The Lenten season should not only remain a period of fasting and reflection. It must lead to a “tangible” conversion in all aspects of one’s human life—conversion in our relationship with the earth, conversion in the relationship from person to person, and conversion in the relationship between man and God.
“In these 40 days we want to reflect on our lives, both as an individual and as a community. A good reflection requires that we acknowledge where our weaknesses lie and how they led us to sin. We understand sin as a breach in our relationship with God, with each other and with the rest of creation. To restore this harmony, therefore, repentance is needed on all three levels…,” Bishop Karel Choennie of Paramaribo said in his Lenten message. His full message was published in diocesan weekly, OMHOOG
In it, the Bishop said that this would require a conversion in thinking about nature and a deep realisation that the loss of creation is caused by human action.
“… When we look at a map of Suriname, we see that a shockingly large part of our country has already been given away in concessions and permits, while there is no arrangement for the Indigenous people and Maroons,” he said.
Bishop Choennie added that the way in which people relate to each other also underlies the damage that is caused to nature. He explained that sin has created a “break” in the relationship between people.
“Consumerism is essentially a sick desire to only take and have. We consume to fill a big gap in our soul, which is caused by growing individualism……In a healthy community, people feed each other, materially as well as mentally and emotionally.”
Bishop Choennie believed that society can learn a lot from the way in which the indigenous man lived in harmony with nature. “They only gained what they needed at that time for themselves and their families. They did not collect to pot or to trade. We can learn from their community spirit, and regret that the first thing that destroys modernity is solidarity,” he said.
Of a conversion in relationship between man and God, the Bishop commented that citizens live in a world that is dominated by the philosophy that man is capable of developing and improving himself and everything around him infinitely and unlimitedly. He said that this belief goes against the relationship of man to God and thus perpetuates the ultimate break with God.
Bishop Choennie concluded his message calling all Surinamese, especially the religious community to make ecological conversion a priority.