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Churches address impact of climate change on indigenous peoples in the Arctic

Churches address impact of climate change on indigenous peoples in the Arctic

Participants at the ecumenical meeting in Storforsen. © Chief Littlechild

08 October 2015

“The Arctic is the epicentre of climate injustice,” said Bishop Mark MacDonald of the Anglican Church of Canada and the World Council of Churches (WCC) president for North America during a conference organized by the Church of Sweden and the Canadian Council of Churches held in Storforsen, Sweden, from 5 to 8 October.

“Future of life in the Arctic – The impact of climate change: Indigenous and Religious perspectives” was the theme of the event attended by more than thirty participants.

The reality of Sami and Inuit indigenous peoples’ daily lives in view of the climate change was shared by various presenters. Deborah Tagornak from the Kairos Indigenous Rights Circle in her comments stressed the importance of putting a “human face to climate face in relation to the scientific data on climate change in the Arctic.”

For Peter Noteboom, deputy general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches and co-organizer of the event, the conference “further deepens the statement of faith communities in Canada on promoting climate justice and ending poverty, especially addressing indigenous peoples concerns.”

Participants included indigenous people living in Canada and Sweden, as well as bishops, pastors, theologians and staff of ecumenical organizations from these countries and from Norway, Finland and the United States (Alaska). The Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the WCC were also represented.

Rev. Henrik Grape, officer of the Church of Sweden for sustainable development and one of the co-organizers, said: “We hope that the process we are starting with this conference will enhance the global ecumenical work on climate change.”

Plenary sessions addressed identity, rights and reconciliation, climate science and European climate politics, the way towards COP 21 in Paris, climate and indigenous peoples and Arctic theology and spirituality. Working groups further developed messaging, the way ahead, theology, youth and music.

“This conference has started, I hope, a process which would need to liaise to what indigenous peoples and churches are doing in responding to climate change in other parts of the world, as we saw at the Conference on Indigenous Ecological Spiritualities and Christian Faith organized by the WCC in August at Duta Wacana University, Indonesia,” affirmed Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice, who spoke at a panel of a conference.

The outcomes of the conference will be shared with the churches and at COP21 in Paris at the end of this year.

WCC seminar explores links between indigenous ecological spiritualties and Christian faith (WCC news release of 24 August 2015)

WCC Care for Creation and Climate Justice programme