On Tuesday, the 25th of May Christian Aid and the Irish Council of Churches jointly hosted an event called “Voices of the Climate Crisis”.
The aim was to equip people in local church leadership in Ireland to better engage their churches in action on climate justice by connecting us in the global North with people directly impacted by climate change in the global South.
Attendees heard from Bob Kikuyu, Christian Aid’s global theology advisor, Julius Mbatia of Youth for Sustainable Development Goals Kenya, and Rebecca Wilson, a climate activist from Northern Ireland. Helen Newell of Christian Aid also shared information on resources they have developed for churches to respond to climate change spiritually and practically.
Bob spoke about how nature is suffused through Jesus’ teaching, and how we have much to learn from indigenous peoples’ recognition of the interconnectedness of the sacred and the natural. He suggested that simple acts can be spiritually profound, such as planting a tree for every baptism, which connects the new life with its community and place, and acts as a reminder of the person, and this connection, long after they may have left. This act localises a global concept of humanity’s interconnection and interdependence with nature and our need to protect and preserve it for the common good.
Julius pointed out the importance of the moral voice, to act as a corrective and counterpoint to the political and economic voices active at local, national and international levels in discussions on addressing climate change. The injustice inherent in the fact that those most affected by climate change have done least to cause it, and the fact that we share a planet that is on the brink of collapse need to be communicated in these circles and churches have a voice to use in doing that. The question “How do we deal with the impacts of climate change?” is a moral question and needs a moral voice in formulating the response.
Rebekah reminded us that Christianity is an everyday calling to justice. While 9/10 young Christians are concerned about climate change, only 1/10 of them said their own church is doing enough to respond to it. Young people are hearing that call to justice but are not seeing evidence that their church communities have their ears open. She pointed out that climate change is impacting peoples lives now; that it is interconnected with other justice issues like poverty and racial justice; that most of us, as inhabitants of the global North, have the privilege of being able to choose whether to ignore the effects of climate change without it having much of an effect on our personal lives; but that choosing not to is our calling as Christians as part of our obligation to love God and neighbour, and act justly.
Helen then drew attention to resources Christian Aid have developed to support churches’ engagement, especially in the lead up to COP26 this November in Glasgow. She highlighted three areas for action:
Prayer & Praise:
Churches have a unique contribution through prayer, and through their weekly time together, to explore issues around climate change and to take action.
- Take part in our prayer chain leading up to the COP 26 as an individual or a church – www.caid.ie/prayerchain
- Hold a Climate Sunday to inspire and equip your whole congregation – www.climatesunday.org
- Use our prayer resources to help people engage with God including our River of Prayer resource – www.christianaid.ie/prayer for all the resources or here for the River of Prayer
- Thank You for the Rain: Climate Documentary that people can use for a Watch party: https://www.christianaid.ie/news/thank-you-rain
Take action / Reduce emissions
There are ways for your church to reduce carbon emissions and lots of resources available to help you do so. www.ecocongregationireland.com is the best place to start and can help you take steps such as undertaking an environmental audit of your church, and applying for the Eco–Congregation Award.
We really believe that one of the most important things you can do as a church is to speak out to those in power politically and make sure they know you care and want them to do all they can to care for the environment. There are some actions at www.christianaid.ie/climate including signing a petition if you’re in Northern Ireland and joining Stop Climate Chaos if you’re in the Republic of Ireland.
Discussions in breakout rooms then brought suggestions from attendees on how best to inspire and equip churches who want to act on climate justice. These ideas have been collated and are available from our resources here.
A recording of the event is available at youtube.com/watch?v=p9EvxBLLWL8.