5 March 2024, Geneva, Switzerland: Kevin Maina of the Young Theologians Initiative for Climate Action speaks at an inaugural Joint Meeting of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), the Commission on Health and Healing (CHH), and the Commission on Climate Justice and Sustainable Development (CCJSD).


The discussion highlighted the root causes and wide-ranging impacts of the climate emergency as well as exposed the climate-water-food-health nexus.

Harjeet Singh, a global expert on climate impacts as well the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, underscored that climate change is the greatest global threat to humanity—yet we have not seen sufficient action from global leaders around the world. 

Singh acknowledged that, while there has been a massive increase in renewable energy, we must look at how global economic justice is important for climate justice.

"We see displacement and migration on an unprecedented scale,” said Singh. We have to talk about economic diversification.”

Yet we are also seeing faith communities being far more vocal and doing more advocacy, he acknowledged. We need to continue to talk about community support,” he said. We need to talk about solutions coming from the ground.” 

Dr Ingrid Jacobsen, a policy advisor for Bread for the World in Germany, shed light on the nexus of climate, water, and food—and she added land as another issue. Then there is the mining, and the industry putting pressure on land,” she said. This is causing conflicts because, if you want to produce food, you need access to land.”

She spoke of how churches and faith-based institutions have a special lens from which to view climate justice. To bring it all together, what is important in climate justice?” she asked. Who are the polluters—and who are the ones who are losing?”

Churches and faith-based groups can follow a human rights approach, she said. That means, when it comes to food security, its important to look at the right to food,” she said. Its a human right.”

Dr Gisela Schneider, director of the German Institute for Medical Mission, reflected on the question: what does it mean when the WCC speaks of health and healing? 

In today’s context, she said, we have poverty rising,” adding thatwe have injustice and wars.”

She also noted that climate change has brought disasters upon so many people—they are not only physically hurting but psychologically hurting as well. Mental health is deteriorating, and there is more conflict than ever,” said Schneider. 

Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell, from the United Methodist Church in the USA and an ordained elder in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, said he came with great respect for each of his relatives present in the room. What we have to realize is that, all across the world, the Indigenous cultures have been living in harmony with the earth for thousands and thousands of years,” he said. Yet only two percent of this earth is left in its natural state.”

Without Indigenous people, there is little hope, Kernell added. Thats where were at today,” he said. The human species has been disobedient and violent.”

Moderator of the discussion Archbishop Thompson expressed gratitude for Kernells reflections, responding: Could I also say that we need to be very interested in the spirituality that our Indigenous brothers and sisters are living out as good stewards of Mother Earth?”

Rev. Dr Hyunju Bae, from the Presbyterian Church of Korea, spoke of the misuse of power as a deciding factor in the injustices of the world today. Churches should play an important role in countering the structure of greed at all levels,” she said. It is encouraging to remember that, during the days of the apartheid system in South Africa, the WCC didnt hesitate to call for the withdrawal of investments and loans.” 

She reported that, recently, Korean churches have created a roadmap” toward journeying toward a more just approach to the economy and the climate. The challenge is now to transom this roadmap into reality,” she said. I hope that these emerging conversations of Korean churches could form, at both the local level and national level, an accompaniment group to journey together.”

Kevin Maina, director of the Young Theologians Initiative for Climate Action, was the final panelist to speak, and noted that it takes courage to stand up—and speak up—for real change. It speaks a lot to the people you are leading,” he said. This is a great opportunity for the churches. Lets not be afraid to speak out—because we are doing mobilization." 

Three WCC commissions meet to confront emerging global challenges (WCC news release, 5 March 2024)

Photo gallery: Joint Meeting of Three WCC Commissions – March 2024