Brief report from the meeting of the WCC’s Working Group on Care for Creation and Climate Justice Kingston, Jamaica, 15-17 May 2011
Prepared by Guillermo Kerber
Programme executive on Care for Creation and Climate Justice
World Council of Churches
The songs of Bob Marley were a most appropriate background for the meeting of the WCC Working Group on Care for Creation and Climate Justice (CCCJ) in Kingston, Jamaica. Rev. Henrik Grape, from Church of Sweden, based the opening prayers on Marley’s song Exodus:
“ So we gonna walk through de roads of creation…
We ‘re the generation
through great tribulation…
Are you satisfied with the life you're living?”
The atmosphere at Knutsford Court Hotel, was impregnated by Marley and Rasta’s spirit. Through the days songs we might have heard hundreds of times, got a new meaning in Bob Marley’s land and confronted to climate change.
“One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right…
Hear the children crying
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation”
Indeed, the ecumenical movement and the WCC in particular, working for the visible unity of the one church, faces huge challenges while confronting climate change and striving for climate justice.
Participation and purposes of the meeting
In fact, as in previous meetings, building one community, one working group, was one of the purposes of the meeting. A creative introduction of participants helped to know “newcomers” and “oldtimers”. Actually, from the 22 participants, 9 participated at the meeting for the first time.
From the expected participants two had to cancel their participation on the last minute because of visa problems: Rev. Dr André Karamaga, general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches and Rev. Freddy De Alwis, executive secretary of Justice, International Affairs, Development and Justice at the Christian Conference of Asia.
The objective of this working group is to provide advice to the WCC’s work on Care for Creation and Climate Justice in relation to the various activities of the programme. To achieve this objective, following the lessons learned from previous meetings, the agenda, through plenary sessions and sub groups work provided space for:
1. Information sharing on the work done (from WCC programmes, churches and church related bodies engaged on CCCJ
2. Advance in an advocacy strategy at the UN level
3. Deepening the understanding of the eco-justice approach of the WCC, and this is why we had common sessions with the Reference Group of the Poverty Wealth and Ecology’s work of the WCC with some representatives of the Ecumenical Water Network as well;
4. Linking with the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC), which took place immediately after the working group meeting, especially the Peace with the Earth component of the IEPC;
5. Starting a process to prepare for the 2013 WCC Assembly.
1. Many members of the group shared through reports, presentations, etc. the work churches and church related and ecumenical bodies are doing around the world. A report was provided of the work done by the WCC on CCCJ since the last working group meeting, focusing on the three activities according to the programme plans: accompanying churches, global advocacy and the meeting of the working group. The report also stresses the relevance of communications and campaigns. Special attention was given to the report shared by Peter Emberson (PCC) as a follow-up of the Fiji meeting. Special discussion followed on developing an eco- theological curriculum supporting the work PCC is doing with Prof Cliff Bird at the Pacific Theological College. New participants shared the work being done by, for instance, the United Evangelical Mission in Africa and Asia, the Eco-Justice Programmes of the NCCCUSA, the focus on Climate Justice of the World Student Christian Federation.
Discussions highlighted the particular situation of US churches and the role of social media. Actions were decided on these topics.
2. To further advance in an advocacy strategy at the UN level, Mbari Kioni, director of Peace, Healing and Reconciliation at the All Africa Conference of Churches presented the process towards COP 17 in Durban (“Climate Justice and Lasting Peace in Africa”). She highlighted the relevance of the Faith Leaders meeting to take place in Nairobi in early June. She thanked those who have contributed financially to this programme and called for new supporters to the whole programme. Discussion followed stressing the importance of the interfaith component.
A Faith Secretariat, hosted by the Diakonia Council of Churches in Durban, has been established to coordinate the logistics and other aspects of the wide ecumenical participation at COP 17.
During the discussions the group reaffirmed the relevance of working in cooperation with ACT and APRODEV, welcomed the meeting held in APRODEV in Brussels in early February, which helped to clarify roles and added values and called for deepening this cooperation. The working group expressed its regret that this time no one from their working groups could make it for the meeting (During the IEPC, Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, vice moderator of the ACT Alliance, who unfortunately arrived late for the working group meeting, shared a letter to the working group where ACT affirms “ we are committed to continuing the strong cooperation within the ecumenical family and with the WCC climate group in particular. We believe there is potential for greater cooperation between the WCC and the ACT Alliance where synergy will create added value and greater results in influencing the global political climate change agenda…”)
Besides advocacy work at COPs and in the UNFCCC’s broader framework, the group highlighted the need to continue working on Climate change and Human Rights and “Climate refugees” and asked to give priority to the work towards and at Rio+ 20. Actions were decided on this topic.
3. In relationship to deepening the understanding of the eco-justice approach, joint sessions were held with the Reference Group on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology and some members of the Ecumenical Water Network. After a “time for creation” prayer led by Rev. Ilkka Sipiläinen, an overall introduction was made by Guillermo Kerber, project coordinator, and presentations followed from each of the three components of the project, i.e., Poverty, Wealth and Ecology; Care for Creation and Climate Justice and the Ecumenical Water Network. Group work deepened the discussions where especially various aspects of climate justice, human rights, right to water and gender issues were addressed. Theodor Rathgeber made a presentation on Climate Justice and Human Rights.
4. The preparation for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) included presenting the environmental policy of the IEPC by Maike Gorsboth, coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, the eco-booth at the assembly hall as well as stressing the Peace with the Earth day at the IEPC. During the IEPC itself, the panel on Peace with the Earth addressed the situation in Tuvalu with respect to climate change, the work of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the ecumenical advocacy work at COPs, an indigenous and Orthodox theological reflections and practical examples from eco-congregations. Seminars and workshops provided the opportunity to deepen some aspects of the CCCJ work.
5. It was reaffirmed that the work on CCCJ has a lot to contribute to the process towards the WCC’s Assembly in Busan, Korea, in October 2013. The theme of the Assembly, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”, offers a clear link with the concern of the life of creation as well as with climate justice. The meetings of the working group in 2012 and 2013 should catalyze the work that has been done and offer suggestions for the programme work of the WCC after the Assembly.
Perhaps one of the most relevant outcomes of the meeting was to identify some action points as well as who will be responsible for their implementation. This will be a useful tool for follow-up and evaluation. Concrete proposals were made on the support to the US churches, developing an eco-theological curriculum, improving the presence of the work in social media, deepening the coordination with APRODEV and ACT, following up the advocacy work on climate change and human rights and starting a process for Rio+20.
After discussion, the working group suggested that the next meeting should take place in Rio, 1-3 June 2012, to allow participants to take part at Rio +20 (4-6 June). Suggestions were made to include an “immersion programme” at the beginning of the meeting. Guillermo Kerber will check viability of the proposal, given especially current financial constraints for the CCCJ programme.
A round of evaluation of the meeting stressed the expertise of the participants, the good atmosphere at the meeting, the importance of the joint sessions with the reference group on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology and the good facilitation. The need to have a stronger presence of representatives from the South, to deepen the dialogue between science and theology, to have a better communication strategy was also highlighted.