Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breaking Down Walls With Organic Farming

It is said that "Asia is going green." And in the forefront of the green movement is S. Korea, with 81% of its current economic stimulas package consisting of green projects. (In China it's 38%, in the USA 12%.) As evidence of Korea's commitment to organic agriculture, the next World Congress of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) will be held in Korea in 2011. Started by a gathering of five nations in France in 1972 and held every three years, IFOAM intends to spread the use of organic agriculture throughout the world.

The Gyeonggi Province of Korea has committed 2 billion won (US 2 million) to "encourage sustainable agriculture," and, in the words of Gyeonggi's Governor: to make Korea "the world's most environmentally friendly country by 2011.

The Catholic Church is also doing what it can to encourage the organic movement, and many are heeding the call. Two parishes have entered a sisterhood relationship to help further the production and exchange of organic products. Though not the first of these sister relationships in Korea, it has been given a great deal of publicity, the Peace Weekly covering it on the front page in a recent issue.

The parishes--one from a poor farming area with 8 mission stations and the other from one of the wealthiest areas of Seoul-- will have regular exchange of pastors, each pastor getting to know what the other is doing and learning from their parishioners as well. Both men are the same age, just under 50. Their pastoral mottos are similar: "Going along together," while the other is "A beautiful journey together."

The country parish produces 40 percent of the Chinese black mushrooms that enter the market. To help the farmers continue the organic farming, the city parish sends $2,000 to the country parish, and the country parish sends the produce to the city where the parishioners will have direct access to the farm goods. The pastor of the country parish has been working with farmers for a number of years and has a background in ecological studies. The plan is to have not only farm goods going to the city but an exchange of pastors and assistants; with the youth and other parish groups visiting each other in a variety of outings. Each parish will then have a fuller knowledge of the life of the other, bringing the two parishes closer together.

Will the two parishes have the passion to continue to work at realizing this vision? In Korea, as in many other countries, the priests are in a parish for a period of years, usually about six, and then changed. So the nature of this exchange will be determinied by those who follow, and will no doubt be influenced by how successful they will be in tearing down the walls that tend to arise in the course of time, making each parish an independent community. Such walls are not a sign of our Catholicism. May this understanding grow with the success of these movements.