A Rocha’s distinctive contribution to creation care
1. The conviction that Christ is Lord
A Rocha’s work is a response to God’s love for the whole creation, revealed in the Bible and personally in Jesus Christ. A Rocha, therefore, is not simply an association of people with a common Christian cultural heritage and shared interests in nature conservation, but an organization in which caring for God’s handiwork is done out of the conviction that Christ is Lord. This establishes the character of our work as both grateful and hopeful, and defines our methods which reflect the conviction that we are undertaking work to which we are called by Christ. Therefore, an expected part of the work of employees and trustees is praying for each other and encouraging each other according to the Christian Bible, and the main objective of all our work is to give glory to God.
2. Practical action
Our niche as one among many Christian environmental organizations is that we put God’s call to care for creation into practice in multiple local contexts worldwide. Our projects reflect a great diversity of cultures, communities, ecosystems and approaches, Our aim in all of them is to be characterized by good science and good biblical theology, by healthy involvement in local communities and local churches, and by being prepared to work alongside others who may not always share our beliefs. We seek to communicate the significance of our work to many audiences − particularly to those involved in the conservation world and to the global Christian community − and these explanations are born out of work with nature and out of convictions lived.
3. Credible advocacy
Our practical conservation activities give us credibility in the conservation world, where we are alongside others, often with common objectives. While A Rocha is distinctively Christian, we choose not to speak exclusively to Christian audiences. We are working to show God’s love for ALL creation, including all people. Some of our communications and environmental education activities are targeted at awakening the church to the imperative of stewardship — of caring for God’s creation as God does. However, the professional credibility of the work that we as Christian trustees, scientists, managers and educators do in practical conservation also enables us to speak to those who do not share our Christian convictions.
4. Diversity of cultures
In the context of the emerging realities of globalization and exclusion, A Rocha celebrates mutual relationships within a large number of A Rocha National Organizations. We work not only with a diversity of local habitats and a diversity of species, but also with a diversity of cultures. Our trustees and professional employees have a diversity of languages, and national and ethnic backgrounds that is important to the effectiveness of our work. Our emphasis on community leads us to value both our exchange of worldwide perspectives and our learning from one another.
Why Christians in conservation?
There are at least four good reasons for Christians to be involved in conservation.
Christians believe that God made the world. When we make something, whether it be as life-changing as giving birth, or as quick as sketching a picture, we care about what happens to our creation. This helps us to understand that God cares deeply about all his creation. The Bible makes this clear in many passages, e.g. Psalm 50:10 & 11, where God says ‘every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine’. Studying, thankfully enjoying and caring for the world that God has so wonderfully made is an obvious way for us to show our love for God.
Christians are called to obey God in every part of their lives. In the Bible, we find that God’s first words to men and women, were that they would rule over ’the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’ in a way that reflects his own image. Not just God’s power, but his unselfish love, mercy and tender compassion. Tragically, our rule has often been characterized by cruelty, greed and short-sightedness, but this was clearly not God’s intention. If we desire to obey God, then we must look for ways in which we can be good and responsible stewards of the natural world.
The environment is an issue of justice. Often it is the poor who suffer first when the environment is damaged through deforestation, pollution, desertification, climate change, or the unsustainable extraction of raw materials. The Bible shows God to be passionate about justice, and God’s people are encouraged to challenge oppression. In A Rocha’s experience – and that of many development and aid agencies – addressing biodiversity conservation and justice for the poor go hand-in-hand. It is a false division to suggest we have to choose. Rather, believing in a God who called the whole creation ‘very good’ – human and non-human together – we seek to find ways of ensuring that all creation can thrive together.
Those who care about the environment can easily become discouraged. The news is so often profoundly disturbing: the destruction of forests, the disintegration of coral reefs, the extinction of species, over-fishing, global warming and a multitude of gloomy forecasts can cause us to wonder if there is any point in even trying to take action. In contrast, the Bible provides much-needed grounds for hope. This is not a simplistic optimism: the Bible is realistic that things will often get much worse, but that is never the last word. The Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea foretell a time of human and environmental harmony. In the New Testament, Jesus is described not just as the Saviour of fallen humanity, but as the one for whom all creation was made − and as the one through whom all creation will one day ‘be liberated from its bondage to decay’ (Colossians 1: 15-17; Romans 8:19-23). We do not know how all this will be accomplished, but we are given motivation and hope. The Almighty God who created and sustains his world wants all people to be actively involved in this great plan to redeem the whole of creation.
This is just a brief introduction to the biblical basis of A Rocha’s work.