It is a privilege and an honour for me to participate in this consultation of partner churches of the Northern Church here in Brekklum. I want to thank the organizers of this consultation wholeheartedly for this opportunity of speaking to you.
I bring you greetings of the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. Just back to Geneva from a travel to Latin America, he writes to you:
“Dear colleagues and friends, sisters and brothers in Christ,
Gathering from different countries and regions of the world, you are representing in many ways the human family. Humanity is under threat, mainly because it is divided by lack of justice and peace. This affects the churches, too. Whenever we listen to the stories of those at the margins of our societies, we hear how their lives are jeopardized as a consequence of profound injustice and inequality, of violence and war, and the destruction of the very basis of life on our planet. The future of humanity and creation requires and deserves that we as Christians leave our divisions and tensions behind. Only together we become credible witnesses for the good news of the Gospel and can overcome the boundaries that separate us. There is only one common future for humanity, not many and not just mine. Real hope is only the hope we share.
These convictions motivated the delegates of the tenth assembly of the WCC in 2013 in Busan to call on churches and all people of good will to join in a pilgrimage of justice and peace. Meeting in Brekklum not too far from Flensburg at the Danish border, you have perhaps heard and seen how many people here are responding to the call of the assembly. They just started in Flensburg a pilgrimage of climate justice. This pilgrimage will lead to Paris where the UN will hold a conference on climate change at the end of November. Calling for climate justice, those on the way hope that finally a shared interest in the future of life on our planet will prevail over the business interests of the fossil fuel industry and others.
Those who started in Flensburg are part of a worldwide movement for climate justice. 400 000 people were demonstrating on the streets of Manhattan last year in September. We were there in New York at the same time together with representatives of different religions to express our care for creation in front of the United Nations.
In Mozambique begins a bicycle rally towards Nairobi where churches and civil society groups will demonstrate for climate justice together with Desmond Tutu. For a long time already, people who suffer of inundations, droughts and storms in Asia or are threatened by raising see levels on the Pacific islands call for solidarity and remind us that Christians need to take their responsibility for people and creation seriously.
I just returned to Geneva from travel to Latin America. I had many conversations with church representatives, journalists, representatives of various governments and even state presidents. In all of my conversations it was very clearly expressed how necessary it is that we talk of climate justice. Paris must focus on both, sustainability and justice. Neither in the North nor in the South of our planet, can we continue to neglect one of these two dimensions, if the negotiations are to succeed.
Before going to Latin America, I pointed in Geneva at the Human Rights Council to the necessary link between human rights and climate change. The poor and among them the women and children are the first to suffer of the consequences of climate change. The president of Chile was well aware how we are combining the concern for human rights and climate justice. She underlined how important it is, to keep the focus on justice for both human beings and other life. The government of Brazil too emphasized the link between climate justice, the future of the rain forests, agriculture and life styles.
Justice for humanity and all of God’s creation cannot be separated. Very often the same root causes lead to more injustice and at the same time to environmental destruction. Some people asked us why we speak of the pilgrimage of justice and peace and no longer of the threefold emphasis on justice, peace and integrity of creation. We have learned that there is only one justice for human beings and all other creatures of God, only one justice in the service of life and closely linked to both among the nations.
Pope Francis took up the concern for humanity and creation in his encyclical „Laudato Si“. Responding to an initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, he called also for a World day of prayer for the care of creation on September 1. Churches are now truly united in their commitment to climate justice. Even though still some difficult doctrinal and ethical questions block the way towards the unity of the church, churches can indeed act together and show together their concern of the future of the life of the world. I am very grateful, that we succeed in addressing climate justice ecumenically.
With the pilgrimage of justice and peace, we want to address together other vital concerns for the future of humanity and the planet. We urgently need more justice and we need more peace. You can be part of a movement for justice and peace the pilgrimage. Representing among yourself the human family, you can give an example for others moving forward towards the justice and peace that God wants and shine among us as signs of God’s reign to come. We read in Paul’s letter to the Romans that not only many, many people, but God’s entire “creation is waiting with eager longing for the revealing of the children God” (Rom 8:20). Creation and the poor and marginalized among us are waiting for you, to live out of the promise that you received.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary