sectors of the U.S. economy contribute the most to global warming. Transportation (cars, buses, trucks, and planes) leads in greenhouse gas emissions, while electricity (coal and natural-gas power plants) is a close second. Industrial goods and services are third; buildings, fourth; and agriculture, fifth.

This way of measuring blame, however, misses something crucial: people. These industries are spouting carbon because customers demand their products: travel, electronics, entertainment, food, all sorts of stuffSo what if, instead of solely measuring emissions by economic sector, we looked at consumer demand within those sectors?

Researchers have done just that, and the results tilt the question of blame away from businesses and toward a different villain: ourselves.

C40 Cities, a network of 94 of the world’s biggest cities, released a report on Wednesday estimating how much consumption habits drive the climate crisis. The results were staggering: In those nearly 100 cities, where a combined 700 million live, the consumption of goods and services “including food, clothing, aviation, electronics, construction and vehicles” is responsible for 10 percent of global greenhouse gases. That’s nearly double the emissions from every building in the entire world.

If consumption-based emissions in those big cities continue on their current track, they will “nearly double between 2017 and 2050—from 4.5 gigatons to 8.4 gigatons per year,” the report says. That means the cities would not be able to achieve reductions necessary for the world to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, which the scientific community says is necessary to preserve a livable planet. In fact, they would use up their budget for that target in the next 14 years.

For cities to do their part to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the report says, they must limit their consumption-based emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. That will be extremely challenging. It will require changes in how goods and services are produced on the industrial level, which will likely require policy intervention by national governments. Scientific advancements must be made as well, including “sweeping decreases in the carbon-intensity of industrial processes such as the making of steel, cement and petrochemicals,” the report reads.

There will be little incentive for businesses and governments to make these changes, however, if the people who support them—with dollars and votes, respectively—aren’t also making change a priority.

“Individual consumers cannot change the way the global economy operates on their own, but many of the interventions proposed in this report rely on individual action,” the report reads. “It is ultimately up to individuals to decide what type of food to eat and how to manage their shopping to avoid household food waste. It is also largely up to individuals to decide how many new items of clothing to buy, whether they should own and drive a private car, and how many personal flights to take.”

And this individual action must occur collectively. Put more bluntly, it will require personal sacrifice from our entire society. We will have to fly less, drive less, Uber less. We will have to eat less red meat, drink less dairy, waste less food, and generally buy less crap that we don’t need.

A lot of Americans won’t want to do this! So, our government may have to compel it, whether through the Green New Deal or some other legislation. Some countries are already taking small steps to address “throwaway culture”: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that Canada will ban single-use plastics as early as 2021. But if the world is to stand a chance, the U.S. will have to take even bigger steps—nothing short of a wholesale rejection of modern American consumerism itself.

First Known Albino Slow Loris is Rescued From the Illegal Wildlife Trade

This is a good news article from the Care2 team. Having lived in this area we know how common it is for Indonesians to have wild animals as pets and how prevalent the wildlife trade is as a source of income for many poor people.

According to International Animal Rescue (IAR), which took part in the release, the area was chosen because it has plenty of food and its status as a conservation area will ensure protection from human activities. While the journey home has begun, this slow loris won’t be entirely on his own for a few more weeks.  First he will spend some time getting adjusted in a habituation area before being fully set free, and he’ll also be radio collared and monitored to ensure he’s thriving on his own after he is released.Hopefully he will. The illegal wildlife trade is now threatening all species of slow loris throughout their range, which isn’t just harming individuals, it’s taking a toll on the environment.

“Although this albino slow loris is extremely rare, it is still entitled to live freely in its natural habitat like other wildlife. The reintroduction of slow lorises into the wild can also provide benefits and carry out ecological functions in their natural habitat by controlling insects and pollinating plants,” said Teguh Ismail, Head of Lampung Region III Conservation Section BKSDA Bengkulu.

As IAR has previously pointed out, these shy, nocturnal animals are easily stressed and endure a number of heartbreaking abuses as a result of the pet trade. After being torn from their homes, some lorises in captivity are fed inappropriate diets, and others have their teeth crudely clipped or broken off without anesthesia to make them defenseless, which often leads to infection and death, and also makes them ineligible for release even if they are rescued.

“This is the first known albino loris in the world and therefore extremely rare. If it wasn’t for the incredible work of the authorities to combat illegal wildlife trade, this loris could easily have died in the hands of wildlife traffickers. Thankfully, we are able to give this animal another chance to live and thrive in the wild where it belongs,” said Karmele Llano Sanchez, Program Director of IAR Indonesia.

IAR is currently working to rescue, rehabilitate and release as many slow lorises as they can, in addition to educating people about why slow lorises shouldn’t be kept as pets in an effort to stop the trade and keep them safe in the wild where they belong.

Animal Experimentation: Working Towards a Paradigm Change

In a discussion on this topic after my presentation on seminary and academic education, I mentioned a book launch and conference on the latest research in this area that i had attended entitled: Animal Experimentation: Working Towards a Paradigm Change. Friday 8th March 2019 09:00-17:00 London, UK. These are further details:

Animal experimentation is one of the most controversial areas of animal use because intentional harms are inflicted upon animals in the hope of benefits to humans. However, the lesser known shortcomings of animal experimentation are increasingly documented. Over 50 worldwide experts have contributed to Animal Experimentation: Working Towards a Paradigm Change to critically review current animal use in science, presenting innovative non-animal approaches, and offering a roadmap towards a world of animal-free science. For those seeking to phase out animal experiments and accelerate progress towards human-relevant methods, this open access book is an essential, comprehensive resource. At this launch event, authors will discuss their vision for how a paradigm shift can be achieved for animals used in science. Selected talks will cover scientific concerns with the animal model and how these are delaying scientific progress, how biomedical research can be made more human-relevant, and how the shift can be made away from animal models and towards humanised biomedical research and drug discovery. The event will conclude with a panel discussion of invited experts who will share their view for how progress can be accelerated for the benefit of animals and advancing human-relevant science.

Church Disinvestment in fossil fuels

What is your Church doing re disinvestment in fossil fuel companies? Here is some info from the Operation Noah team:

United Reformed Church votes to divest from fossil fuels

The United Reformed Church unanimously voted to divest from fossil fuel companies at its Mission Council meeting on Tuesday 14 May.

The resolution on divestment was proposed by the URC Synod of Scotland, which decided to divest its own fossil fuel investments in 2015. It states that the United Reformed Church should divest by the time of its General Assembly in 2020, and encourages other URC Synods and churches to follow their lead.

Revd Dr David Pickering, Moderator of the United Reformed Church National Synod of Scotland, said: ‘I strongly welcome the new United Reformed Church policy to end investments in fossil fuels and increase investment in the clean technologies of the future. This will enable us to shift our engagement towards companies in other high-carbon industries such as the automotive sector.’

Church of Scotland narrowly votes against fossil fuel divestment

The Church of Scotland voted narrowly against divestment from fossil fuels at its General Assembly in Edinburgh on Wednesday 22 May.

The motion calling for divestment was tabled by Revd Gordon Strang, who worked in the North Sea oil and gas industry before becoming a minister. During the debate, the Assembly heard from speakers living in parts of the world already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, including Mozambique, Kenya and Australia.

A majority of General Assembly members opted to support the Church’s current strategy of engagement, with 303 votes in favour, compared to 263 members (46%) who supported divestment. A motion for full divestment last year gained 24% of votes, suggesting growing support for climate action.

Revd Gordon Strang said: ‘It is hugely disappointing that, in the midst of a climate emergency, they couldn’t grasp the urgency of the situation and move forward. We all know that engagement will not achieve the results we want, and it is my earnest hope that next year’s General Assembly will finally be able to see that.’

Catholic institutions in major maritime areas divest from fossil fuels

12 Catholic institutions connected to the world’s oceans have announced their commitment to divest from fossil fuels. They include the Archdiocese of Panama, Caritas Philippines, the Dioceses of Naples, Civitavechia-Tarquina, Savona and Siracusa (Italy), the Catholic Church in Greece and the Archdiocese of Malta.

The announcement coincided with an international conference in Copenhagen entitled ‘The Common Good on our Common Sea’, where participants came together to celebrate and discuss life on and around the seas, as well as exploring Catholic teachings on protection of the marine environment. The conference was convened by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the Vatican’s social and environmental ministry.

In a speech to finance ministers in the Vatican in May 2019, Pope Francis urged those present to ‘stop engaging in activities that are destroying our planet’ and ‘put an end to global dependency on fossil fuels’.

Has your local church divested from fossil fuels yet?

Check out our new Divest your church resources, including an interactive map where you can find out which churches have already divested, and how your local church can join them. You can also find a full list of UK Church divestment commitments by denomination at the bottom of the page.

The next joint divestment announcement for faith institutions will take place in September 2019, so watch this space for further details!

Screenshot 2019-05-31 at 11.12.19

Screenshot 2019-05-31 at 11.12.19

‘The Mosaic Apse of Sant’ Apollinaire in Classe, Ravenna: A Miracle of Design’ article by Aidan Hart.

This is an edited version of Aidan’s article:

Sant’Apollinare in Classe mosaic. Apse 6th century, triumphal arch 7th -12th century.


There is some iconography that can only be described as miraculous.
Such is the sixth century apse mosaic at the basilica of Saint Apollinare in Classe, five miles south from Ravenna, Italy. Such works seem to flash forth, and are never – perhaps can never be – repeated. They delight the beholder immediately but at the same time possess layer upon layer of meaning, which reveal themselves only to the patient. In this article I would like to discuss some of these layers.
The Image
Imagine a verdant garden. It embraces you. Its emerald green does not just reflect light; it emanates light. To this paradise add animals, trees, birds, and a saint. This haloed saint stands in the midst of the garden, with his hands raised in prayer. Above him is a great golden cross set within in an orb of star speckled blue. At its heart is a medallion bearing an image of Christ. This orb, encircled with a jewel-studded crown, hovers within a sky of gold and sunrise coloured clouds. Two saints are set in this golden sea, pointing to Christ. A divine hand reaches down from the summit of the semi-dome. All this fecundity is finally embraced and contained by a broad arch of foliage that supports a host of birds, singing no doubt. And there are still more laid out on the triumphal arch and in the curved apsidal wall below. But we shall come to these later.

What does all this imagery mean? It is in fact a depiction of the Transfiguration of Christ, as described in the Gospel accounts of Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8 and, most notably, Luke 9:28-36. But the wonderful thing is that this mosaic depicts not just the event, but also the meaning of the event – its many meanings. The mosaic is a profound theological discourse. But this visual discourse is not merely to be observed. It is enacted in the Holy Liturgy that is performed within its embrace, for the mosaic is after all in an apse and therefore surrounds the sanctuary and Holy Table.


The Eucharist
It is here, during the Holy Liturgy, that the Holy Spirit descends and makes the bread the Body of Christ, and the wine His Blood. Before this apse the faithful participate in the divine feast and are themselves transfigured into the body of Christ. As we shall see, the mosaic unveils for us the cosmic significance of the Liturgy for which it is a setting. In this article I want to explore some of the themes expressed by this splendid mosaic. Some of these themes were without doubt intended by the designer of the mosaic. Others may or may not have been: we will never know for certain because the designer did not write his or her explanation. But, as we shall see, these themes are nevertheless theologically implicit in the mosaic’s explicit linking of the Transfiguration with the Holy Liturgy and the Lord’s Second Coming.

The Transfiguration event

How do we know that this mosaic depicts the Transfiguration? The main clue is the two figures set in the sky. They are labelled Moses and Elijah (“MOYSES” and “HbELYAS” to be precise), and it is they who appeared with Christ during the Transfiguration.

Moses. Photo by Steven Zucker


Elias/Elijah. Photo by Steven Zucker

Also, on either side of the great jewelled cross are three sheep. They represent Peter, James and John whom Christ took onto mount Tabor to witness His transformation. The brightly coloured clouds suggest “the bright cloud” that overshadowed them. The hand above would therefore indicate the voice of the Father, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5).

A hand symbolizing the voice of the Father.

So much for the mosaic’s similarities with the Gospel accounts. But what of its many differences? Why, we might ask, is Christ depicted so small, and in the midst of a great cross instead of in His shining garments? Why the stars, and why are the clouds colored? And instead of the mountain of Tabor we have a garden. And Bishop Apollinare was not present in the Transfiguration, so why does he figure so large in the depiction? These and other anomalies immediately invite us on a journey to try and discover their meaning. My first encounter with this mosaic I can best liken to smelling a host of fragrances that drift over the wall of a concealed garden. These delighted my senses, but at the same time inflamed my curiosity to find their source and enter this garden.
Past, present and future
The secret to this mosaic lies in the fact that it depicts not merely the past, but also the present and the future. It is set in divine time, in kairos, where past, present and future exist together in Christ. More specifically, the apse depicts not just the historical event of Christ’s Transfiguration, but also the present Eucharist and the Kingdom which is to come. It is as much an icon of the Parousia and the Liturgy as it is of the Transfiguration. It is at once historical, liturgical and eschatological (a fancy word which means the theology of the end times). Because this image is so multi-valenced, I think the simplest approach is to work verse by verse through Luke’s description of the Transfiguration and see how the mosaic interprets his words.

