Relocating church altar for environmental conservation

Relocating church altar for environmental conservation

14 January 2011

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Indonesia — A priest at the Masehi Injili Church in Timor (GMIT) has intentionally moved the church’s altar and sacred symbols to the forest, arid land, dry rivers and foothills.

Consequently, the priest, named Sefnat Sailana, was accused of spreading deviant teachings.

“I don’t care what other people say. It’s more important to protect nature. Isn’t man the younger and earth the elder? It is then proper if the younger respects the elder,” Sefnat told The Jakarta Post in Kupang after receiving an award for development innovation from the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Academic Forum recently.

Sefnat, 46, received the environmental award after almost 11 years serving as an environmental conservation motivator in South Alor district in a remote part of Alor regency.

He included environmental conservation programs in the church service’s agenda, such as Clean Saturday, when each resident is obliged to clean the village, separate organic from non-organic waste and make water traps on foothills.

He has one goal, which is to save the earth from human greed.

Anyone wishing to cut down a tree is obligated to plant five trees. Punishment awaits anyone caught cutting a tree arbitrarily by planting 100 tree seedlings.

“The penalty was agreed upon at a congregational meeting attended by parishioners and residents from other faiths,” said Sefnat.

Sefnat, a graduate from the Theological School at Artha Wacana Christian University in Kupang, added the environment would be saved when the water supply was adequate, so he motivated residents to jointly preserve water reserves, dig bio-pores and make rainwater traps to absorb rainfall.

“We have made thousands of bio-pores and water traps. Our surroundings have begun to turn green and our hard work has bore fruit. Now, residents no longer have to fetch water from the foothills because they can get water from their house yard,” said Sefnat.

He said the altar and sacred symbols were moved from the church to conduct a special worship in the forest to prevent forest fires and the use of potash and chemical pesticides.

“We also conduct special prayers at water sources to prevent their damage. After every rainfall, we carry out a religious service in the fields and later dig bio-pores and water traps,” he added.

Previously, there was only one spring here. Residents often engaged in fights because they had to queue for water. Now, springs can be found everywhere. The arid hills have become green.

“The number of springs increased after the presence of bio-pores and rainwater traps. To meet our clean water needs, we have independently installed pipes to homes. Each water user must chip in to maintain the pipe network. We do this for the sake of peace and harmony among the community,” he said.

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