Seoul, June 5, 2012
We live on a planet that suffers from fever and exposure to radiation. We are responsible for tending and protecting it, but most of us – drowning in convenience and abundance – do not know what to do for the Earth, which groans under the weight of its suffering.
But one group of Christians has begun a ‘green’ movement within churches to ease the distress. The Korean (Protestant) Christian Environmental Movement Solidarity started Green Church 21, a small grassroots program, in 1998, adding solar cells to the roofs of churches, cultivating more green space around buildings and planting vegetable gardens.
Churchgoers are encouraged to trade their cars for bicycles, and Bible studies emphasize the scriptural basis for taking better care of the planet. The movement promotes six basic practices that are vital for the preservation of our natural environment.
Churchgoers are urged to adopt natural means of energy production by harnessing the power of sunlight and wind, which are gifts from God. In addition to solar panels, churches have lobbied for solar-powered crosswalk lights and bike-powered generators.
They have also started a campaign to establish a fixed and optimal indoor temperature. Church members are asked to wear light clothes in summer and warmer ones in winter so that air conditioning and heating can be used more sparingly.
The third practice is reducing carbon dioxide emissions in daily life. For example, some churches since 2007 have promoted a “No Car Sunday” once a month. The aim is to make churchgoers more aware of their impact on the environment.
Fourth is the “greening” of churches by planting trees. The restoration of woodlands is one of the most active ways to reduce carbon dioxide. Some churches with no garden areas create green space on their roofs.
The program also calls for recycling campaigns that seek to share, reuse and repair goods that would otherwise be thrown away. Weekly church bulletins are also printed on recycled paper.
Finally, churchgoers are urged not to waste food and to adopt a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle by using organic products and reducing the consumption of meat.
To highlight what they see as the dangers of factory farms, some churches hold “No Meat” Sundays. Churches participating in the program devote themselves to the protection of nature according to Jesus’ words from Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
It is my hope that all the churches in Korea will adopt the “green church” program and that the suffering of the Earth will end.
You Mi-ho is executive secretary of the Korea (Protestant) Christian Environmental Movement Solidarity