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Caribbean theologians look at Laudato Si’

By Kaelanne Jordan,

Caribbean theologians, scholars and students will honour Bishop Emeritus Anthony Dickson of Bridgetown, Barbados as a ‘Champion of the Environment’ during this week’s 19th Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT), in Paramaribo, Suriname. The biennial conference starts tomorrow and ends Friday, June 15.

On Thursday, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit will deliver the keynote address on his original and creative concept ‘Building the World’s First Climate Resilient Country’.

Under the theme Laudato Si’: Caribbean Responses, the conference will explore the relationship between theological reflection, religious activities and the everyday experience of Caribbean peoples.

There will be talks on ecology and spirituality, theology and the environment, climate change, the survival and rights of indigenous peoples and other areas of research involving theological reflection.

A release on the conference states “the recent catastrophic impact of hurricanes and tropical storms on the region, coupled with rising sea-levels, indiscriminate plastic waste disposal, deforestation and other environmental challenges all make Pope Francis’ call to action on climate change in Laudato Si’ poignantly relevant.”

Day one of the conference begins 6 p.m. with Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Karel Choennie of Paramaribo, welcome and introductory remarks, followed by the Dr Idris Hamid Memorial Lecture presentation by Dr Duncan Wielzen.

He will focus on ‘Towards pedagogy for sustainable development in the Caribbean and building upon the ideas of Caribbean theologians Idris Hamid and Peter Sjak-Shie’.

Dr Wielzen will examine the writings of the “two frontrunners” in Caribbean theology and some of their lines of thought in religion and education (from the Caribbean context) as pedagogical contributions to the problem of sustainable development.

Tuesday’s agenda comprises four presentations including Fr Esteban Kross of Suriname, ‘Laudato Si’ theological, scriptural and ecclesiological backgrounds’ and Trinidadian Dr Sylvia Rose-Ann Walker’s ‘Towards an integral ecology: A Caribbean Poetics’.

Day three commences with morning presentations from Bishop Clyde Harvey of St Georges-in-Grenada ‘Renewing the Face of the Earth: The Challenge to the Church of Caribbean Disasters’ and Jamaican Dr Anna Perkins’ ‘Lovindeer’s Wild Gilbert: Lessons from Jamaica in the wake of an iconic hurricane’.

Seminarian Stephan Alexander discusses ‘Exploring the Caribbean Humanist Philosophy of Fr Michel de Verteuil as expressed through the praxis of Lectio Divina’ and Fr Donald Chambers of Jamaica deals with ‘Authentic Human Relationships: Key to the restoration of the Caribbean’s Eden’.

The abstract for Fr Chambers’ paper states Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ is extremely relevant to the conditions within the region and must be examined if “Eden” is to be restored. For example, if human relationships are inauthentic then that inauthenticity translates into an artificial and therefore destructive relationship with the environment because both are divinely created and intended to be interrelated.

“Renewal of the environment, therefore is simply not only a question of ‘cleaning up beaches or public awareness’, but it must also be accompanied by the restoration of the relationships of injustice and inequality,” the abstract stated.

It continues, “Theologically speaking, the doctrine of the Incarnation will be engaged to demonstrate that God’s assumption of human nature occurred, not in vacuum, but in a physical space called the environment. Furthermore, I will argue that the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, not only signifies new possibility for the human persons and human relationships, but also the physical environment.”

The afternoon session continues with Msgr Patrick Anthony’s contribution ‘Honouring Bishop Anthony Hampden Dickson: Champion of the Environment.’

Thursday’s line-up of presentations includes: ‘Defending the integrity of the Amazon and its inhabitants: the Church’s involvement’ by Bishop Johannes Bahlmann; ‘Sweet Crude? Guyana confronts the Oil Curse’ followed by abstracts from Dr Gerald Boodoo and Sonia Hinds on ‘Living in Spaces: Indigenous Epistemologies and Geotheologies’; and ‘The Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission: Towards an ecological-womanish theology of nature.’

The CTCT was founded in 1994 by the late Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp (then director of the pastoral centre, Trinidad), Archbishop Joseph Harris (then rector of the regional seminary), Msgr Patrick Anthony (then director of the pastoral centre, St Lucia) and Fr Frans Huysman (then director of the pastoral centre, Dominica).