Kuki Rokhum from Tearfund’s partner EFICOR reports from Delhi on COVID and a 'new normal' for creation.
I was wearing a mask even before COVID-19, because of the pollution.
Here in Delhi, every year, at this time of year especially, we have terrible pollution. You can’t even see outside sometimes.
But at the beginning of COVID, the world stopped everything: the crazy mad human activity came to a standstill. And because human activity stopped to a great extent; the earth rested; the air became cleaner. And so, here in Delhi: clear skies, beautiful birds, green trees – and I’m seeing birds that I’ve never ever seen before in my life – a purple sunbird sitting on a branch and then the grey Indian hornbill is sitting on another branch as well. We don’t see that regularly, but we saw all of that during the lockdown, it was amazing. Creation was like “whof... finally, we can breathe”.
In some ways COVID was like an enforced Jubilee, in which people had no choice but to stop activity and to be generous.
I thought, this is Jubilee, and perhaps it is possible. Perhaps it is possible.
There is the economic side of the Jubilee, but also embedded in all of that is the environmental or the ecological or the earth or the creation side of Jubilee. You can ask yourself a question: “why did God care so much for the earth – you know, for the dirt – that he said, ‘let it lie fallow, it should rest’?” Human beings need rest, and God resting on the seventh day has given the model we need to follow. But why did God say that the earth needs to rest as well? We cannot just keep taking from the earth without giving back to it. Otherwise, we will squeeze it of all its richness and goodness.
In creation, I think God made everything in a perfect balance; in a perfect cycle. But as human beings, we have disrupted that balance: we have tilled the soil – so much so that all the goodness that is in it has been stripped away. And the Jubilee is a wonderful reminder by God that not only should there be an economic balance between those who have and who have not, and that opportunity to redeem, to become a little bit more equal – but an opportunity for the earth to rest as well.
But we are so selfish, that we think that if we let something lie unused, that it’s a waste. We are so attuned to using and consuming: if I have it, I need to use it. And if you don’t use it, that’s a waste of money. We’re so scared of that, that we want to use it as much as possible instead of allowing it rest.
We need to go back to a normal that God would approve of, where not only human beings, but the whole of creation flourishes.
As people start to look for and work towards a “new normal”, my biggest question is: what is normal? Pre-COVID times normal? I don’t think so. You look at the number of species that have gone extinct. The forests that have been decimated: is that the normal that we are going to go back to? I don’t think so. We need to go back to a normal that God would approve of, where not only human beings, but the whole of creation flourishes. And that is so important, because human beings cannot flourish or thrive without the rest of creation.
At EFICOR, we’ve done a lot of creation care workshops, challenging people and saying that “This is very much part of what God wants us to do. He created it. He has given us a mandate, as human beings: a mandate of stewardship, of preparing for creation.” And sometimes it’s very difficult to say, “okay, what steps do I take?”.
One of the areas that we’ve been able to challenge people on is waste. You know, waste is something that was never there in the beginning when God created everything – and human beings have an amazing capacity for creating waste: waste that will live on and on and on and on and on, even after we are dead and gone.
Consuming less is one way that every one of us can give the earth a rest. People can think “I don’t have farmland to lie fallow for a year or whatever, I live in an apartment, I keep plants in pots, is that okay? What do I let rest?” But we are choking the earth with our waste as well. Use less: that is how you can give the earth a rest, because our consumption habits are forcing the earth to try to produce that.
We are really a global community... it is possible to spread disease; it is possible to spread hatred; it is possible for negativity to flow globally. But this also means that the message of hope – the message of the goodness of God, the message of what is possible – can also spread and affect and infect lives as well.
Disasters are increasing. Is it becoming hotter? Yes, it’s becoming hotter. Are the monsoons more erratic? Yes, it’s ever-more erratic. You ask everybody from a farmer in the village, to a person who works in a job in the city, and who sits in your training: everybody will tell you that things have changed. You’ll be doing a workshop, or a session, where we say that “between your childhood and now, what is the difference?”. And usually everybody agrees that there’s a huge difference: things have happened, and these are not good things. And so, when you do that, you open people’s minds. I’ve been encouraged by people being so open to it, saying, “yeah, things have changed, and we need to do something about it”.
What we have seen through these COVID times has shown us that we are really a global community: what affects part of the global community – is able to affect all parts. And what I do, and what I do not do, makes a big difference in the lives of other people, not just around me, but globally as well: it is possible to spread disease; it is possible to spread hatred; it is possible for negativity to flow globally. But this also means that the message of hope – the message of the goodness of God, the message of what is possible – can also spread and affect and infect lives as well.
As Christians, I think we shouldn’t just relax, hoping for God to come soon. As people of the kingdom of God we need to act – we need to do whatever we can. Because whatever we do can make a difference. Just like negativity spreads, the Good News of the Kingdom of God can spread and can make a difference. So, let’s not just sit back, but let’s do our part, whatever little it is. And even if it’s small, let’s just do the best we can. Because that will make a difference.