Posted: November 8, 2021
“The majority of our members do not have jobs; survival is very difficult.”
Leontina Mahamba, Paroisse Alegria de Malanje, igreja Comunidade Menonita em Angola
“Mental illness is the major factor keeping the people we encounter homeless. Heat, drought and bad air exacerbate their situation. Food insecurity is another issue we address.... People are forced to choose between rent and food.”
Duane Ruth Heffelbower, USA
“Respond to the needs of hunger and economic scarcity; attention to the migrant population; support income generation initiatives; prudence and self-care in the midst of violence and practicing nonviolence; Corruption and socioeconomic inequity; respond in prayer to problems; contribute to peace initiatives.”
Creation Care Group of the Iglesia Menonita de Teusaquillo, Colombia
Our churches respond to a wide range of needs, as illustrated by these three survey responses to our question “What other issues (besides climate change and environmental degradation) are a high priority for you as a church in your neighbourhood or community?”
So why is it important for those committed to creation care to think about other issues? The survey results emphasize why the care for creation cannot be separated from other aspects of community life.
1. Social problems like poverty and violence are major concerns in areas hit hardest by climate change.
As we’ve already seen in our previous two stories (see here and here), regions that are less affluent focus on different concerns than more affluent areas of the world.
Not surprisingly, African and Latin American respondents focus on poverty, employment, food insecurity and violence more than Europe and North America.
Even more strikingly, respondents who experience multiple indicators of environmental degradation are more than twice as likely to also report effects from multiple social issues (poverty, health, violence, or migration) in their communities.
These results echo warnings from global organizations such as the World Economic Forum. In their latest report, the World Economic Forum ranked climate and biodiversity loss in the top four global risks, and noted how they worsen global health and social crises.
Vulnerable communities are hit harder by climate change.
2. Affluent regions focus on different social issues that also connect closely to climate and environmental justice.
Several patterns of responses were notably different for the more affluent regions of Europe and North America.
First, migration was mentioned more often than in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Migration clearly occurs in those regions too. However, respondents from Africa, Latin America and Asia focused more on the root causes of migration.
Further, the greater focus on migration in Europe and North America was usually in the context of how the church should welcome immigrants, and refugees in particular. Many churches that responded to our survey work with immigration and refugees.
A second striking result was the focus on identity and intolerance in North America. We used this category for answers indicating that communities struggle with conflicts regarding social identity (e.g., ethnic, racial or religious).
The high concern for these issues in the USA and Canada in particular likely reflects the heightened awareness of inequalities caused by racial discrimination, yet responses from other regions suggest these issues of identity and intolerance are widespread.
Migration and racial justice are increasingly identified as important issues related to climate change. Results from the MWC survey show how this connection is relevant to Anabaptist communities with its values of mutual support and peacebuilding.
3. Churches feel called to respond
“Currently, with COVID-19 restrictions, we are being forced to notice that the pandemic is affecting people in very unequal ways locally and globally. How does God want us to respond?” (Eleanor Nash, Canada)
Survey responses clearly reflected that congregations seek to care for their congregants, local communities and global neighbours in diverse ways. They show high concern for the well-being of children and youth, a strong focus on migration, and many expressions of engagement with the struggles of their local and global neighbours.
In our rapidly changing world of COVID-19, climate change and many other issues, Anabaptist-Mennonite churches are actively grappling with new challenges and opportunities for what it means to follow Jesus.
All eyes are on COP26, this year’s seminal international climate meeting which started 31 October and runs through 12 November. Learn why this meeting is important and what to expect here.
The Creation Care Task Force (CCTF) of MWC joins religious leaders from around the globe who calling for the leaders of nations to respond with urgency, justice and compassion to the climate crisis.
We acknowledge humanity’s collective failure to care for God’s creation.
We recognize that a just response should be guided by a recognition that some, especially in the Global North, are disproportionately at the production end of the crisis. Others, especially those in the world who lack power and resources, are disproportionately impacted.
Everyone can be part of working for change; CCTF invites the global Anabaptist community to join in solidarity, to pray for meaningful action at COP26, and act boldly as followers of Jesus.
Welcome to a series on environmental problems and the global church.
These stories illuminate
a) how Anabaptist-Mennonites are affected by environmental degradation,
Story #1: How environmental crises impact church communities
Story #2: How do environmental problems make people feel?
Story #3: How does climate change intersect with other community challenges?
Story #4: Are our churches and leaders engaged with creation care?
Story #5: How do churches practice creation care?
Story #6: What would help churches engage more with creation care?