World churches' chief wants faiths to work together on climate change

By Ecumenical News International
24 Feb 2010

Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims could join Christians in persuading global leaders to agree to ambitious and sustainable goals at the next international talks on climate change if they joined forces, says the newly appointed General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.

Peter Kenny writes: The Rev Olav Fyske Tveit was speaking to journalists before he was officially installed on 23 February 2010 as the General Secretary of the WCC, a grouping of 560 million Christians from mainly Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant churches. On many issues, the organisation works closely with the Roman Catholic Church, which serves on some WCC committees.

"Climate change is a longstanding commitment of the World Council of Churches. Since 1983, we have been discussing how to respond to climate changes," said Tveit, a 48-year-old Norwegian who succeeded the outgoing General Secretary, the Rev Samuel Kobia, on 1 January.

Referring to the last round of international talks on climate change, the new General Secretary, who is a Lutheran, told journalists, "In Copenhagen at COP15, the WCC together with other partners was able to present more than half a million signatures to express the concern of Christians to those responsible to develop a clear, ambitious and sustainable agreement on climate emissions."

In Copenhagen during December 2009, said Tveit at his 22 February press conference, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had been the public face of Christianity, along with people from places such as Tuvalu and Greenland and many ecumenical partners.

Tveit said he was looking forward to COP16 in Mexico at the end of 2010, when again, "We hope to see the WCC in a convening role among churches and Christian organisations and agencies."

"But we also have to ask who else among people of faith will be there with the Christians", added Tveit. "Whether you are a Muslim, a Jew or a Hindu, the problem is the same. Can we, as people of faith, make our voice even stronger and ask for greater unison?" This, he said, would give the world leaders a better mandate to make sustainable and meaningful changes regarding climate change.

Tveit is the youngest General Secretary of the WCC since Willem Visser 't Hooft from the Netherlands led the WCC during its process of formation, and then after the founding assembly in 1948, three years following the end of the Second World War.

In his inauguration sermon, Tveit quoted from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Bible (13:2). The WCC leader noted that Paul had plenty to say in the letter, "about sharing everything in solidarity, [and] recognising one another as part of one body".

"In this letter we find the great hymn to and praise of love: 'If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but not love, I am nothing'," Tveit told his multi-faith congregation at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

• The link to Tveit's press conference is here: www.oikoumene.org/en/news/press-room.html

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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