The Cross: Christ’s Second Coming in glory

The jewelled Cross, sign of Christ’s transfiguration, crucifixion and Second Coming

‘Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.’

‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’

‘About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and Jameswith him and went up onto a mountain to pray.’ (Luke 9:26-28)

One key to the deeper meaning of our mosaic is given in fact some days before the event of the Transfiguration itself. Luke tells us that eight days before His Transfiguration (Matthew and Mark say six), Christ spoke to His disciples of His Second Coming, saying that He would come in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. In the Gospel of Matthew Christ tells us that at His coming again “there will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven” (Matthew 24:30). This sign of the Son of Man has been understood by the Church Fathers to be the cross. So the cross in our mosaic is the sign of the Son of Man that will appear in the heavens in the last days, a sign of His Second Coming. Both the mosaic and the synoptic Gospel accounts affirm that the Transfiguration was in fact a foretaste given to the three apostles – and to us – of His coming again in glory to establish His Kingdom without end.
The eighth day
Luke’s mention of eight days is a further affirmation of this interpretation. God created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh. Christ died on the sixth day, “rested” in the tomb on the seventh, and rose on the eighth day. The eighth day resurrection therefore takes human nature beyond the endless trapped cycle of the seven day week. In so doing, Christ raised up the created and fallen human life that He had assumed (the six days of creation), so that it could participate in divine and eternal life (the eighth day). Eight is thus a symbol of the created world assumed into the divine life, in a union without confusion. In Christ, the Father has raised us up and made us sit with Him in heavenly places. Another clue to this link between the Lord’s Transfiguration and His Second Coming is His other statement, eight days before the Transfiguration: ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’ The most immediate meaning of these words is understood by most commentators to refer to Christ’s coming Transfiguration. The “some who stand here” are Peter, James and John. But at the same time this sentence it refers also to His Second Coming. The Gospel of Matthew makes very clear the connection between the Taboric experience and the Second Coming when he writes: “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). The phrase “Son of Man coming in his Kingdom” the phrase often used to describe Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the age.
The stars
In Christian art stars usually symbolize angels. So the many golden stars in the orb that surrounds our cross represent the host of angels who will accompany Christ at His Second Coming. There are in fact ninety-nine stars in our mosaic. Is this precise number significant? Christ’s parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:10-14) speaks of the shepherd leaving ninety-nine of his flock to find the one lost sheep. Collectively we are that lost sheep, and the good angels are the ninety-nine not lost. So these stars are effectively the cloud of heavenly hosts who will accompany Christ at His Parousia.
The number ninety-nine appears again in the Bible and offers a second,
complementary layer of meaning. In Genesis 17:1 we read that this was
Abraham’s age when God appeared to him and gave His covenant to make him the father of many nations. God promised: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:7). The number eight arises again in this context, linking the Abrahamic covenant with the Transfiguration and Resurrection: God commands the Israelites to circumcise all their males eight days after their birth. As with the eighth day Resurrection, the child’s eighth day circumcision is the first day of his everlasting membership of God’s community. So our mosaic suggests a link between this promise to Abraham and the kingdom to come, in which the faithful from many nations are gathered into the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of God, to live in an everlasting covenant with Christ. That this is a valid interpretation of the ninety-nine stars is affirmed by the inclusion of Abraham in a mosaic panel on the south wall of the apse. It depicts the priest King Melchezidek standing behind an altar with bread and wine, with Abel offering a lamb on his right, and Abraham offering Isaac on his left. This theme of priestly offering is further developed by our mosaic, but we shall discuss this a bit later.
The garden and the mountain
They “went up onto a mountain to pray.” Mountains are where people meet God. We think of Mount Sinai in particular, where Moses met the Lord. But our mosaic gives no indication of such a mountain. In fact it replaces the mountain with a garden, a paradise.

The paradise garden.

Our mosaic seems to be saying that the Transfiguration transports us humans back to paradise, our original home where we were intended to meet and commune with God. It is a place of intimacy, a place to dwell and enjoy. People visit mountaintops, but they do not stay there. A mountaintop is a place of ecstasy, from which we eventually have to descend. After he had communed with God and received the tablets of the law on Sinai, Moses had to leave the summit and descend back down to the encamped Israelites. Likewise, Christ returned to the world with His three disciples after His Transfiguration. Mountains are not a place of instasy, a place to remain. But gardens can be. In this context it is worthwhile tracing the development of the word paradise, since its many associations accrued over time are present in our mosaic. The word began as an old Iranian word, paridayda, and signified a walled enclosure. By the 6th century BC the Assyrian’s adopted it as pardesu, domain. For the Persians it came to refer to their expansive walled gardens. For the Greeks it became paradeisos, a “park for animals.” In Aramaic it explicitly refers to a royal park.

Finally, paradise came to be equated with Eden through the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The Septuagint translates the Hebrew term gan #0 or garden (Genesis 2:8 and Ezekiel 28:13) with the Greek word paradeisos. So the garden of Eden becomes paradise. There, according to the Genesis account, God placed us humans and give us the task to cultivate it. There He walks and talks with us. So we are now in a place to gather together all these connotations of the term paradise and relate them to our mosaic. A paradise is a secure enclosure, with the suggestion therefore of permanence; it is a domain, a kingdom; it is a large garden or park; it includes animals; it is a royal park, where the king and queen enjoy the company of their family and friends; and it is a place where God has placed us and given us a task. It is where we are in intimate communion with God. Our mosaic reflects all these associations. In turn:
Enclosure. The mosaic possesses various concentric bands of enclosure.
Firstly, the apsidal dome mosaic is bounded by a broad decorative band.
The border of paradise.Secondly, the curvature of the apse itself is a form of enclosure. Thirdly, on the verticals of the triumphal arch either side of the apse are depicted Archangels Michael and Gabriel. They are angelic warriors sent to war against demonic enemies and protect
the world and the Church. And finally, the walls of the whole basilica would have been another level of enclosure since originally the basilica would probably have been full of mosaic, thus making all its interior like a garden. As St Irenaeus (diedc. 202 AD) tells us, “The Church has been planted as a paradise in this world”.

Permanence.

