THE SIGNS are on the wall. The last decade was the warmest on record. Of the 20 warmest years, 19 occurred since 2000, and evidence indicates that this is due to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity, the World Council of Churches 11th assembly has been warned.
The world’s scientists have now indicated that, at the current rate, the world could cross 1.5˚C hotter as soon as 2030. That is less than a decade from now, and well within the lifespan of most people alive today.
This was the stark context in which delegates and participants at the WCC assembly looked at concerted pressure, including divestment and boycotts, to press for a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuel dependency, and towards climate justice for the world’s poorest.
The story of the Pharaoh’s dreams in Genesis chapter 41, in the Hebrew Scriptures, illustrated receipt by Jospeh of the divine gift of divination to prepare the people to grapple with the impending crisis, said the Rev Dr Neddy Astudillo in the biblical reflection that opened the workshop on ‘Climate Justice from a Multifaith, Post-Colonial and Grassroots Perspective’ at the WCC global gathering taking place in Karlsruhe, Germany, from 31 August to 8 September.
Astudillo, a Venezuelan eco-theologian and Presbyterian pastor (PCUSA) based in the US who coordinates GreenFaith’s Latinx and Latin American Organising and Training, said that, as in times of Joseph and the Pharaoh, God has given us the spiritual gifts which allow us to transform ourselves, our communities and society to protect the planet and to create a loving and just world.
GreenFaith, the interfaith environmental organisation hosting the workshop in Karlsruhe, was founded in 1992 and is among the world’s oldest religious-environmental groups. It works in the areas of education and training, local organising, and campaigning. It has also played a leadership role in the world’s largest climate change mobilisations and in the fossil fuel divestment movement.
Meryne Warah (Kenya) and Martin Kopp (France) spoke about concerted efforts by GreenFaith to denounce the French oil company, Total, for its investment decision in favour of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Contrary to the company’s claims, more than 100,000 persons and dozens of sensitive ecosystems in Uganda and Tanzania stand to suffer the consequences of the company’s actions.
GreenFaith was instrumental in organising a visit by Christian delegations from Uganda and Tanzania to meet with Total top executives in Paris to express their concern that EACOP will bring climate chaos and biodiversity loss while already causing serious human rights violations.
Jocabed Reina Solano, Director of Indigenous Memory of the Kuna Dule people in Panama, shared how, in their culture, when a child is born, the placenta, the umbilical cord and the seed of a tree are jointly sown. When that child grows up, he/she knows that, in addition to belonging to the community, is also connected to the Earth and, in a particular way, to that tree.
“The rituals of indigenous peoples are the source of our spirituality. Although there are different challenges for indigenous communities around the world, we are held together by the umbilical cord of life”, said Solano.
The mobilisation of people of faith and religion fosters change, as demonstrated in the struggles for civil rights in the USA and against apartheid in South Africa, said the Rev Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and Executive Director at GreenFaith.
When dealing with the climate crisis, it is worth reminding the Irish saying: “Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?”, added Harper. “We have found people from all over the world, from different faith communities, who have woken up and say that everybody must be involved in the fight to save our planet.”