Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims worldwide. This year it started May 27 and will end 30 days later, on June 25. It is observed as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad, according to Islamic belief. Its annual observance is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.
While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behaviour that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting except in self-defense. Food and drinks are served daily, before dawn and after sunset.
Each year the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue publishes a message to Muslims in preparation for the celebration of the end of Ramadan. Christians and Muslims, believers in one God, have an obligation to safeguard the world God created, said this year’s message.
“Our vocation to be guardians of God’s handiwork is not optional, nor is it tangential to our religious commitment as Christians and Muslims: it is an essential part of it,” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, respectively president and secretary of the pontifical council.
The council chooses a theme annually to promote dialogue by “offering insights on current and pressing issues.” The theme chosen for 2017 is “Caring for Our Common Home,” which echoes Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’.
“As believers, our relationship with God should be increasingly shown in the way we relate to the world around us,” Tauran and Ayuso wrote.
Pope Francis’ encyclical, they noted, was addressed “to the whole of humanity” and drew attention “to the harm our lifestyles and decisions are causing to the environment, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings.”
“What is needed,” they said, “is education, spiritual openness and a ‘global ecological conversion’ to adequately address this challenge.”
Since Christians and Muslims make up a major part of the world’s population, implementing this message would make a major difference to our global future.
On July 1 Canada will celebrate its 150th anniversary of Confederation. Our motto is: “A mari usque ad mare.” In English this is broadly translated as “From sea to sea to sea.”
Yes, Canada is bordered by three oceans: the Atlantic to the east, the Pacific to the west and the Arctic to the north.
On the Canadian Prairies we are not as affected by climate change on the oceans as are the coastlands of our continent or islands surrounded by water. However, there are less obvious consequences when oceans are not healthy.
Some of these were spelled out at the June 5 - 9 Ocean Conference at the United Nations. It attracted more than 3,500 participants from around the world. Speakers pointed out that the world’s oceans affect life across the globe in ways we may not be aware of. For example:
- oceans cover 72 per cent of the earth’s surface;
- oceans serve as the primary regulator of the global climate;
- oceans supply one-half of the oxygen we breathe;
- oceans absorb one-third of the carbon dioxide we produce;
- oceans absorb almost all of the earth’s excess heat;
- oceans are the main source of food for billions of people; and
- millions of people gain their livelihood from the seas.
Media reports warn us of the dangers of warming, pollution and acidification of the world’s oceans.
Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican delegation, noted that the oceans’ ecosystem health will depend on a change in our attitude.
“Much of the decline in the health of the oceans is a result of emphasizing rights and autonomies to the detriment of personal and collective responsibilities,” he told the conference. “Effective regulatory frameworks to safeguard the health of our oceans are often blocked by those who are profiting most from marine resources and who are intent on maintaining or increasing their advantages to the detriment of the poorer peoples and countries.”
Canada experienced the loss of its cod fish industry a decade ago, but that seems to be correcting itself after some severe restrictions were put in place. Let’s hope the same kind of measures and responsibility can restore the health of our oceans.