The Lord’s Second Coming will establish His Kingdom without end. And there is something about this mosaic that gives a sense of completion, wholeness, permanence. And yet it also possesses dynamism, movement and life. Once senses an affirmation of St Paul’s (and St Gregory of Nyssa’s) assurances that even in eternity we shall continue to grow in His likeness, passing from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Eternity’s permanence will not be static but dynamic.

A kingdom.

In a medallion at the very top and centre of the triumphal arch
is depicted Christ, blessing and holding the scriptures. He is the Logos, the creator and guider of His kingdom below.

Christ the King and Logos. Upper tier.

Any ministry that Bishops, priests and lay possess are all participants in
Christ’s ministry. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has written, One is priest
(Christ); some are priests (the ordained clergy); all are priests (the laity). Christ is the divine archetype in whose image we humans are made, and whose glory is reflected in the whole material creation so brilliantly depicted on our mosaic spread out below.

A large park.

Photos cannot do justice to this mosaic. When one sees it in
the flesh it seems both vast and verdant. Including the triumphal arch, the mosaic measures about 14 metres/46 feet across by 15.5 metres/51 feet high. But the curvature of the apse means that the actual running dimensions of the apse are greater still: around 24 metres/78 feet wide, and 17 metres/55 feet high. So much for the impressive size. Add to this the emerald green and you feel embraced by the garden. The great meadow of luminescent green mingles with blue and gold, adorned with imperial reds. The whiteness of the sheep and the saints’ garments seem brighter still set against this expanse.

A detail from Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, to show the brilliance of the smalti colours.
Detail of garden.

Animals.

We see sheep, but also birds perched on trees, rocks and grass, and even on the floral adornment of the border. The sheep of course represent the human flock of Christ. But they are surely there also, along with the birds, to remind us that all creatures are created by God and are thus part of His kingdom. Together with the rocks and the trees this mosaic represents all three kingdoms: the mineral, vegetable and animal realms. Material creation plays an essential role in our union with God. As St Irenaeus reminds us, “the initial step for us all to come to knowledge of God is contemplation of nature.”

A royal park.

This mosaic suggests not just a park, but a royal park. Saint Apollinare’s chasuble is purple. Purple cloth was an imperial monopoly in Byzantium and therefore represents royalty.

Saint Apollinare.
Apollinare stands in the midst of his park as a prince ruling under the King
of kings, surrounded as it were by family, friends and members of the court. So as well as depicting Apollinare as a celebrating bishop, our mosaic also suggests his –and by extension, our – role as acting as kings and queens within the world.

The Edenic task.

The creation account in Genesis (2:15) tells us that “The
Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”. We had work to do in paradise. St Irenaeus reminds us that though Adam and Eve were sinless before the fall they were not yet perfect. They had a God-given task, and this task once fulfilled would lead to their perfection, which was union with God, transfiguration.

We were made in the image of God, but had the task to grow in His likeness through love for and obedience to Him. Irenaeus reminds us that “Man is created in the image of God [i.e. the Father], and the image of God is the Son, in whose image man was created. For this reason the Son also appeared in the fullness of time to show how the copy resembles Him.”[1]

The Transfiguration of Christ
‘As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.’ (Luke 9:29)

We do not see in this mosaic the transfigured Christ, at least, not His full figure clothed in brilliant white as is usually the case in depictions of the Transfiguration. We have instead the cross, with Christ’s face set in a small medallion at its crossing, and the larger figure of Saint Apollinare.

The face of Christ
We have already discussed how the cross represents Christ’s Second
Coming, of which His transfiguration is a foretaste. But we can delve deeper still into our mosaic’s other layers of meaning. Our mosaic concentrates not so much on the event as on its outcome, its purpose. The ultimate purpose of Christ’s incarnation was our own deification,our union with Him. As St Athanasius, wrote, “God became man, that we might become gods”(On the Incarnation, 54:3). And St Iranaeus, “Because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are that he might make us to be what he is” (Against Heresies, V). So what our mosaic concentrates on is not so much Christ’s transfiguration but ours. St Apollinare himself is clothed in a brilliant white dalmatic under his chasuble. But what stands out most to the viewer is the whiteness of the sheep against the green – and to a lesser extent also Moses and Elijah, whose white is not quite so contrasting against the golden background. It is as though Christ were stepping back a little in order to bring our transfigured state to the fore. This is the same principle He applies when He tells the disciples that He must depart this world so that He can send them the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit dwelling within them and transfiguring them He will be closer than if He were present only in the flesh as a human individual. It was in fact not surprising that Christ shone with light, for He is the glory of the Father, light from light, true God from true God. The unusual thing was rather that for most of the time He hid His glory. He did not want to overwhelm us. Why then did He allow His light to shine in this particular instance, on Mount Tabor? One reason is suggested by an Orthodox liturgical text: He wanted not only to display His divinity, but also to show us what it is to be fully human:

’I am he who is’, was transfigured today upon Mount Tabor before the disciples; and in His own person He showed them the nature of man, arrayed in the original beauty of the Image. (The Feast of the Transfiguration, Great Vespers, Aposticha)
Some of the Church Fathers say that Adam and Eve were in fact clothed
with light before the fall, and only became naked when they turned from God’s way. Christ’s transfiguration therefore indicates a return to this “natural supernatural” state of the human person.

Moses and Elijah
Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30-31) Moses and Elijah are depicted plainly on either side of the cross. They are the only human figures in our mosaic that are clothed entirely in white. Luke tells us that they were speaking about Christ’s departure about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. This is usually taken to refer primarily to His crucifixion, but I would suggest that at the same time it can refer to His Ascension, His departure from earth into heaven.
As we have discussed, our mosaic concentrates on the purpose of events in
Christ’s life, and not just the events themselves. Thus the cross in our mosaic is golden and jewelled, to show that it is not only the instrument of the crucifixion but also the sign of conquest and transformation, the means by which Christ tramples down death by death. But I would suggest that our cross also suggests the Ascension, or rather the words of the angels accompanying the Ascension:

“‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:11).

In other words, His second coming will be like His Ascension, with a cloud of witnesses (the stars), accompanied by the sign of the Son of Man (the cross).
The Alpha and Omega
Either side of the cross’s arms are the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the alphabet (figure 6). These two simple letters capitulate the whole theme of the apse mosaic. The mosaic aims to encompass not just the beginning but also the end, the fulfilment of God’s work of salvation in Christ. Hence we find below the cross also the Latin words, Salus Mundi, “the salvation of the world.” And above the cross is the Greek word for fish, IXY, the famous acrostic formed by the initials of five Greek words meaning “Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Saviour.”
Jerusalem and Bethlehem
This theme of beginning and end is further alluded to by the depiction (executed in the 7th century) of Jerusalem and Bethlehem atop the triumphal arch. Six sheep come out of each gate towards Christ who is depicted in the centre. Bethlehem, His birthplace, represents the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, and Jerusalem the fulfilment of it. Some also interpret these two holy places as representing respectively the Jews and the Gentiles, who come together in the Church.

