Cimate Justice Now!” “People Power!” “Keep it in the ground!” echoed through the corridors as I walked through the Blue Zone – the place where 197 member-states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathered in December 2015 to decide on the future of our climate. It was the first time that I attended these climate negotiations and it turned out to be a historic gathering at which the Paris Agreement (a worldwide agreement to protect the climate and the people living on this planet) was adopted.
It was also the first time that I came in contact with a large number of faith-based communities advocating for sustainable environments and climate resilience, standing alongside the most vulnerable communities and people. Admitted as official observers, the faith-based communities had the chance to not only do the hard advocacy groundwork of approaching negotiators on a one-on-one level, but were even given a slot to raise their voice to an audience of ministers and heads-of-states at the HighLevel Dialogue.
Climate change is not “fake news,” but a hard reality around the globe, most intensely felt by our brothers and sisters in the Global South. Environmental destruction and climate change, intensified through lifestyle in the Global North, are key contributors to poverty. Continuous pressure on our shared resources deprives the poorest and the most vulnerable of sustainable and dignified livelihoods; and this is not seldom the reason for conflict.
The current climate crisis and climate injustices clearly show that a sustainable environment, human dignity and improved community resilience of the most vulnerable are closely related and mutually dependent. As Mennonites and Christians in Germany, we therefore try to pursue a greater extent of sustainability in our actions so as to protect God’s creation for future generations and the livelihood of millions of people today.
On the smallest scale, this starts with some of our congregations having solar panels on their roofs to reduce the fossil fuel energy consumption.
It continues with some of our members refusing to own a car, because it is just not necessary in urban regions.
Many of our congregations are engaged in neighbourhood activities to strengthen the local communities and to support the less privileged.
All of these initiatives stem from the commitment to care for the wonderful creation that has been entrusted to us.
However, we need more of these issues on our churches’ agendas – 100 percent renewable energy, responsible consumption, theological education for sustainable development and local advocacy work. In addition, being active and involved in the ecumenical faith family can enlarge this local commitment and lift it to a global level. Through targeted advocacy work on the political scene and influencing policies and decision, we can care for God’s people that are not literally our neighbours, but members of God’s global family.
Coming back to the climate negotiations: As a worldwide ecumenical fellowship of churches, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has a prominent role among the faith-based communities at the climate negotiations. The AMG (our conference) and other Mennonite conferences who are members of the WCC joined the “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace” in 2013, which resonated with Anabaptist values. In the climate context, this has been translated into the “Pilgrimage of Climate Justice and Peace”: raising awareness that climate justice must not be forgotten and that the weakest and most vulnerable of our global community have to be given a voice.
“We need the wisdom of creation,” said Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, during the service for climate justice at the latest climate negotiations: “a wisdom that sees reality and understands and recognizes the time in which we live. A wisdom that [...] has the courage to act and to break new ground so that we can prepare for the future together.”
Our love for God and God’s people compels us to raise our voices, to stand together with the vulnerable, to be politically active and to strive for a climate-just world. Therefore, we join our ecumenical forces and pray as we continue to walk on this pilgrimage: “God of Life, lead us to justice and peace.”
–Rebecca Froese is a member of AMG – Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Gemeinden in Deutschland, a Mennonite member church in Germany.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier April 2018.