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Spirituality and Environmental Justice: Interview with Seminarian Arvin Jesse Santos

Spirituality is more than saying prayers or following religious traditions. Rather it is about living a life that fulfills God’s will on Earth. Spirituality is how we relate with ourselves, with others, with everything else around us, and with God. It is the way we view and interact as rooted from our beliefs. In this, spirituality is irrevocably linked to environmental justice. To protecting the world we live in.

Environmental justice is simply giving the environment its due protection. The world is so created for us to thrive, and it would only be just to protect it the same way we all have benefited and can still benefit in the future.

environmental justice

When we think about spirituality and environmental justice, it is important to remember that we live in a wasteful and conflict-ridden world. Our lifestyles, comforts and conveniences, are enabled by the system that works through environmental degredation. However, trying to do what is right is not futile. How do you practice a spiritual life in the midst of a wasteful and conflict-filled world? Simple – do all things in love. In trying to do the little things with great love – consistent prayer; small acts of reducing, reusing, and recycling; little household environmental acts – I believe that we can center ourselves on God and stand with the banner of hope for the whole world.

To know further on we can practice spirituality and uphold environmental justice amidst the chaotic world we live in, I interviewed Arvin Jesse Santos, a seminarian, social advocate, and minister. He discusses the relationship between spirituality and responsibility to the environment. He also talks about the Christian way of life, of how doing things lovingly will lead to wisdom and environmental preservation.

Get inspired by Arvin’s insights on how to live sustainably while keeping a deep spirituality.

What does the environment mean in the life of a Christian?

God created the heavens before the birds. He created the sea before the fishes. He created the Garden before human beings. God designated a sacred and living space for us to encounter and meet Him. The environment is God’s gift to us and to all living creatures as the place of thriving and growing, and we are designated as the caretakers of such a beautiful space.

What does God’s commandment of stewardship in Genesis mean?

The stewardship entrusted to us by God is not so much a responsibility we owe to Him, because to be honest God does not need us nor the environment. The task of being stewards of creation is for us to grow in the environment He has graced us with. In taking care of creation, we take care of ourselves and others.

How do you become spiritually aware and sensitive to nature?

One must, therefore, be able to encounter creation by the senses. A method I recommend is the “See, Reflect, Judge, Act.” One can only become spiritually aware and sensitive to nature when one sees the beauty and the brokenness of our environment today. When one gets to experience how beautiful the environment is and to witness how the environment is being degraded and destroyed. letting these experiences touch his heart, one can feel the connectedness of the human being to the environment.

How do you reconcile being a good Christian with taking care of nature?

God is the Creator. We are all His creation. Like a “kuya” or an older sibling to the rest of creation, gifted with wisdom and free will, we are entrusted with taking care of our surroundings.

What does “find God in all things” mean?

To find God in all things simply means to see the little perfections in everything, and to see how the imperfections present in all of these – even ourselves – point us to the reality of a perfect God.

Explore how environmental justice works with the values of Christ’s teachings.

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. … Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.” (Matthew 6: 26, 28-29)

Jesus reminds us that God takes care of all of creation as a Father, and because we are called to be “perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48) we ought to share in this caring and loving. 

About Arvin Jesse Santos

Arvin Jesse was a former Campus Minister of Ateneo de Zamboanga Junior High School. He likes to struggle with doing good things, though not perfectly. He believes that our little acts of love can ripple and create a wave of change.

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