Thursday, 3 December 2009

Can we have faith in Copenhagen?

There's a lot at stake in Copenhagen, and faith groups should be throwing all of their weight behind efforts to make it work

Joel Edwards, Wednesday 2 December 2009 09.00 GMT
Let's face facts: many Christians have come late to the climate justice party, and those of us who live in rich countries must take responsibility for the problem that we now face.
And instead of arguing about whether we're preaching the "gospel of climate change", it's time the church looked back to its heritage of action on social justice and forward to the talks in Copenhagen and the implementation of decisions that world leaders need to take there.
In the 19th century, churches were part of the movement to abolish slavery and to end child labour and, while they must take responsibility for having contributed to some of the world's inequalities, faith communities are ideally placed to inspire attitudinal change and to bring a moral imperative to debates around social justice.
In fact, moments such as these force us to take responsibility for the part we have played in causing global inequalities, either because of the actions we have endorsed or encouraged or because of our sins of omission in avoiding opportunities to challenge injustice.
The thousands of Christians who are joining in the Stop Climate Chaos demonstration this weekend have already decided to answer their own personal call to be part of what could be one of the greatest contributions to justice we've seen.
The large ecumenical service which will bring together Christians from around the UK before joining the rally, as well as the events beforehand organised by Jewish and Muslim leaders, among others, show the importance of faith in the discourse of social change.
Many will feel that they have a spiritual reason for engaging with climate justice, and those of us who are Christians find a clear mandate from scripture to speak up for justice, to take responsibility for caring for the earth, and to tackle poverty and injustice practically.
Every now and then a pivotal moment comes along when it becomes crucial faith leaders put aside their differences and unite for a challenge which is common to and bigger than all of us. In this case, it's the future of our planet.
It gives us an opportunity to come together on an issue that affects everyone in the world, and particularly those who are poor, vulnerable and without resources. And we're able to recognise the work done around the world, often in the name of faith, to redress the balance and support people in developing countries who are already living with the effects of climate change.
In places like Bangladesh, Tearfund's local church partners support communities to prepare for and reduce the risk of flooding. Here communities are strongly influenced by faith leaders, as it's often the churches or mosques that are best placed to consult with and mobilise people to find solutions to a changing climate.
And it's these stories that provide a glimmer of hope in desperate times. If faith is, as the Bible says, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, then the recent talking down of the Copenhagen summit shouldn't cause us to lose hope.
Because there is still a reason to have faith in a fair, ambitious and binding climate deal. If nothing else, it's because there's a restlessness among people of all faiths and none; a dissatisfaction with the selfishness and consumerism of western society; and a desire to be part of something that will change the world forever. This is the reason thousands of us will crowd the streets of central London on Saturday.