In Communion with the Environment
Day 2 – Christmas Novena
O Wisdom, O Holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.
In preparation for the birth of the Word made Flesh, we are invited to experience a new birth together with the entire universe. We are invited to be more aware that the whole of creation is precious in the eyes of the Lord so that we are able to build an attitude of solidarity with nature. We treat our environment as fellow creatures to be loved, kept, maintained and cared for. We love and treat our environment with the touch of the love of our God. We build a new solidarity and widen the circle of love with nature that has been tampered with. We exert effort that we truly experience Emmanuel. We strive to make the earth become once again a worthy dwelling place for Emmanuel, God among us.
Gunarti a Sikep Woman Guarding the Highlands of North Kendeng
The highlands of Kendeng stretches from Tuban Regency in East Java to Rembang, Gorbogan, Pati and Kudus Regencies in Central Java. For thousands of years it has sustained the people with its water supply for agriculture and clean water. At the moment, it is in an emergency situation because of the exploitation threat of a cement industry that threatens its sustainability. The people had been protesting in different peaceful ways so that the local government from each regency care for the sustainability of the highlands but were not heard. Ironically more and more permits were given out to exploit the highlands that has given them livelihood. It is impossible for them to live without water. Kendeng highlands serve as water reservoir. There are many cultural sites and history that need to be preserved in order to insure continuity of life now and in the future.
Gunarti a simple Sikep (tribe) woman lives in the area of Kendeng highlands. As a genuine farmer, she has a strong attachment with nature. She sees the earth as a generous mother that continuously feeds her children. For Gunarti caring for nature is caring for life, and destroying nature means destroying life.
Imagining the havoc that might happen, Gunarti did not remain silent. Her motherly instinct does not allow her to see mother earth wounded. For her, land is not a commodity but a gift from God, a sacred space. Hence this woman lover of the earth voluntarily walks on foot or rides on a bicycle till late in the evening, day by day, to reach the village at the foot of Kendeng Highlands. Tirelessly, she goes from one house to another, from one field to another, convincing the people not to sell their rice field and land. Her struggle bore sweet fruits. More and more residents joined the campaign rejecting the presence of a cement plant.
As a mother she cannot imagine the suffering that will befall her children with the presence of the cement factory. Even when she was pregnant she continued her struggle together with the child in her womb. She goes up and down the mountains, riding on trucks to go to the court house, meets with decision makers, and coordinates her friends to continue the fight for the integrity of creation in Kendeng Highlands. When nine protesters of the cement plant were accused of going against the government and were imprisoned, Gunarti kept the spirit of their wives alive. Threats come and go, but it never dampened her spirit. She even asked her family to accept wholeheartedly what might happen to her even if it means death.
When the construction of the cement plant in her area could be thwarted, she did not rest and enjoy the fruit of her struggle. She went to the other four areas encouraging women to continue their fight. Her calm presence always brings peace and strength to the other women in the four areas who have been living in tents in the forest for two and a half years as a sign of protest, hopeful that the construction of a cement plant in their villages will not take place.
They had been protesting for ten years but only one cement factory withdrew and five more cement plants from within and outside the country are striving to dredge the Kendeng Highlands. Although they are facing giants, their hearts never shrivelled. Gunarti with her friends are convinced that Mother Earth will be on their side.
Triune God, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you. Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made. Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is. Show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight. Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out. O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty.