The joy and excitement of being part of the Religions for the Earth and World Council of Churches (WCC) and Religions for Peace’s Interfaith Summit on Climate Change, the People’s Climate March and other climate change meetings was amazing for me and beyond the expectations of many people who attended.
Many of the climate change events in New York City were mountaintop experiences. There were so many events and opportunities for listening to legends, leaders, and politicians concerned about saving the planet. Among the special speakers were Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org), Chris Hedges (American journalist), former Vice-President Al Gore, Jan Eliasson (Deputy Secretary-General at the UN), Iriama Margaret Lokawua (Indigenous Women Environmental Conservation Project), James Forbes (Senior Minister Emeritus of the Riverside Church), Vandana Shiva (board member of the International Forum on Globalization), Serene Jones (president of Union Theological Seminary), and Jim Wallis (founder and editor of Sojourners magazine). All these people were prophetic in their call to change our ways, live lovingly and think about saving the planet.
Of course after a mountaintop experience, we must come down from the mountain. The presenters will continue their activism. Many who marched and participated will return to their homes energized to do something about sustainability and climate justice. For all of us, the question will be, “What will we do differently to help save this planet?”
The WCC and Religions for Peace, who co-organized the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change, had 30 signatories a statement that was presented to the United Nations to urge them to continue the effort to address climate change. The statement reads in part: “We acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is human-induced and that, without global and inclusive action towards mitigation and unless fully addressing its fundamental causes, its impacts will continue to grow in intensity and frequency. At the same time, we are ready to dialogue with those who remain skeptical.”
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC General Secretary, has a great vision on how the World Council of Churches can continue to be a prophetic voice at the forefront of those working on our urgent topic of climate justice. Dr. Fykse Tveit challenges us with his words:
“The interfaith movement is also a people’s movement. Our ‘Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in the WCC’ belongs to this people’s movement, as we saw on the streets of New York and in many other cities of the world this weekend. We as churches are part of this people’s movement. We will bring our specific contribution to this movement from our Christian faith perspective.”
A Multifaith Service held on Sunday Sept. 21, 2014 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine sounded the call to work for justice. Each person shared a deep, powerful statement; each speaker urged us to act and save God’s wonderful creation. It was one of the most inspirational services I have ever attended.
As we come down from the mountaintop, let us join in action and reflection. Without a sustainable planet, we stand without food or energy, as if we stood beside a burnt down house in the desert. The earth groans and calls to us out of pain. We need to act. But our action should be inspired by a profound reflection And act now.
The urgency to help save the planet is already serious, and constantly grows. We cannot stop after one week in New York, but we need to be continually motivated and act. Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) spoke at the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change. Figueres stated,
“We must be at net zero emissions over the next 50 years…we will have many ups and downs. We cannot let all the downs bring us down. We have the responsibility to remind ourselves, we human beings know what is right. We will act on what is right. We need the courage to act on what is right.”
I am not a scientist and do not know everything about the scientific data on climate change. But I do know the effects it has on the people, animals, and the earth. My reflections about climate change give me deep concern about the devastating consequences it has had, and will have, on my children and their children. Youth at the Interfaith Summit stressed the intergenerational justice dimension of the climate crisis. We have scientific data and people do not change their ways. We need to make a moral plea, as Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit reminded us at the opening of the Interfaith Summit.
We need to be prophetic and proclaim to the people of the world that our behavior must change. It is not just Christians, but followers of all religions and beliefs who need to commit to love one another and love the earth. We must accept each other in order to share this great imperative. We must work together and work hard. We must live in unison with each other. We need to hold hands together and take concrete steps to save one another and save God’s creation.
God’s creation can sustain itself. We are destroying it. As we come down from the mountaintop, let us remember: we are all interconnected and therefore we need to learn to live in harmony with one another and with creation. Let us remember and let us act: act in love for one another and for God’s creation.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University. She is the author of 6 books, Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style” co-written with Joseph Cheah, Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers (Palgrave), Contemplations from the Heart (Wipf & Stock), Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press). She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.