Faith groups promote climate justice

COP20 Kickoff

On first day of 20th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Lima, Peru, Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC head, and Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peruvian minister for Environment, lighted candles marking the end of fasting by religious and environmental groups in Fast for the Climate. (WCC photo by LWF/Sean)

LIMA, Peru — Members and partners of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which includes The United Methodist Church, are promoting the cause of climate justice from a faith-based perspective at the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) here.

COP 20, which began Dec. 1, is another step in the long path to attain a just, ambitious binding instrument to replace the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997. COP 20 aims to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions, and adapt to the climate change affecting millions of people around the world.

United Methodist delegations are attending the event from both the General Board of Church & Society and the General Board of Global Ministries.

The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol is taking place from Dec. 1-12. COP 20/CMP 10 is being hosted by the government of Peru.

United Methodist delegations are attending the event from both the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) and the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). GBCS’s delegation includes John Hill, director of Economic & Environmental Justice; the Rev. Liberato Bautista, who directs the agency’s U.N. & International Affairs Office; the Rev. Molly Vetter, chair of the Board of Directors work area on Economic & Environmental Justice; and Jhayr Canda, a young adult from the Philippines who is working in the Tacloban area on disaster recovery post-typhoon.

GBCS brought a young adult delegation from across Africa to the 2011 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. And last year, Daniel Obergfell a GBCS board member from Germany joined Hill in Warsaw, Poland, for the U.N. Climate Change Conference. GBCS believes it is critical to build capacity and equip persons across the United Methodist connection to engage and connect these talks and decisions with the lives of local people, according to Hill. He cited as an example of this, Canda and the destruction from super typhoon Yolanda.

Methodist Church of Peru

Besides COP 20, civil-society organizations, networks, social movements, research centers and communities have organized the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change, Dec. 9-12.

The Methodist Church of Peru (IMP), a WCC member, is involved in the activities related to both COP 20 and the Peoples’ Summit. On Dec. 8, IMP will promote “Methodist Day,” an initiative including workshops on issues such as recycling of plastic and healthful cooking. Music concerts and theater presentations will be offered at the occasion.

Highlight of the program is a panel on the theme "Caring for Creation." The panel will include participation of regional and international ecumenical organizations and churches.

The United Methodist delegations will take part in workshops that among many topics will address recycling, organic gardens, and video projections on causes and consequences of climate change.

“We will meet with the Bishop Samuel Aguilar Curi of the Methodist Church of Peru,” Hill said, “and then attend a conference from 6-8 p.m. followed by a joint dinner and meeting with the GBGM delegation.”

The Rev. Pat Watkins, the denomination’s first missionary to the environment and founder of Caretakers of God’s Creation,” is a member of the GBGM delegation.

Fast for the Climate

Through its local member churches in Lima, the WCC is adhering to the religious programs organized by the Inter-religious Council of Peru — Religions for Peace, based in Lima at the headquarters of the Secretariat and General Direction of Religions for Peace (RfP) for Latin America and the Caribbean.

On the first day of COP 20, the delegation of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), formed by young adults from different parts of the world, held an event to invite people to pray and meditate for good outcomes from the conference.

The event also showed support for the Fast for the Climate campaign, an interfaith initiative to build support for actions that counter climate change. The LWF is a partner ecumenical organization of the WCC.

A statement on climate justice from regional ecumenical organizations and churches will be finalized and shared with the delegates of COP 20 and the participants of the Peoples’ Summit. The document will highlight concern over the effects of climate change that have been affecting populations in Latin America in recent years.

'Climate, Faith & Hope'

An official delegation of the WCC, formed by staff members, representatives of member churches and partner organizations, will attend the second week of the conference in Lima giving special attention to the continuation of work based on outcomes of the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change promoted by the WCC and Religions for Peace last September in New York.

Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC program executive for Care for Creation & Climate Justice, stressed that COPs are an opportunity to strengthen ecumenical and interfaith advocacy and to enhance the work churches are doing on environment and climate change.

“Climate, Faith & Hope: Faith traditions together for a common future,” the final statement of the Interfaith Summit will be officially presented at COP20 Dec. 11 by the WCC delegation.

Editor's note: The World Council of Churches (WCC) brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. At the end of 2013, there were 345 member churches.

United Methodist Social Principles

The United Methodist Social Principles state:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.

Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations.

Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation. (¶160. The Natural World)

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