Secretary of State Caroline Spelman has said churches have a vital role to play at next month’s Rio+20 summit, which aims to tackle global poverty and create an environmentally sustainable future.
Speaking at a ‘Faith in Rio’ event hosted by four Christian development agencies, Christian Aid, Progressio, Tearfund and CAFOD, the Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs outlined the challenge facing the conference, which marks 20 years since the first Earth Summit in 1992.
‘We expect the global population to rise significantly. In just 13 years there will be an extra billion mouths to feed. I think that really brings home the challenge we face,’ she said.
‘By 2030 the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water and this will need to be produced without further damaging the environment.
‘We need Rio to hasten change across all sectors and all continents and we do not have the luxury of time.’
She added: ‘The churches have enormous reach. Reach into your own communities to engage them, reach into the wider global community.
‘Personally as a Christian I believe the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it and we have a responsibility to steward the earth’s natural resources, not just for our own generation but for future generations and Rio is an important opportunity to demonstrate just that.’
Also on the discussion panel at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster was the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Price, who said Jesus saw poverty as the greatest challenge for humanity.
‘If you were to ask Jesus what is the ‘good news’, he would give you a very simple answer: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised and the poor will have good news brought to them,’ he said.
‘So often what we do in relation to poverty in our world is to say we have concern for it. That’s not what Jesus had. Jesus saw poverty as the single biggest issue that humanity has to deal with.’
He also called on the Church not to be scared to speak out radically against injustice and oppression. ‘It frightens people when the church speaks about justice. It frightens people when the Church speaks about making peace in the world. It frightens people when you say we must stop this perpetual commitment to murder and killing that goes on in the world without due regard.’
Among the issues being examined in Rio is the creation of new Sustainable Development Goals designed to shape the future of development post-2015, when the current Millennium Development Goals come to an end. The new goals could cover poor people’s access to clean energy, food security, how farmers can use sustainable agriculture and the role of the private sector in development.