Photos: Victoria Emergency Ministries/WCC

Photos: Victoria Emergency Ministries/WCC

In a pastoral letter to Australian churches, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit acknowledged that the catastrophic fires in many parts of Australia have darkened the horizon in a time when much of the world is celebrating.

“Together with you, WCC member churches around the world are praying for respite from the heat and the flames, for the protection and encouragement of all those fighting the advancing fires, for the preservation of peoples’ lives and properties, and of the unique wildlife and environment threatened with destruction,” the letter reads. “Together with you, we lament the unimaginable losses already suffered – of precious human lives, of homes and livelihoods, of so many animals and so much bushland and forest, and of so many affected communities’ sense of security.”

Tveit offered prayers for all the victims, and for their families and communities, that they may be comforted in their loss and strengthened by the solidarity of so many people around the world. “We pray for the firefighting services and governmental authorities, that they may find the needed resources, strength and resolve to confront this crisis,” the letter reads. “And we pray for you, the churches and church leaders of Australia, as you seek to find the words and the means to provide support to those who need it, in a time of such deep bereavement and anxiety.”

Australia has, since time immemorial, been accustomed to fire and to drought, Tveit noted. “However, the unprecedented scale and intensity of the current crisis will require, in due course, deep reflection on the factors leading to this exceptional disaster, accountability for those whose actions or inactions have imperilled so many people and contributed to the destruction of so much natural heritage, and measures to mitigate recurrence on such a scale and to adapt to a rapidly changing climate,” the letter reads. "The churches must play their role in this regard too.”

Member churches in Australia

Link to the letter from the WCC general secretary 3 January, 2020