Amish Community: The Caretakers of the Earth
Panjim-Goa: Amish people who live mainly in America and Canada give the first and important place to God in their life. They love God by faithfully following his 10 commandments. Their life is governed by the Bible, an unwritten code of behaviour called the Ordnung, and their traditions. They live, work, and do everything as a unified small community. They will not sacrifice the importance of the community for their individual convenience. They respect their community and find their true identity remaining with their community.
They are people who, in their respect for the law of God, cherish the earth and keep it safe by promoting waste and pollution-free methods of agriculture and cottage industries. Their lifestyle is really simple but filled with joy and cheerfulness without electricity, TV, phone and modern gadgets, etc. Their life is the living testimony for others how to live in this world in harmony with others and nature.
They do not have church buildings. Every Sunday they meet at the house of a member in rotation for three hours to listen to scripture reading from the Bible, sermon by the bishop or pastors and singing and prayers. It is followed by lunch prepared by everyone and socializing. They sing without instrumental accompaniment or harmony.
They believe in dialogue with the community and not in arguments and fights. They strictly abide by what is agreed upon by their community from time to time. They are peace-loving people and do not use any arms to defend themselves. They live as a community like that of early Christians. Among them, nobody is too rich or very poor. They support one another at all times. They are not caught in the web of uncontrolled and unlimited progress and civilization. They know how to accept the limits of development.
They do not discard their past but remain faithful to their tradition and culture. Their life is built upon cooperation, unity, fellowship and not on competition or boosting of personal ego. They live a contented life with minimum and basic things. They do not believe in accumulating wealth. They live for their basic needs and not for their greed. They have no bank accounts or insurance policy or any social security. They find security in God and in their community.
Most of the food items which they eat are produced by them in their farms. They stitch their own clothes. Their children attend their own school, where besides reading, writing, they learn their rules and customs. They live a quiet life, without interfering in the lives of others. They live and practice what they believe. They believe that true happiness comes through their faith in God, disciplined life, simple lifestyle in harmony with others and nature. Amish lifestyles vary from community to community. Yet, simplicity is their hallmark. Usually, they avoid alcohol. Even those who take it, always with moderation.
Funeral practices vary across Amish communities. But all of them reflect the core Amish values of simplicity, humility, and mutual aid. Funeral services are held at home rather than using the funeral parlour as Americans do. Instead of eulogy of the dead person, they focus on biblical accounts of the resurrection. Gravestones are uniform, modest and plain. After a funeral, the community gathers together to share a meal.
They are really people of God and true caretakers of the earth. They use the earth for their livelihood but never exploit it. They live in this world, but not of it. They are the torchbearers to carry on God’s divine vision and mission. As human beings, there will be a few shortcomings and negative aspects in their life. The main problem is inbreeding. Due to this, mental disorders are found, but the Amish do not reveal them to the outside world. They take care of each member of their community. Divorce or birth control are absent among them. Compared to us who claim “progressive, modern, developed, civilized, educated” their shortcomings are negligible. In India, Adivasi tribals lived in the past like the Amish. Unfortunately, they are swallowed in the lifestyle of the mainstream of India and thus lost their unique identity.
Since I lived a somewhat Amish way of life in my village, till I joined the Jesuits, I am convinced that simplicity of life and living in harmony with others and nature will save our planet. Industrialization, modernization, wars, and uncontrolled exploitation of the earth has wounded it and caused innumerable problems, promotes new diseases and pandemics. We have forgotten that we are not the owners or masters of the planet and universe. We are merely the caretakers of it. When we realize the truth that we are pilgrims on this planet, then we will become enlightened persons and we will fulfil the dream of our creator. One of the most important aspects of rearticulating human development is to emphasize the need for fairness to nature and other living beings. We cannot be developed unless our lives become reconnected and in balance, cooperation and harmony with nature. Up to now, our focus was human-centred development. We have to give up this concept to save our planet and ourselves. We have to promote earth centred development, where humans, other creatures and nature live a blended life.
If it is God’s will, I want to live and work with my hands for the rest of my life (I have completed 70 years) in a remote village farm in Goa as a Jesuit in the arms of our mother earth like the Amish community. My dream is to live using exclusively solar energy, organic cultivation free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides, plastic, pollution and garbage-free campus, promoting eco-spirituality, promoting green revolution by planting more trees, living in harmony with nature and promoting friendship with others, abandoning modern gadgets like TV, refrigerator, washing machine, air conditioner, computer, etc. In short, a life of simplicity, humility and solidarity with nature and with those who live on campus. I am a dreamer like that of Jacob’s son Joseph in the Old Testament.