About 30 global religious leaders working in their churches and organizations on environmental justice and advocacy for climate change met last month for the World Council of Church’s (WCC) Working Group on Climate Change in Wuppertal, Germany.
This group tackled the urgent issue of climate justice — as there are environmental problems caused by rich nations that affect others. This includes, for example, the great Pacific garbage vortex and depletion by U.S., Japanese, and Norwegian fishing of species, such as cod, on which smaller countries depend for sustenance, creating conditions that affect vulnerable communities around the globe. Climate change is affecting those in Africa as it dries up their land and enlarges the size of the Sahara desert. It affects Asia as huge storms flood broad areas of coastline, devastating homes and lives. Climate change is affecting the most vulnerable populations, which live near vulnerable croplands and shorelines and depend on farming and fishing for their livelihood. Climate change creates weather that takes lives and destroys communities.
Climate change workers realize that those who have contributed the least to CO2 emissions are (and will be) suffering the worst consequences. Jesus talked about the poor and the vulnerable — the poor are in our neighborhoods and communities. When we look around the globe, the victims of climate change are the faces of the poor, the oppressed — the “widow, orphan, and stranger” in biblical terms. We must take seriously an attenuation of our lavish lifestyles and see how unbridled consumption is affecting the most vulnerable climates and peoples around the globe.
There are many organizations and religious groups around the world taking environmental justice as a priority —WCC and United Evangelical Mission among them. Dr. Jochen Motte of UEM, who has worked with WCC for the past six years, said the UEM: “will support churches which continue or even start advocacy work to stop exploitation of natural resources where people’s livelihoods and biodiversity are endangered. Based on these experiences but also in view of the urgency to come soon to binding global commitments of states to reduce CO2 emissions drastically, it recommends to the WCC to give priority to climate justice and ecological protection and to establish it as a core theme and program for the coming years.”
The WCC working group on Climate Change has opportunities to visit churches and denominations that are working extensively in ‘care for creation’ and working toward climate justice. It has a large task ahead of it as its members continue to reflect theologically and act on what it means to be caretakers of God’s creation. The group is tasked with event planning; working with organizations; helping churches and faith leaders to continue to fight against environmental justice; advocating at the national and international level; and fostering caretakers of the earth.
In fact, we all need to advocate for climate justice and work toward protecting the earth. This includes Christian churches as well as all other religions around the globe. As an important ongoing dialogue on saving the earth continues, it is crucial to bring that dialogue to faith leaders in all religious backgrounds around the world, so all may work toward environmental justice with a united voice.
To this end the WCC will be organizing an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change (ISSCC) to promote dialogue with faith leaders and call the United Nations and climate international negotiators to effectively respond to the climate threat. Spreading this dialogue is crucial as the climate crisis is urgent and worldwide. WCC’s Dr. Guillermo Kerber states that, “Building on earlier interfaith declarations, such as the Uppsala Interfaith Climate Manifesto in 2008, the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change (2009) and Climate Justice and Sustainable Peace in Africa Declaration (2011), the ISCC will adopt a statement which will convey to heads of states, international negotiators, and faith communities a common message on the threat of climate change and the importance of a fair and ambitious outcome of the international climate negotiations. This statement will be presented to the UN Secretary General.”
The ISCC will take place immediately before the Climate Summit called by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 23 in New York. This Summit aims at catalyzing actions by governments, business, finance, industry, and civil society in areas for new commitments that will help the world shift toward a low-carbon economy.”
Efforts of both Dr. Kerber and Dr. Motte are to be strongly supported, as they continue to lead the Christian community and other religious communities in working toward sustainability and care for the world. Hopefully their efforts will further mobilize religious leaders around the world to understand the urgency of climate change and join in the efforts of saving the world God gave us.
As we reflect on Jesus’s message to us, “Do it to the least of them, you do it to me,” we need to live this out faithfully. Today, the “least of them” are also the victims of climate change. Thus we must change our ways of greed, overconsumption, and wastefulness to protect them. During this time of urgent climate change, we all need to listen to the groan of the winds, the trees and the seas and the cries of its victims, in short the groaning of creation, and defend victims’ rights, allowing their voices to be heard around the world.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim received her M.Div. from Knox College (University of Toronto) and her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. She is a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University.
Image: Creation care illustration, Luisa Venturoli / Shutterstock.com