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Care for creation and affirmation of faith values in addressing the impact of climate change were highlighted in a number of initiatives organized by members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Lima, Peru. The capital is hosting the 20th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, from 1-12 December.
On 8 December, the Methodist Church of Peru (IMP), a WCC member church, organized a panel discussion titled “Christians Committed to Care for Creation”. The activity held at the Casa Metodista was the highlight of a day generating dialogue on issues at stake in the COP 20 and the Peoples’ Summit.
Bishop Samuel Aguilar, head of the IMP, opened the conference and introduced the speakers. He stressed the importance of recent decisions of the church leadership, including issues of climate justice as a priority. “This event marks our openness to become a church that is fully committed to be proactive in the care of God’s creation,” he said.
Rev. Milton Mejía, a Presbyterian pastor from Colombia and coordinator of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) programme on Faith, Economy, Ecology and Society (FEES), presented at the panel. He shared three recent ecumenical documents that offer valuable insights into new interpretations of the unjust structures that cause poverty and harm the environment. These documents were The Accra Confession issued by the World Communion of Reformed Churches in 2004, the São Paulo Statement 2012, a common initiative of the WCRC, the WCC, the Lutheran World Federation and the Council for World Mission, and the WCC’s The Economy of Life: An Invitation to Theological Reflection and Action issued on 28 November from the WCC project on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology.
“We received the invitation of the WCC and we are joining the pilgrimage of justice and peace, sharing local examples and initiatives that can foster hope and transform the world around us,” said Mejía. “Economy of life is a concept that values our good relationship with the environment,” he added.
Mejía also mentioned the document Climate, Faith and Hope: Faith traditions together for a common future issued last September by representatives from different faith and religious traditions gathered in New York City for a consultation promoted by the WCC.
Rev. Pat Watkins, from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of the United Methodist Church USA, was among the speakers on the panel. He spoke on how important it is to rescue “relations with the environment”.
“Our historical ministry to the world’s poor must be extended to the land,” he said. “We need to heal our relationship with God in the given land. Our relationship with God must reflect in our relationship with the Earth,” he continued. Watkins is the first missionary for the Care of God’s Creation at the GBGM, working directly with the general secretariat.
Despite impressive numbers of activities held in Lima over the two weeks of the COP 20 and the 5 days of the Peoples’ Summit, the panel of the IMP was seen by many church representatives as an especially important first step towards a stronger involvement of the local churches on issues related to the environment.
Rev. Enrique Alva Callupe, president of Evangelical Council of Peru, expressed his gratitude for the unprecedented initiative. “We hope that the example of the Methodist Church of Peru can encourage other local churches to take steps to address the issue of climate justice to their ministry and mission,” he said.
Faith voices for climate justice
On 9 December at the University Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, the WCC programme executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice and head of the WCC delegation at COP 20, Dr Guillermo Kerber, moderated a roundtable on Eco-theology and inter-religious dialogue as part of the initiatives of the conference “COP 20 – Perspectives from the South”. Two members of the WCC delegation at COP 20 were among the list of six speakers.
Rev. Dr Grace Ji-Sun Kim, visiting researcher at Georgetown University in the USA and member of the WCC’s Working Group on Climate Change, shared that her studies on comparative theology are helping her identify key concepts of the Christian faith that are also fundamental to other religious expressions, such as wisdom and the understanding of the Holy Spirit. “Among the issues that should unite us, there is also a strong common concern about sustainability as a faith value,” she added.
For Rev. Dr Henrik Grape, officer for sustainable development at the Church of Sweden, one of the important issues at stake in Lima is that several levels of the society, like churches and faith-based organizations, can take part on the process of changing structures that harm the environment. “It is time for faith expressions to be more proactive in the discussion about the choices made by humanity,” he said.
COP 20 will go on until Friday 12 December and is expected to forge a solid path towards COP21-CMP11, at Paris, France in 2015. The conference aims to come up with the desired legally binding instrument to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including effective financing tools for adaptation of the most vulnerable communities and regions. Churches, faith communities and civil society are pleading, requesting, demanding: “Climate Justice for All”