Jerusalem and Bethlehem

The clouds
Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)

‘While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.’ (Luke 9: 32-34)

In our mosaic we find colored clouds both in the apse and also on the uppermost register (executed in the 9th century) atop the triumphal arch. Such sunrise type clouds are common in apsidal mosaics in Rome. They are generally taken to indicate Christ’s Second Coming, for He will come like the sun rising.

The hand of blessing
‘A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. Luke 9:35,36

God the Father ought not be depicted, for He was not incarnate. But here His voice is suggested by the presence of a hand reaching down from the golden heavens (see figure 5). This makes the apse trinitarian, if one takes the gold background and the white to suggest the presence of the Holy Spirit.


Saint Apollinare, priest of all creation
How are we to understand the large figure of Saint Apollinare (identified by the inscription “SANCTVS APOLENARIS”)? We could say that he is there simply because he was the first bishop of Ravenna. But everything about this apse suggests a schema extremely well thought out and multi-valenced. The way that the holy bishop and martyr is set within the scene suggests that he has a broader significance. Bishop Apollinare is celebrating the liturgy. The twelve lambs beside him represent all the faithful, and the garden around him is a microcosm of the whole creation that he and all the faithful offer in the Eucharist, and upon which the Holy Spirit descends and transforms. But I would suggest that Saint Apollinare, as well as being an individual person, a bishop and a saint, also represents the whole Church in her Eucharistic fullness, giving thanks for and offering all creation. His hands are raised in the orans gesture. This is a sign of intercession and, most critically, the gesture used by the presiding bishop or priest at the epiclesis when, on behalf of all the faithful, he asks the Holy Spirit to “come down upon us and these gifts here spread forth.”
The Church is a priestly being, whose calling is to give thanks for all
creation and to offer it to the Creator. The Creator in His turn transfigures and offers this world back to us. The Scriptures after all end in the city of God coming down out of heaven to earth, radiant in its fullness, for “the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23). The mosaic gives us adumbrations of this cosmic transfiguration. Being a human person capable of a relationship with the living God, Saint Apollinare has
a full halo of gold. But the rest of the cosmos is nevertheless also capable of
participating in God’s glory, each thing according to its capacity. So in our mosaic trees, rocks and sheep are surrounded by an aura of either yellow or rich green tesserae.

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Yellow or deeper green tesserae surround each created thing.

We recall that not only did Christ’s person shine with light on Tabor, but also His inanimate garments. Through incorporation in the Body of Christ and through our Eucharistic life, all matter can be transfigured. Through us the cosmos can become garment and adornment for the Body of Christ. I have the privilege of possessing a few of the original sixth century tesserae from this mosaic, given me by one of the restorers who worked on it in the 1970’s. I am a mosaicist myself, and have noticed that these smalti glass tesserae, especially the green ones, are somewhat more translucent than modern smalti. This in part explains the special luminosity of our mosaic. Sunlight enters each piece and re-emerges as emerald tinted. Light thereby literally comes from within the grass itself, and not merely reflected off its surface. We are witnessing the material word shining with light, like Christ’s garment on Mount Tabor.

The fellowship of the saints
Below Saint Apollinare, set between the windows, are mosaics of four previous bishops of Ravenna: Ecclesius (ECLESIVS), who was bishop of Ravenna from 522 to 532 and founder of San Vitale; Severus (SCS SEVERVS), a revered bishop of Ravenna in the 340’s; Ursus (SCS VRSVS), bishop ca. 405-431 and builder of Ravenna’s cathedral and baptistery; and Ursicinus (VRSISINVS), bishop 533 -536, and commissioner of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. These bishops, together with Saint Apollinare (the first bishop of Ravenna), serve to locate within the apostolic succession each priest who celebrates in the basilica. By association they also set everyone who worships in the basilica within the fellowship of all believers, past, present and future. The union that this mosaic affirms is not just between God and man and matter, but also between the all faithful throughout time.

On bees, work, kings and gardens
Quite remarkably, close inspection of the little golden designs on Saint
Apollinare’s chasuble reveals that they are in fact bees. In
Christian symbolism bees represent the immortality of the soul and the
resurrection (for a hive seems to come back from the dead after three months of winter hibernation). But bees also represent communal transformative labor, since the work of the hive changes nectar into honey. This is graphically affirmed by two passages in the ancient hymn “Exsultet,” sung in the Western Church by a deacon in front of the Paschal candle. This hymn was composed perhaps as early as the fifth century, and certainly no later than the seventh, so it may well have been known by the person who designed the mosaic and therefore supports this interpretation of the bees on Apollinare’s chasuble. The passage reads:
O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.[2]
So this hymn traces the stages from God-given nectar, to the work bees
transforming nectar into honey and wax, followed by man’s work to change the wax into candle. All is culminated in the material wax becoming immaterial fire in praise of God. The process is completed in transfiguration, a living light that knows no diminution in its sharing.
As kings as well as priests, we are called not just to give thanks for all
creation, but also to work within it to transform it like bees. Or to use another analogy, as spiritual gardeners we are to cultivate the wild and wonderful world into a garden.
The Lord’s command to Adam and Eve to “fill the earth and subdue it”
(Genesis 1:28) needs to be understood in just this transformative sense. Our
God-given power within the world is, I think, best understood in an artistic sense rather than exploitative. The artist’s power over his or her medium is that of craft and wisdom (Minerva the Roman god of wisdom was pertinently also the good of crafts). The wise artist or crafts person uses their power over the medium with love and discernment, to raise the raw material into something even more beautiful. Their authority therefore exists not to subjugate and oppress their medium, but to raise it up and make it even more articulate.

It is clear from the branch collars we see in the larger trees on the mosaic that they have been pruned. We are clearly looking not at a wild forest but a garden, one cared for by men and women. Our bishop Apollinare is a spiritual gardener as well as a priest. So the garden around Apollinare is the outcome of love and craft, and of God and man working together in synergy. Sometimes in the Gospels people blurt out things that appear to be mistakes but end up being prophetical. Such is the case when Mary Magdalene mistakes the risen Christ for a gardener:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15).

