Roots and Wings – The traditional way of life, the environment and the future – Ecumenical Climate Pilgrimage in Setomaa, Estonia

An ecumenical pilgrimage crossed the historical border of the European East and West, from Obinitsa to Vana-Vastseliina in Setomaa, South-Eastern Estonia on 3rd August 2015. The event was part of the European network of pilgrimages towards the COP21 summit in Paris. It also marked the first time that the Estonian Council of Churches, the Ecumenical Council of Churches of Hungary and the Finnish Ecumenical Council organized a joint programme.


In our discussions, we made the observation that the political and technocratic attempts to respond to climate change have failed. There is need for a change of mind and new conviction to take up the means offered by the natural sciences to redirect the human influence on the planet. It is our Churches’ task to lead humanity in repentance and hope, proclaiming God’s saving will.


We were forty persons of all ages – Adventist, Baptist, Charismatic Episcopal, Lutheran and Orthodox Christians from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and the United Kingdom. We walked in drizzle and sunshine, shoulder to shoulder, carrying the cross and icons, through a beautiful landscape of villages and woods. We stopped in chapels and prayed together according to our various church traditions.


As part of the seminar programme, participants visited the Seto Kuningriik event in Obinitsa village, the 2015 Cultural Capital of Fenno-Ugric peoples.


The pilgrimage in Setomaa was organized in conjuction with two other ecumenical climate pilgrimages along the border of the European East and West, on 17th July in Ilomantsi, Finland, and on 14th to 19th August from Uzhgorod in Ukraine to Grabarka in Poland.


Christian response to climate change


On the day before our pilgrimage we shared our thoughts and concerns in a seminar on the Christian response to climate change.


Mr. Aare Hõrn, the international liaison officer of the Union of the Setomaa municipalities, presented the history and present situation of the Setu people. He explained how collaboration between Fenno-Ugric peoples, spanning the borders of nation-states, can help them recover parts of their shared cultural heritage, and revive aspects of their traditional lifestyle in harmony with God’s creation.


Mr. Jukka Uosukainen, who is the Director of the UN Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), shared his view on the future of the planet, in the light of the inter-governmental process of negotiations and agreements.


Rev. Dr. Panu Pihkala gave a presentation on The human being - farming and taking care of God’s creation, explaining the biblical foundation of Christian responses to environmental challenges.


Mr. Jozsef Dian, who is the lay president of the Csövar Evangelical Lutheran Congregation and has a long experience in municipal administration in Hungary, spoke about the Future of traditional agrarian lifestyle.


Rev. Ruudi Leinus, the general secretary of the Estonian Council of Churches, described the Estonian religious context by presenting the findings of a recent sociological study on Faith, life and life of faith.


We saw the situation of humanity in a gloomy light: We are on the deck of Titanic, seeing the iceberg, but we have not wanted to turn the rudder.” The gravity of the problem has been recognized a generation ago, but very little has been done. Together with Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Laudato Si’, we realize that we have failed.


We see catastrophic climate change, especially in the bread basket areas of the different continents. We are still possessed by the technocratic paradigm: we think that the world is unlimited, and our economy can grow endlessly. Lifestyles are dictated by those in power, and they are extremely consuming. We in prosperous countries must admit that because of our lifestyle we are responsible for poverty, deprivation, illness and premature death among the majority of humanity. Technology seems to be on the side of consumption. We look for solutions in a fragmented way, logical with a narrow, human-centred view on each problem. Technology determines economics and economics dictates politics. In order to be able to reach a global view that brings about change, we need our politics to be led by values and politics to direct economics and the use of technology.


We saw signs of hope in people who have woken up to the seriousness of this development. People’s movements and spiritual communities show that an alternative lifestyle is possible. Regional administrations and municipalities are taking steps that national governments are unable to achieve. The business and industrial communities are also beginning to see the inevitability of radical change.


Our Churches need to teach about God’s commandment in the Genesis that the humans should be stewards taking care of the creation, not owners and exploiters. We must realize the intrinsic value of all creation, as God’s love become visible, audible and palpable. Humans are not separate, not above the animals, plants and matter, but part of creation, brothers and sisters of other creatures. Our fate and our happiness are linked with the life of all creation.


Together with Patriarch Bartholomew we affirm the need to see the ethical and spiritual roots of the environmental problems. The way forward needs to be holistic, following God’s will for our relationship with other humans, animals, plants, and all of creation.


Kuvat: Haldi Leinus.

Suomen Ekumeeninen Neuvosto / Ekumeniska Rådet i Finland       Eteläranta 8 / Södra kajen 8            PL / PB 210          00131 Helsinki / Helsingfors

Lahjoita Suomen Ekumeenisella Neuvostolla on Poliisihallituksen myöntämä rahankeräyslupa. Keräysnumero on RA/2021/1503 ja keräyslupa on voimassa 9.11.2021 alkaen toistaiseksi koko Suomessa Ahvenanmaata lukuunottamatta.
Donera  Ekumeniska Rådet i Finland har ett penninginsamlingstillstånd beviljat av Polisstyrelsen. Insamlingsnumret är RA/2021/1503. Insamlingstillståndet är i kraft fr.o.m. 9.11.2021 tills vidare i hela Finland föruton på Åland.