Norway’s largest church festival took on a green tint this year, as climate justice became a major focus there on 1 August in Trondheim.
A presentation about the situation of a country deeply affected by climate change, a popular workshop on church engagement in climate justice, and a speech by World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, himself a Norwegian pastor, were among featured events.
The experience of Pakistan
Rabia Waqar, programme coordinator for Norwegian Church Aid in Pakistan, made the consequences of climate change comprehensible by discussing what is going on in her home country.
“The weather has changed considerably in my lifetime,” Waqar said. “The temperatures have risen and the glaciers melt at a much higher rate. The melting water, combined with the monsoon rain, which often comes over a shorter period, leading to huge floods. At the same time, we are experiencing droughts and heat waves,” she explained. The less fortunate of the population bear the brunt of the environmental disasters, she said.
An international pastoral challenge
The need to mobilize religious leaders also arose. A workshop on how the church should address climate change—entitled “A conversation about faith meeting a changing creation”— sparked the interest of nearly 80 people Saturday morning.
Asked about how the Church of Norway can contribute to combatting climate change in Pakistan, Waqar answers promptly, “Most people in Pakistan have not grasped the concept of man-made climate change. They still believe it is fate or punishment from God. This is also true for the religious leaders.
“Therefore, we need assistance and help from international churches and organizations to help us to learn more about how we can educate and mobilize our religious leaders to become advocates of these issues,” she said.
Olav Fykse Tveit’s remarks
Tveit, who has closely followed the Norwegian public debate on the issues, stressed the church’s need to demand accountability of public officials.
“As members of the global church, we have a duty to talk about these issues,” he said. “We all belong to the same humanity, and we share the same challenge. The church itself cannot change the climate issues alone. We do not have the mechanisms for that. However, what we can do is to contribute to changing how the politicians think, and their definition of what this reality is like.”
From the scientists, Tveit said, we have learned that, as regards climate, we have all sinned against God and creation. From the faithful, we have learned nonetheless never to give up hope.
The general secretary referenced Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato si, as very close to the position of the WCC on climate change and as an expression and example of how we all have to engage and address the issues raised by climate change.
“The role of the church is to show that this is a question concerning our relationship between us as human beings, God and the earth,” Tveit said.
The Norwegian church’s climate campaign represents the Norwegian take on the pilgrimage of justice and peace. It is aimed at putting pressure on Norwegian politicians and decision makers, as well as on international leaders who will gather in Paris for the UN Climate Summit this December, for decisive action for climate justice.
The West Front Meeting, entitled “Climate Pilgrim 2015,” was part of the annual St Olav Festival and took place in front of Nidaros Cathedral.
Reporting from Norway by Susanne Lende.
Photos in high resolution are available via photos.oikoumene.org