Archbishop says voices of the poor are vital to climate change deal

By agency reporter
December 13, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has told an indigenous Ecuadorean farmer that her voice and the voices of the world’s poor are critical to achieving a strong climate deal for the most vulnerable communities.

Fabiola Quishpe (aged 42), who spends much of her time farming the land in her rural village high in the Ecuadorean Andes, is attending the pivotal Copenhagen summit as part of international development charity Progressio’s delegation.

She has spent the past week voicing her critical message – that strong action must be taken to avert devastating climate change – at a range of summit-related events.

“We are already noticing the effects of a changing climate” says Fabiola. “We need support from world and faith leaders and we need them to hear our voices. Otherwise our communities, our environment, our resources, will be contaminated and destroyed.”

Fabiola told Dr Williams how her small community is working to protect the Andean grasslands and striving to live in harmony with nature – and said she was pleased to meet the Archbishop because “we are all brothers – the sons and daughters of God.”

“It’s very important to hear your voice directly”, Dr Williams told Fabiola, adding later, “[People like Fabiola] are the people who carry the consequences of our decisions. Very often, they pay for what we’ve done. Therefore to hear their voices is a way of letting those without power have access to some of those who do have power and are making the decisions.”

He continued: “I hope Fabiola can take back from Christians here a message of real support and longing to hear more. We hope we can stay in fellowship and support.”

The Archbishop made time to meet with Fabiola following Sunday morning prayers at St Alban’s Church in the Danish capital – the only Anglican Church of its kind in Denmark.

During the service, led by the Archbishop, Dr Williams said the world was facing an “historic moment” as 192 states enter the second week of critical negotiations to agree a new climate treaty.

He urged the congregation to take bold steps to live more simply and do their bit to help protect the planet. “It’s difficult and simple all at once,” said Dr Williams. “You have to be different – but difference is within your grasp.”

The congregation sang ‘a hymn for COP 15’ to the tune of ‘Thy hand O God has guided’. Written especially for the service, it urged world leaders to “cut back greenhouse gas / that humankind in future / will not face death and loss.”

Tim Aldred, Advocacy Manager of Progressio, said: “The poorest communities on our planet are struggling to be heard in the global climate change debate. But they have the most to teach us about the consequences of failure to act and the way forward. We must listen carefully to their views here in Copenhagen as we approach a critical week which will determine whether or not we can avoid environmental disaster.”

Dr Williams said he was “praying hard and hoping hard” for a strong, fair and effective climate agreement, due to be concluded in the Danish capital in just five day’s time.

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