Pray with the Pope – February 2016
General Intention: That we may take good care of creation – a gift freely given – cultivating and protecting it for future generations.
When did you last see a chameleon? As a child I saw them all the time but they seem very scarce these days apparently because of habitat loss, pesticides and predators (mostly domestic cats).
My last sighting was, unexpectedly, in the garden of the Little Sisters of Jesus’ house in Manenberg, Cape Town.
To see one of these striking and slightly intimidating dwarf-dragons, wearing its gorgeous, green-banded camouflage and blending into an indigenous buchu bush, was enchanting. And to see one in a small township garden was a hopeful sign pointing to the resilience of the natural world as well as the thought and care of people who persist in tending a little corner of Paradise.
Of course, if you want chameleons you have to have a chameleon habitat and you have to protect it. You can’t have chameleons and a cat. Or if one’s front garden has been turned into a carport, no chameleons will survive there.
It’s about choices: fewer cars and cats means more chameleons, and more cars and cats means fewer or no chameleons. We cannot have it both ways. These are choices on the local level.
On the larger levels we have to make huge decisions about our industries and how to transform them into climate-friendly contributors to genuine human needs.
The recent COP21 climate conference focused on the question of how quickly to phase out coal, oil and gas, and replace them with renewable energy. The choice is not if but when, for the scientists tell us that if we keep burning fossil fuels at present rates we will eventually experience droughts and floods that will make the present ones seem mild by comparison.
This is a political task – campaigning for change and making sure our elected representatives listen to us, the electorate, and actually carry out what we want rather than what their financial backers and their wealthy special interest groups want.
It is also about work. Gardens don’t just happen and nor do new energy systems. Gardens, like the natural world, require human labour, cultivation and protection.
Nature used to be able to look after itself, but since we human beings have become so numerous and so destructive it is now necessary for us to work at preserving our biosphere. We are responsible for our planet whether we like it or not.
We have some serious co-creation to do. A chameleon in a township garden can remind us of that and give us hope.
Missionary Intention: That opportunities may increase for dialogue and encounter between the Christian faith and the peoples of Asia.
Genghis Khan and his successors swept out of the steppes in the 13th century and their terrifying war machine faltered only when they over-extended themselves in Hungary in the west, Japan in the east and Egypt in the south.
They were driven by the simple belief that Heaven had given them the whole world and all they had to do was to go out there and take it. But unlike other conquerors driven by a theological idea, they did not think that they had to convert people to their shamanistic faith. They allowed their subject peoples to continue practising their different religions. Their tolerance even went so far as intermarriage.
The Khans kept the peace among the faiths of their empire by embracing them all although Genghis himself remained a shamanist. All religious leaders were exempt from taxation and places of worship were allowed.
However, because of the crude caricature we have of Genghis Khan, this medieval religious toleration comes as quite a surprise. Indeed, some of the Khans even organised interreligious debates to which crowds of people would be drawn.
Eventually the Mongols adopted the religions of the societies they conquered.
Since the early 1990s a certain amount of missionary work has been started and there is a small but growing Mongolian Christian community, including a number of Catholics, for whom we should remember to pray.