Christ is the second Adam, becoming and fulfilling all that the first Adam (that is, us) failed to be and do. In this case, He has become the Gardener in Eden. As an aside, it is interesting to contrast this scene with that in Genesis. In Genesis Adam and Eve try to hide from God in Eden. Here in John’s Gospel Mary Magdalene is trying to find God. This garden has a pleasing blend of orderliness and variation. The highest trees are arranged in a row along the top, at a similar distance from each other but not precisely so, and each is a little different from the others. The shrubs, rocks and flowering plants are likewise arranged, with a perfect imperfection. This reminds me of something that Saint Paisius of the Holy Mountain once said to me. “When modern man makes streetlights for the night he places he lampposts regularly and makes each lamp identical in brightness and colour. This mechanical repetition is tiring to our eyes,” he said. “But when God made the starry lights for the night He varied their size, spacing and colour, and this soothes the soul.” Here in our mosaic we see a garden made according to this same divine pattern of a perfect imperfection, and not a sterile symmetry.

In God’s plan this royal and crafting role is inextricably tied to our priestly role, since in the Eucharist we offer not wheat and grapes, but bread and wine, which are the fruit of human labour. To this theme we shall now turn.
Abel, Melchizedek and Abraham
On the south wall of the apse is a depiction of the priest king Melchizedek.

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The Sacrifices of Abel, Melchizedek, and Abraham+Isaac, at Sant’Apollinare in Clase  7th century.

He stands behind an altar with two loaves and a chalice. Abel the shepherd stands to his right offering a lamb, and Abraham to his left offering his son Isaac. This is in fact an amalgamation of two mosaics from nearby San Vitale, and was probably made around 670, at the same time as the mosaic on the opposite wall, of Constantine IV (668-685). It is however not impossible that it is a remake of an earlier work made at the same time as the conch mosaic, in the sixth century. This is an appropriate scene, both because of the Holy Liturgy that is celebrated in front of it and because of our mosaic’s priestly and regal theme. Like the conch mosaic that takes liberties with historical reality in order to reveal the deeper meaning of the event, this mosaic panel also has some interesting additions. Over the tunic of skin given his parents as a result of their fall, Abel wears a priestly chasuble. This emphasizes the priestly significance of his offering.
Melchizedek’s garment is identical to those worn by high priests Aaron in
the third century fresco at Dura-Europos, and Caiaphas in the sixth century
mosaic in nearby Sant’Apollinare Nuovo.

He also wears also a simple crown to denote his regal status as king of Salem. Abraham is also priestly, ready even to offer his own son on the altar. But he also dressed like a Roman senator, his toga bearing the senatorial a shoulder to hem stripe. This suggests, as with Melchezidek, a union of priestly and royal ministries. The “Privilegia” mosaic On the north wall of the apse, opposite the Melchezidek work, is a depiction of the Eastern Roman emperor Constantine IV (668-685) granting certain privileges – probably tax concessions – to Ravenna’s archbishops. The Privilegia panel, north wall Emperor Justinian, San Vitale, Ravenna, 6th century. Ours is a seventh century work, but of poor quality, probably due to the multiple restorations it has suffered over the centuries. Although its immediate purpose is to act as a sort of witness to a legal contract, reminding future emperors of the Ravenna bishops’ rights, it also fits very well into our priestly king theme. On the left side are the secular authorities: the emperor and his brothers Heraclius and Tiberius, with a fourth figure holding a ciborium. On the right is Archbishop Reparatus (671-677), receiving from the Emperor the scroll with its promise of privileges. He is accompanied by another bishop (perhaps his predecessor Maurus (642-671), plus a priest in a yellow chasuble and two deacons. Whereas in Melchezidek the roles of priest and king are combined in one person, here the principle is expressed by the, hopefully, harmonious relationship between two parties, the state and the Church.

This Privilegia mosaic encapsulates the Orthodox ideal of symphony between Church and state. They are independent, each with boundaries according to their God-given responsibilities, but each also assisting the other to fulfil God’s purpose. This ideal avoids both caeseropapism and papal-caesorism. The Church can prophetically oppose a secular power that acts contrary to God’s commandments, but it can also accept material assistance from it if this genuinely aids the Church’s spiritual work and benefits people’s lives. Perhaps this is the meaning of the ciborium held by the emperor’s attendant. The altar table, symbolically speaking, is the exclusive prerogative of the Church, but the ciborium protects this altar, and this protection the state can offer through its laws and privileges.

The date palms For the sake of completeness we can mention the date palms that stand either side of the apse.


Date palms, symbols of paradise, fruitfulness and victory

Palms traditionally represent paradise and a fruit bearing life. In Roman times they also represented victory. Their presence confirms the reading of the apse as a paradise, regained by Christ through the victorious cross. One sees such palms in many other Italian mosaics, such as at Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna (6th c.), the ceiling mosaic of Arian Baptistery also in Ravenna (5th c.), at Santa Prassede in Rome (9th c.), and in the apse mosaic of Santa Cecilia also in Rome (9th c.).

The upper tier: Christ and the four living creatures.

The upper tier. Christ the symbols of the four Evangelists

Scholars date the uppermost tier of the triumphal arch to the ninth century. In the centre is Christ in a medallion. Each side are the four winged creatures, each holding a Gospel. They symbolize the four evangelists: the eagle is John; the man Matthew, the lion Mark, and the ox Luke. The upper tier. Christ the symbols of the four Evangelists This tier capitulates all that happens below. The evangelists summarize the whole work of Christ about which they wrote, from His birth through to His Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The purpose of His incarnation was to gather all creation into Himself, and in particular to unite our human nature with His own divine nature. For, as St Paul so poetically writes, the Father “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

In summary I think there are few examples of liturgical art that embody such a wide spectrum of Christ’s work as this mosaic at Sant’Apollinare in Classe. It is a precursor to the rich vision that St Maximus the Confessor was to write about a century later, where the human person becomes in Christ both microcosm and mediator, to use Lars Thunberg’s phrase. But the one passage that perhaps best describes this remarkable mosaic is from the Bible: For [the Father] has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:9,10).

Notes: [1] Saint Irenaeus, quoted in Man and the Incarnation: A Study in “The Biblical Theology of Irenaeus,” by Gustaf Wingren. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004, page 19.

[2] English translation from the Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. –

Original article published December 28, 2017

Halki III Summit

This is the press release for the Halki III Summit, where i am to be the voice for animals. Please pray that a module on compassionate care for animals is included in Orthodox academic and seminary courses as a result of this conference.

ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW TO HOST INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT ON “THEOLOGICAL FORMATION AND ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS”ISTANBUL – His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will host the third Halki Summit from May 31st to June 4th, 2019. The summit will convene distinguished representatives of Orthodox theological schools and seminaries from all over the world, and focus on the theme of “Theological Formation and Ecological Awareness.” Some 50 delegates from over 40 institutions will be in attendance.Halki Summit III is being organized as an inter-Orthodox working conference. Summit participants will hear addresses by prominent environmental theologians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant), and will discuss ways that ecological awareness can be fostered and advanced in Orthodox institutions of higher learning throughout the world by means of courses and other programs related to creation care. The ultimate purpose will be to promote environmental sensitivity in the core curricula of theological institutions by continuing the spirit of dialogue and exchange expressed during the two previous summits, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s longstanding concern and ongoing initiatives over three decades for the protection of the natural environment.The first two summits convened activists and scientists, journalists and business leaders, theologians and academics, in order to engage and collaborate across intellectual disciplines and boundaries. Halki Summit I was held in June 2012, and focused on the theme of “Global Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability.” Halki Summit II took place in June 2015, and assembled pioneers and experts from around the world in a conversation on environment, literature and the arts.Photos and reports from Halki Summit III will be published on the web and through social media. Learn more about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s environmental justice positions and how he was dubbed “The Green Patriarch” by global media and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (USA)

RELIGIOUS DECLARATION OF UNPRECEDENTED HUMAN EMERGENCY

The climate change problem we face today is unlike any previous challenge confronted by society because it is largely irreversible “for 1,000 years after emissions stop” with “profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies for the next ten millennia and beyond.”

The shocking truth is that decisions we make now could, in the words of climate economist Ross Garnaut, “haunt humanity until the end of time.”

Nuclear war, while also irreversible, is only a possibility. Human-induced climate change is underway now, and its impacts are greater and more extensive than scientific models predicted. We will significantly alter the future of civilization as we know it and may eventually cause its collapse if we continue down this path.

As people of faith, we believe that our planet – which nurtures and sustains life – is a gift, and that we have a responsibility to cultivate a world in which all beings can thrive, physically and spiritually. We are committed to safeguarding the Earth entrusted to our care. Protecting God’s Creation is a spiritual and moral imperative, not an ideological or narrow partisan issue. We recognize that the National Council of Churches, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops have al “Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization… [We] need to devise a long-term global strategy to provide energy security and …commitments to meet the problem of climate change.” – Pope Francis, Statement to oil company executives, June 19, 2018

Human civilization emerged during an extensive period of stable climactic conditions. Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the logging of forests could rapidly destabilize civilization as billions of people worldwide find themselves in an increasingly desperate struggle for survival. The multiple, simultaneous consequences of climate change could break down human societies and push them toward civil unrest, anarchy, tyranny, and war, including nuclear war. This is why more than one Secretary General of the United Nations has called the world’s present course “suicidal,” and why the Pentagon has classified climate change as a threat to national security.

Scientists have been warning for decades, with increasing certainty and alarm, about the dire consequences of continuing to burn coal, gas, and oil and release methane. Nevertheless, the United States, responsible for 26% of cumulative fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions despite being less than 5% of the world’s population, has failed to take these warnings seriously. Leadership in the United States has proposed inadequate solutions, has denied scientific and economic consensus and continues to promote fossil fuel extraction. Mainstream media has betrayed its role as the fourth estate by confusing the public. For instance, Fox News has made misleading statements about climate change 72% of the time, and CNN 30% of the time.

Global Temperatures Are On A Steep Rise The National Academy of Sciences 2005 Report to Congress “The crisis facing God’s earth is clear. Human activities are leading to a warming of the planet. Christians must take action now to reduce global warming pollution….” – Official statement, The United Methodist Church, 2012

Decades of delay on climate action have made small corrective measures and incremental approaches useless. Those who are invested in maintaining the status quo, or who put forth proposals that are clearly incompatible with what climate science demands, are condemning innocent young people – including their own children and generations to come – to a future of unimaginable suffering: the mass death of human populations and the extinction of species.

Further delay in addressing climate change is a radical evil that as people of faith we vigorously oppose.

We support the bold direction of the Green New Deal, or other similar science-based proposals, as an opportunity for this country to commit to stabilizing the climate while creating “unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.” This specifically includes low-income communities, communities of color, and those that have historically been marginalized or underserved. The Green New Deal is the first resolution that addresses the climate crisis with the urgency, focus, and comprehensiveness that the situation requires. Our nation mobilized every part of society during World War II and the Great Depression. Like the Greatest Generation, we must rise to the occasion and commit to doing what science says it takes to avoid irreversible catastrophic climate chaos and make a rapid and just transition to a clean energy economy. Today, renewable- energy-with-storage technology is out-bidding all other energy options. Broadly and quickly implemented, this could provide an unequalled and sustainable economic boom.

We believe that the primary strategies that will accomplish these goals include: carbon pricing; governmental intervention; divestment from fossil-fuel based industries and investment in sustainable alternatives; carbon sequestration by terminating logging in our national forests; extensive reforestation and native grass replanting; alternative energy incentives; methane leakage restrictions; increased renewable and battery research; and greenhouse gas targeted regulations. We strongly support bipartisan legislation that puts a price on carbon in a way that will reduce emissions quickly, accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and protect low-to-middle income communities from financial harm. While the means are open for debate, the end of preserving a stable climate is not. “Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing all of God’s creation.” – Official Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2009 “We now face the unprecedented challenge of climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions, and the need for urgent action has never been clearer. – Reform Judaism Statement on Climate Change and Energy, 2009

We are committed to responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. The harsh and often deadly impacts of climate change increasingly weigh upon the human spirit. Therefore, we call upon elected officials, faith communities, and the public-at-large to combat climate change at the scale and pace this emergency requires. We demand that policy-makers work together to reach the science-based climate goals of the IPCC to cut greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. We also urge policy-makers to work together to ensure a just transition that protects the safety, health, and dignity of low-income and historically under-served communities. We look forward to the spiritual, health, and economic benefits of living more simply, gently, and lovingly on God’s good Earth. “We believe climate change to be a profoundly pro-life issue….” Florida Christians for Climate Action ————————————————————

Notes: 1. Susan Solomon, Gian-Kasper Plattner, Reto Knutti, Pierre Friedlingstein, (2009) Irreversible Climate Change Due to Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (6) 1704-1709, at 1704; DOI:10.1073/pnas.0812721106; and Peter U. Clark et al, (2016). Consequences of Twenty-First-Century Policy for Multi-Millennial Climate and Sea-Level Change. Nature Climate Change. 6.10.1038/nclimate2923

2. http://www.garnautreview.org.au/pdf/Garnaut_Chapter24.pdf 597 (last lines of the review) https://cosmosmagazine.com/climate/ross-garnaut-s-bright-idea

3. Dana Nuccitelli, “95% consensus of expert economists: cut carbon pollution,” The Guardian, January 4, 2016, www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2016/jan/04/consensus-of-economists-cut-carbon-pollution

4. “Science or Spin? Assessing the Accuracy of Cable News Coverage of Climate Science (2014), Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/solutions/fight-misinformation/cable-news-coverage-climate-change-science.html

5. www.pv-magazine-usa.com/2018/03/12/worlds-largest-batteries-hiding-in-colorado-bids/ Global Warming Is Steadily Advancing

v v This NASA map shows Earth’s average global temperature from 2013 to 2017, as compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980. Yellows, oranges, and reds show regions warmer than the baseline

Checklist for Churches – How Green is your Church?

