Desmond Tutu issues Arctic plea on climate change

By Ecumenical News International
5 Jun 2007

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has called for urgent action against the threat of climate change, while speaking in Tromsø, the largest Nordic city north of the Arctic Circle - writes Oivind Ostang from Oslo.

"We hold the planet's future in our hands. 'I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life'," said Tutu, quoting from the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible.

Presided over by local (Lutheran) Church of Norway Bishop Per Oscar Kjoelaas, Tutu preached at a 3 June service celebrating Creation Day as an introduction to the UN's World Environment Day, which was to be marked in Tromsø two days later.

Church leaders from Arctic countries, Africa and the Pacific participated in the service in the Tromsdalen church, as did Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and Norwegian government ministers Helen Bjoernoey and Erik Solheim.

Next to Tutu, in the pulpit, lay a large block of melting sea ice from Svalbard. The service ended in a procession to the Arctic shore, where Russian Orthodox Archbishop Simon of Murmansk blessed the ocean.

In his sermon, Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, said alternative energy sources needed to be taken seriously, and that all people must act now if the world is to be saved.

Lutheran Bishop Sofie Petersen of Greenland described the melting of snow and ice in her diocese as a major challenge to the traditional way of living for the Inuit people whose life has centred on their proximity to the ice cap.

Nigeria's Iyabo Oyekola said drought is forcing people to flee the countryside to over-crowded cities. And Terauango Benetri from the Pacific island state of Kiribati explained that his people will have little land left should the sea level rise.

The service took place according to a new liturgy developed by Bishop Kjoelaas, in cooperation with the World Council of Churches and with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment.

[With grateful 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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