THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY has been a major concern for many at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, meeting through to 8 September in Karlsruhe, Germany. At a press conference earlier this week, participants had an opportunity to highlight their particular concerns to the global media.
Speaking at a press conference on the second day of the assembly, Joy Kennedy, Moderator of the WCC working group on climate change, offered a very personal perspective on why we should all care about the future.
She explained: “I’ve been with the WCC climate change working group for many years. I’m a grandmother and I focus on intergenerational justice because climate change is affecting everyone – but more so particularly affecting those who are young and to yet [be] born. As a grandmother, I feel we must change our way of living on this planet so we have a survivable future.”
Julia Rensberg, delegate of the Church of Sweden and representative of the Sami Council within the Swedish Church, thanked journalists for their interest in climate justice for Indigenous peoples, who are impacted particularly severely by climate change and have been calling on the churches to match words with action.
“I’m a part of the Sami people, and [we have been] celebrating the Day of Creation – and for me that’s a big paradox”, she said, adding that “nature is fantastic. It’s magic. It’s beauty.”
We need Mother Earth to keep living, she said. “But today we are facing the climate crisis and up in the Arctic region it’s increasing faster than anywhere else”, she said. “We’ve seen the climate crisis coming for a long time.”
To Rensberg, Indigenous rights and climate justice are the same thing. “We need to unite as a church globally to help us survive this climate crisis”, she urged.
Bjorn Warde, delegate of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago, expressed joy at being able to voice his concerns at the assembly.
“We celebrate creation today, as there are many things about our creation that we love”, he said. “Yet we see flooding in our own lands. We see mudslides happening onto the beaches.”
He added: “For those of us who know about the Caribbean and we see paradise, we who live in the Caribbean also see the affects of climate change very present within us.”
Journalists asked questions that ranged from the rights of Indigenous peoples, exploring churches’ practical response to climate change, and how the WCC solidifies and extends its climate work.
Action at the assembly has included a youth-organised climate strike. Delegates have also been taking formally and informally about a range of action, including church divestment from the fossil fuel industry.