The world is facing multiple shocks—geopolitical, related to energy, economics, a climate emergency and of hunger. The likelihood of a global recession in 2023 is growing, and inflation is already taking a significant toll. As 828 million people go to bed hungry every night, and 3.1 billion people (nearly 40 % of the world population) are not able to afford a healthy diet each day. Even HIV is very much with us, as the pandemic took a life every minute in 2021, with 650,000 AIDS-related deaths. Inequalities in accessing prevention, care, and treatment are most pronounced among children, women, and the vulnerable key affected populations. The war in Ukraine has displaced 12.8 million people within Ukraine and to other countries, which adds to the more than 100 million people (1 in every 78 people on earth) who are forcibly displaced—the highest number ever recorded since World War II.
The world is also being battered by unprecedented climate-induced disasters this year. From January to September, it was estimated the damage cost at least 29 billion dollars. The disasters included 14 severe weather events with six floods, five droughts, three tropical cyclones, and one European windstorm. Heat waves in Europe killed more than 16,000 people, and nearly 1,700 people died due to flooding in Pakistan, which inundated 60% of the nation. The Global North is responsible for 92% of excess historical emissions. Between 1990 and 2015, the carbon emissions of the wealthiest 1% of people globally were more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity, and the entire continent of Africa produces less than 4% of global emissions. But despite the ominous signs and clear pointers to accountability, at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, the commitments on cutting greenhouse gas emissions were too weak to stay within the 1.5C limit.
On a positive note, nations decided to create a fund to provide financial assistance for loss and damage – money needed to rescue and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of countries devastated by extreme weather. There is no agreement yet on how finance should be provided and where it should come from. Human beings continue to alter the earth in a deleterious manner, at an alarming rate. It is estimated that about 77% of the land and 87% of the ocean have been altered by humans, which has led to a loss of 83% of wild mammal biomass, and half of the world’s plant biomass. At the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal (COP15), the final deal reached on 19 December, included the oft-repeated headline target of “30×30”—an ambition to conserve 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the ocean by 2030.
We live in a world that is profoundly interconnected and inseparable. We will sink or survive together. In the face of the “permacrisis,” as Christians we need to revisit the teachings of Jesus on love and reflect on how we are making it a reality. The underlying basis of all our actions and responses should be the recognition that all creation and life is sacred and the dignity of all life is the foundation of a moral vision for society. We have a collective responsibility to care of each other and the earth that we live in. As the Bible reminds us in Romans 12:5, "....we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another."
The only effective remedy to overcome these risks is cooperation and collaborative action. So, as followers of Jesus, what can we do about it? Let us consider seven biblical teachings for our journey into 2023 and beyond.
1. Knowledge and acknowledgement
We must carefully monitor and discern the signs of the times and relate to what is happening around us. We have to be rooted in reality (Matthew 24:32-33). This would bind us to keep updated on the current facts and understand the implications for people experiencing inequity and injustice. We are destroyed when we reject knowledge and forget the statutes of God. (Hosea 4:6)
2. Sharing of burden and empathy
The teachings of Christ oblige us to share and bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). Jesus calls us to take up his yoke—his commitment to the world, which is shared by Jesus and by people of goodwill—which makes the existential yoke light and doable. (Matthew 11:28-30)
3. Transforming our own lives
We have to lead by example. Let us strive for transformation by renewing our minds to discern the will of God and do what is good, acceptable, and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
4. Caring and compassionate action
God's love will abide with us only if we share the resources we have access to with those who are in need ( 1 John 3:17). We are also obliged to live life responsibly, always showing kindness and mercy to one another and not taking advantage of vulnerable people. (Zechariah 7:9-10)
5. Advocacy for systemic and policy transformation
We are expected to demand accountability from those who have power and influence, speak out for those who are not being listened to and strive for the rights of all marginalised people. Within our sphere of influence, we are also to reflect righteousness and justice and consistently defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
6. Giving hope
We are to break free from old ways and habits that lead us to despair. Hope is anticipation in faith, expecting fulfilment in what we believe. God assures renewal and encourages us to perceive what God prepares—a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)
7. Building just, compassionate and collaborative communities
God reminds us to build societies that reveal God's glory and character to the world. Just and compassionate communities that protect the vulnerable and reflect wisdom and discernment (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Apostle Paul extols us to lead our lives to reflect our calling. To relate with each other in humility, gentleness, and patience; dealing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit of God, and a deep commitment to peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)