Indian Christians undertake carbon fast on Good Friday

New Delhi (matters India): A Catholic priest surprised the solemn mood of Good Friday with a unique request to his faithful in a New Delhi parish.

“Please switch off your mobile phones for two hours from 7 pm today. Spend that time in talking to your family members,” Father John Puthuva advised some 700 people who had gathered at Blessed Mother Teresa Church, Indraprastha Extension, for the Good Friday services.

The services included several readings from the Bible, Communion, the Way of the Cross that last nearly two hours, kissing of the cross and drinking of a bitter juice.

Father Puthuva wanted his people to cut Internet and stay away from computers and mobiles. He also advised them to refrain from using social media networks such as WhatsApp and Facebook. Modern communication methods, he added, have kept people from real communication with people.

The Delhi parishioners were not alone to undertake carbon fast during Lent.

In Mumbai, Fr Suren Abreu, pastor of Our Lady of Health Church in Sahar, came up with the idea of a “carbon fast” during Lent.

“By reducing our carbon footprint in Lent, we’re not only abstaining from luxury and bettering ourselves but we’re bettering the world around us,” said Rachael Alphonso, 25, who is part of an innovative group called the “Green Madcaps.”

Father Abreu said people traditionally observed Lent as period of abstinence and prayer refusing to take one’s favorite food items and enjoying luxuries such as movies.

Conventional means of abstinence include missing a meal, turning vegetarian, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes as well as fasting on certain days during the Lenten period.

For Latin Catholics, Lent covers a period of approximately six weeks and ends on Easter Sunday. The Oriental Christians in India, including the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholics, observe seven weeks of Lent.

“To this, we thought of adding a plan to protect the environment. Creation is a gift from God that we must protect in order that this gift be available for generations to come,” Father Abreu said.

Way of the Cross at I.P. Extension, Delhi

Way of the Cross at I.P. Extension, Delhi (Agnes Jaise)

Fr Nigel Barret, spokesperson for Bombay archdiocese, told Scroll the idea of carbon fast was taken up by Catholics all over the city. Suggestions of steps to take include composting your own household’s waste, riding a bicycle to commute, using a cloth bag while shopping and buying locally grown produce. “We suggest small measurable daily tasks for people to follow to cut down on their carbon footprint,” said Abreu.

Carbon fasting for Lent is a growing global trend. In 2008, the Church of England had asked people to cut down on their carbon footprint as a form of abstinence.

“Traditionally people have given up things for Lent. This year we are inviting people to join us in a carbon fast. It is the poor who are already suffering the effects of climate change. To carry on regardless of their plight is to fly in the face of Christian teaching,” the Bishop of Liverpool told the Guardian.

In Kerala, southern India, the Orthodox Church had called for a “cyber fast” for a 24-hour period starting 6 pm on Thursday. The second largest faction of the ancient church of the St. Thomas Christians in India asked its more than 3.5 million laity to switch off their mobiles, computers and even TVs for a 24-hour period starting Thursday 6 pm till the end of the Good Friday service, said PA Phillip, who heads the human empowerment department of the church.

“In the modern world can anyone think of not having a mobile in one’s hand. So much so, a new word has been coined for it — ‘nomophobia’ (no-mobile phobia). The Church is doing its best to instill better values among the new generation, and tackling the cyber world is one,” Philips added.

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