Bishop Karel Choennie, in his homily at the opening Mass for the 19th Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT) reminded theologians that as they embark on a mission to help “paint a Church with an Amazonian face”, their “first and foremost” task is obedience to God.
“Disobedience to God seems to be the original sin of all humankind,” the bishop of Paramaribo told Caribbean theologians, scholars and students gathered at the St Peter and Paul Cathedral, June 8.
Bishop Choennie shared a myth told by one of the local Amerindian tribes of a god named Tamoesie. The Amerindians were created by Tamoesie and they lived in peace. “They never got ill. They never died, and they lived in friendship with all animals. No mosquito would bite them, no jaguar attacked them. Food was in abundance…”
When Tamoesie would descend to earth from a golden stairway, no Amerindian was allowed to touch the golden ladder for he would immediately return to the heavens, the Amerindians would die, their friendship with the animals would cease to exist, food would become scarce and they would be plagued by diseases.
One Amerindian secretly wanted to convince himself that the ladder was of pure gold and scratched it. “And from that the Amerindians were bitten by mosquitoes, their crops were eaten and destroyed by animals and they became mortal.”
Bishop Choennie commented that the story of disobedience is our own story of Adam and Eve. “…I pray that you may be obedient that when that face becomes clear you do not fall in the temptation to touch the golden ladder,” he said.
Bishop Choennie also reflected on the Vatican’s preparatory document for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region to be held October 2019. The theme for the synod is New Paths for Church and for an Integral Ecology. The bishop believed that the pope gives an important role to the indigenous peoples.
He reiterated Pope Francis’ call that new paths for evangelisation must be designed for and with the People of God who live in the region: inhabitants of communities and rural areas, cities and large metropolises, people who live on river banks, migrants and displaced persons, and especially for and with indigenous peoples.
“The earth is sick and dying and the pope believes that listening to the Amazon and the indigenous peoples can bring about an ecological conversion,” Bishop Choennie said.
Like Pope Francis, he too observed that the Amazon rainforest, which is of vital importance for the planet, is in deep crisis triggered by prolonged “culture of waste” and a “culture of death”. In order to stop humanity on the path of self-destruction, Bishop Choennie urged theologians to cultivate a culture of love and stability.