By Pantau Gambut

In commemoration of Earth Day on 22 April 2021, Pantau Gambut had a dialogue with Roy Murtadho, who is fondly called Gus Roy, the founder of the Misykat Al-Anwar Ecological Islamic Boarding School and Media Islam Bergerak.

What does the relationship between humans, Earth, and God mean for you?  

Islam generally views human relations with other humans, God, and nature as an integral unit. If we want to measure how good our relationship with God is, one of the benchmarks is how good our relationship is with other humans (universal solidarity), especially people who are oppressed. Furthermore, with an environment that allows humans to live in it.

Moreover, in Islam, humans are placed as representatives of God on Earth (khalifatullah fil'ardh) whose main duty is to protect and care for life, including protecting the Earth. That is the religious spirit in Islam. As the word Islam itself means peace and safety, Muslims must save, not destroy.

How do you view the relationship now?

If we refer to the concept of humans as representatives of God on Earth as previously mentioned, then it is compulsory for us to care for the Earth and the life in it. The problem is whether all of this has been done by Muslims in the capitalism's mode of production with a crisis? Because the production machine in capitalism always requires at least two things: raw materials extracted from the Earth and the process of producing goods, as economically as possible whilst generating as much profit as possible. The question is, how do Muslims or other religious communities currently position the dominant economic system of capitalism that is destructive for their lives? Do they support it, which means supporting the ongoing destruction, or are they trying to create other production modes that are more environmentally friendly and safe?

The problem is that most religious people, especially Muslims, do not view capitalism as the main problem we are facing today. Therefore, we often hear the slogan that Islam is a religion that gives mercy to the whole world, but without realizing it, the reality contradicts this notion as Muslims help to support the capital expansion that degrades the environment and exploit workers. In my opinion, the failure to implement the hablumminallah principle i.e. maintaining good relations with God, hablumminannas i.e. maintaining good relations with humans, and hablumminal alam i.e. maintaining good relations with nature, is because we are still allowing the tragedy of joint ownership to be taken away by a few people to accumulate capital. Therefore, to put it simply we can utilize the Earth, we can utilize nature and the environment, but not unlimited capital accumulation and consumption.

In my opinion, khalifatullah or God's representatives on Earth are people who are aware of the dangers of capitalism and the crisis entailed, and as weak as faith say that the current system is useless and destructive. At the very least, the religious community should loudly protest against misguided government policies such as the development of food estates, expansion of extractive businesses by deforestation, and evicting indigenous peoples or farmers because, as we all know, cultivation on peatlands only creates problems instead of solving problems.

In the past, the one million hectare peatland farming project in Suharto's era proved to be a failure. Peatland drainage for large-scale agriculture will trigger fires during the dry season and cause flooding during the rainy season. Likewise with the extractive industry as they clear forests, causing flash floods such as the one occurring some time ago in South Kalimantan. Therefore, the religious community must respond to this wrong diagnosis from the government.

How do we place ourselves amid the massive environmental damage happening nowadays?

Yes, we should recover the ongoing damage. As previously mentioned, we have to identify the problem first then propose an alternative solution. The current condition is that 1% of people control the other 99%. This 1% of people continuously exploits and destroys the environment and nature as a whole. They control the economic and mineral resources in all parts of the Earth. Religious people should correct this inequality and provide a fair economic alternative.

At least, Dom Helder Camara, a liberation theologian dared to ask why people became poor and could afford food. In the context of global environmental damage, the question should be, “Who is destroying all of this? Why is this still occurring? Who benefits and loses from the destruction?” This is what we must propose because no religion supports destruction. Instead of allowing exploitation, religions teach love.

Religion should also play a role in informing us about the dangers of capitalism, the dangers of climate change, the dangers of deforestation, the dangers of waste, as a strategy to protect our lives from total destruction. Like it or not, we all have to fight against the damage caused by capitalism, because fighting this damage is a real manifestation of our love for the Earth and the organisms living in it.

We have to dare to break the silence in our faith which is deadlocked and barren in the face of the capitalist system. Faith must be restless. If not, perhaps religion is no longer relevant for our lives because it is unable to provide an antidote to all the crises we face today. Remember, Jesus appeared to resolve a crisis, so did Moses and Muhammad.

What is your expectation on Earth Day?

An analogy for my expectation is playing soccer. When soccer players are aware that they are going to lose at the last minute, the score is 3-0, but none of the soccer players gave up and stopped goalkeeping. They continued to fight and showed enthusiasm until the last minute.

The same applies for us, if for example, until the last minute we lost and could not save the Earth, but we have fought respectfully and as best as possible for our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. We have to live with this utopia. Even with bad predictions due to climate damage in the future, we must not stay silent. We must always break the silence, always share stories, and invite many people to join this initiative.

People who destroy the environment lose because they fail as humans and failed to become God's representatives on Earth. Meanwhile, those of us who struggle to recover the damage, we are actually winning, even though it looks like we are losing because we don't contribute to the damage and make the damage worse.

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