Birhor Tribals collecting firewood from the forest. Photo by Edward Moon-Little

“Even if we don’t acknowledge it, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we produce—it all depends on healthy ecosystems. That is a lesson we can learn from indigenous peoples and local communities who know this already, and who are actively conserving and managing lands.” Dr. Pamela McElwee, Associate Professor of Human Ecology at Rutgers University

The Birhor Tribe in Jharkhand, India are historically a nomadic forest-dwelling people whose culture and livelihood depend on the forests in which they live. They did not take more from the forest than it could give or abuse the plants and animals; the Birhor’s existence depended on a sustainable forest ecosystem, a harmony with creation.  

Like the family in Sister Joel’s story, the Birhor’s way of life has been eroded by deforestation and the government’s taking the forests in which they lived, leaving both the Birhor and the forest poor and vulnerable.  

Is there a piece of land to which you are connected? How do you care for it, and how does it care for you? Is it an equal give and take? Please take a few moments to reflect on these questions, then read the prayer below.

Prayer for Creation

O God of Life, grant us the grace to grow deeper in our respect of
And care for your Creation.

O God of Life, help us to recognize the sacredness of all of your
Creatures as signs of your wondrous love.

O God of Life, help us turn from the selfish consumption of
Resources meant for all and to see the impacts of our
choices on the poor and vulnerable.
Gracious Creator, hear our prayer.