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Opinion by Reverend Francois Pihaatae, WWF Observer
I wish to acknowledge the spirit of this land and the spirit of the Indigenous people of this land - to the spirit of their fore fathers and mothers, the spirit of the present generations and the future generations.
“WE ARE CUSTODIANS OF A LEGACY”, statement made by Rhea Moss-Christian, chair person of the tuna commission at the opening of the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission 14, in Manila, Philippines.
I take my hat off to salute the most powerful statement made yesterday (Sunday 3rd December 2017) by Moss-Christian which reminded us the original interpretation of Genesis 1, 28 where humans, the last and greatest of God’s creation are given dominion over nature. “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth” that implied three clear moral messages.
(a) Not only do we not own nature but we are duty bound to respect its integrity.
(b) Human beings would use nature only in such a way as to be faithful to the purpose of the Creator.
(c) The mandate to exercise dominion or mastery over the natural world is not to abuse, nor technical but moral and is limited by the requirement to protect and conserve. Genesis 2 and 3 (the story of the forbidden fruit and the subsequent exile from Eden) forcefully makes these three points: Not everything is permitted. There are limits to what human beings may do and when they are transgressed, disaster follows.
As custodians of a legacy inherited from our forefathers, we must exercise vigilance in its protection and we are liable for loss through negligence. This is perhaps the best short definition of human beings’ moral responsibility for nature as conceived by the Biblical narrative. The point is that we do not own nature, as the Psalm 24, 1 says: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.” We are its trustees on behalf of God who made it and owns it, and for the sake of future generations. The fundamental point is that the marine resources in God’s Creation has its own dignity as God’s masterpiece, and though we have the mandate to use it, we have none to destroy or damage it.
The Biblical narrative teaches a different wisdom with regards to the natural environment and our custodianship responsibility towards it. (a) Reverence in the face of creation. (b) Responsibility to future generations. (c) And restraint in the knowledge that not everything we can do,we should do. The simplest image, and surely the most sensible one, in thinking about our ecological and developmental responsibility is to see the earth as belonging to God and us as its trustees, charged with conserving and if possible beautifying it for the sake of our great grandchildren not yet born.
What I have shared with you is simply a faith-based view of what ought to be the fundamentals of sustainable fishing. For fishing to be sustainable, it implies, at least from our faith perspective, several fundamental changes to our perspectives for future development of fishing.
*We must include spirituality, for without it, it will be a journey to the abyss; it will be like a bus ride to nowhere, ploughing and motoring everything on its path.
*There are limits to our patterns of production and consumption. Imaginative and unhealthy consumptions of resources and processed foods will in the end consume us.
*Our human creativity which enabled us to develop industries and our societies must be held in check by our awareness of the delicate web of life of our environmental ecosystems.
*Fishery policy must take into consideration the wisdoms of our indigenous knowledge, traditions and religions. We simply need to revise how we perceive future development in fishery.
The ecological and developmental condition of our region today, let alone the world, is an affront to one’s moral senses. We simply cannot ignore the growing poverty among our people; the rich few and the many poor; the depletion of our Ocean and land resources; the social ills that are festering our societies in the Pacific such as violence against women and children, and the increasing isolation of our elderly people, to name a few.
We will need to cultivate a sense that the land and the Ocean and everything in them have equal right to exist and be here as we human beings are. Perhaps that is the first step to sustainable development for fishery. If we do so, than there is much hope for our region and our world. We are not what we eat, buy or drink. We are truly human when we learn to care for each other, for our land and Ocean.
Let me conclude by reading to you a prayer so-called the Romero prayer, by late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, titled:
We are prophets of a Future Not Our Own
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church's mission. No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.
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