By Metropolitan Gabriel of Nea Ionia and Philadelphia*
Let’s imagine our future as a white canvas. It is filled with forms and shapes according to our acts, actions and behaviours.
The truth is that, to date, we do not use very bright colours from the pallet. The dark ones are more dominant. Poverty, inequality, prosperity for a few and, unfortunately, not for the young people.
World leaders, from 193 UN member states, attempted in 2015 to define a different framework for the future. They set goals for sustainable development.
To live in quality, fairly, peacefully. To develop, in short, a framework by 2030 that will ensure prosperity and at the same time solidarity between the generations.
Even a young child realizes now the urgent need to ensure human dignity, regional and global stability, our planet’s health, justice and prosperity in our economies and societies. What is still being sought is the way to conquer all of the above.
How to integrate and implement the three dimensions of this “sustainable development”: economic, social and environmental.
The bar is not set as high as we imagine. It requires common will, a method and perseverance. And another “constituent”, in my view, a fourth dimension: the spiritual one.
Objectives become reality and are given substance through the formation of a strategy that is always inspired by the spiritual dimension.
I am not optimistic that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed through the cooperation of all UN member states, NGOs and ordinary people can be conquered, for granted, without spirituality.
This spiritual dimension essentially gives qualitative depth to the other three ones. It complements them, gives them substance and meaning.
In order to find the “agenda” of spirituality, no grand assemblies and high-sounding communiques are needed. It is enough to recall the things that, only a few months after the UN decisions – the Primates and Archpriests of the Orthodox Church from all over the world decided in Crete, at the Pan-Orthodox Synod, which analyzed and submitted substantive proposals for important ontological and crucial contemporary issues.
In this joint text of conclusions, we can find innumerable matches of the Church’s proposals with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
Priority has been given by the UN to young people and to future generations. “Young people are not simply the future of the Church but the potential and the creative present at a local and ecumenical level,” Orthodox Primates and Metropolitans pointed out in Crete.
Agenda 2030 sets “Lasting Peace.” For the “promotion of mutual trust, peace and recοnciliation” they highlighted in the Pan-Orthodox Synod, underlining that the religious experience must heal wounds and not rekindle the fire of war.
Bring an end to poverty, fight against inequalities, address climate change and invest in the well-being of young people: these are the goals of both sides, the UN and the Church.
Yes to technology, yes to scientific knowledge. Conquests that contribute to the well-being of societies. However, these data should go hand in hand with Christian ethics and patristic teaching to always emphasize the dignity of man and his divine destination.
To mobilize the will of man and to respond to serious moral and existential problems, to search for the meaning of life and the world.
The Church asks for the cultivation of consciousness for the rational use of natural resources and for convincing man to be the “housekeeper” rather than the holder of Creation.
If this notion becomes consciousness, then we are literally conquering the UN’s goal of the environment. At the Pan-Orthodox Synod there have also been concrete proposals on human rights and the substantial improvement of society.
By applying the Word of the Gospel, focusing on the person, respecting what we have received and ought to deliver to future generations, it might not be that difficult to make a human, spiritual agenda.
We do not have to invent something “new” – this agenda exists for years in the hearts of men and in the Gospel. It is enough to allow them to become a compass and to pervade our daily “colourless” life.
I cannot say for sure whether Agenda 2030 has proceeded into implementation. The hourglass has been turned over, many years now. Countdown against the young has started.
Against our children and those who will come to life after them. If we do not focus on this fourth dimension, if we do not see in the light of the other three dimensions, the labours will be futile.
Without focusing on the person, with a material-centred approach and an attachment to the prosperity of the numbers, we will have opened a hole on the canvas. Politics is the art of the possible.
However, there is not only one way to get to the possible. There is also that dimension that we must meet again and bring back into our lives.
*this article was originally published in Greek in “Kathimerini Sunday Edition”