I have taken and edited this from the The Green Christian website. Whilst it is not Orthodox as such, it is in spirit because the forthcoming Halki 111 Summit in May/June is linked to this theme.

As reinventing the wheel is a waste of our time and resources, we should always consider using the work of others to aid our work. You will find other useful resource at the end of the post.

Eco-Check-up for Churches How green is your Church? It’s not difficult for your congregation, building and church office to become more eco-friendly. You’re probably already doing more than you think. The questions below give you an idea of what is involved in an environmental check-up.

Whether you worship in a cathedral or a small chapel use these questions to find ways to make your church more eco-friendly.

1. How regularly during the year are environmental concerns included in worship? • never • occasionally • only at special services e.g. harvest • frequently

2. Does your church include creation/environmental issues in its teaching, studying or preaching programme? yes no

3. Has your church involved young people in auditing and improving the environmental management of the premises? yes no

4. Has your church invited a speaker on environmental issues? yes no

5. Have you insulated the church buildings wherever possible? yes no

6. Do you choose appropriate size rooms wherever possible? yes no

7. Do you timetable meetings to minimise heating use? yes no

8. Have you fitted energy-saving light bulbs? yes no

9. Do you encourage building users to switch off unnecessary lights and not leave items on stand-by (e.g. photocopier)? yes no

10. Have you checked water outlets – and fixed drips and leaks? yes no

11. Have you installed water-saving devices (e.g. dual flush toilets and low spray flow or auto turn-off taps)? yes no

12. Have you checked the environmental policy of your bank to see if you are satisfied with it? yes no

13. Do you use environmentally-friendly cleaning materials and paint? yes no

14. Do you purchase Fair Trade products (e.g. tea and coffee)? yes no

15. Do you use local suppliers where possible (so supporting the local economy)? yes no

16. Do you use crockery rather than disposable cups and plates? yes no

17. Does your church have collection facilities for recycling items which can be used by church members, building users or local community (e.g. cans, spectacles, stamps, printer cartridges, clothes, shoes, foil)? yes no

18. Do you purchase recycled paper and envelopes (to close the loop)? yes no

19. Is your churchyard management wild-life friendly (e.g. minimal use of weedkillers and pesticides, leaving some areas unmown, valuing old trees, hedges walls and stones)? yes no

20. Does your churchyard have other features to benefit wildlife (e.g. bird feeding station, bird nest boxes, bat boxes, piles of leaves and rotting logs for insects and hedgehogs)? yes no

21. Is there a place outside for prayer/contemplation/outdoor worship? yes no

22. Does your church magazine publish green tips? yes no

23. Does your church encourage walking, cycling and car sharing to church? yes no

24. Does someone read the meters regularly to assess the church’s energy use? yes no

25. Has anyone calculated the carbon footprint of your buildings? yes no

26. Is the congregation encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint in their everyday lives? yes no

27. Does your church support overseas development/climate adaptation initiatives? yes no

28. Has your church drawn on links that members have with environmental bodies? yes no

29. Has your church supported or initiated environmental community schemes (e.g. cleanups, involvement in a transition town group)? yes no

The Next Steps.

Pass this leaflet on to your minister, and/or to your Church council. Ask them to celebrate what your Church is already doing well and to consider what further steps you can take to make your Church more eco-friendly.

Especially useful is the Green Christian ecocell programme. For modules to use in group work, bible reflections and measuring tools. Visit: greenchristian.org.uk/ecocell Hold a LOAF meal to get people thinking about food issues: LOAF stands for Locally produced, Organically grown, Animal friendly, Fairly traded. Visit: greenchristian.org.uk/loaf Produce an environmental policy for your church. Set up a Green Group. Organise a green library

The Green Christian website has plenty of other ideas to help you: • Regular Church magazine articles for you to use and adapt for your own church. • Ideas for Church seasons such as Lent and Harvest. • Point your minister to ‘Green Pointers for Preachers’. • Monthly prayer diary with points for prayer and meditation. Keep in touch: • Contact Judith Allinson and sign up for our twice monthly e-news: webeditor@greenchristian.org.uk

Other Christian organisations which focus on the care of Earth include: A Rocha focusing on educating and equipping the church to care for God’s Earth while demonstrating practical involvement in nature conservation: Visit: arocha.org Operation Noah – focusing exclusively on climate change. Visit: operationnoah.org Shrinking the Footprint – ideas on how Churches can reduce their carbon footprint. Visit: churchcare.co.uk/shrinking-the-footprint Cafod — www.livesimply.org

How to become an Eco Church or Eco-congregation Eco Church is a scheme managed in England and Wales by A Rocha UK to help Churches demonstrate care for God’s Earth. In Ireland and Scotland the scheme is still called Eco-congregation. It’s about incorporating the biblical ethic of environmental stewardship into the spiritual values, practical action and community involvement of Church congregations. Participating Churches first conduct an Eco Check-Up and then formulate an action plan to address the areas identified for improvement. There is a wealth of downloadable resources available to help Churches achieve the goals set out in their action plan. Visit: ecochurch.arocha.org or Visit: ecocongregations.scotland.org or Visit: ecocongregation.ireland.com The successful completion of the action plan earns Churches the prestigious Eco Church or Eco-congregation Award. Living for a future

Wherever we are in life, it’s easier to reach the destination if we travel together. If you would like to travel with us, join Green Christian. Join Green Christian Send £30 cheque or £25 Standing Order (low income £12), £40 joint/family/corporate, or a donation for church membership (recommended amount £40) to: Green Christian Membership, Flat 1, 31 St James Terrace, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 6HS. Cheques payable to Green Christian. www.greenchristian.org.uk T: 0345 459 8460 E: info@greenchristian.org.uk 10 Kiln Gardens, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire RG27 8RG. Company No. 2445198, Charity No. 328744