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Climate Migrants/Refugees: An Open Wound

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

In the executive summary of the 2009 Care publication In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement I read the following statement: “Policy decisions made today will determine whether migration becomes a matter of choice amongst a range of adaptation options, or merely a matter of survival due to a collective failure by the international community to provide better alternatives”. Climate migrants or refugees – the vocabulary seems still undecided and constitutes a juridical debate which should, in my opinion, take into account the intimate connection between climate change and the violent conflicts it involves, thus making the expression “refugees” adequate – are already on the move today and some estimate their number may grow to 200 million by 2050. They represent an enormous challenge to the international community and (will) call upon the resources of many humanitarian organizations, amongst which the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

The JRS mission statement with its threefold focus – to accompany, to serve, to advocate – may provide us with some insight as to how to address the realities of climate migrants/refugees. These three verbs do not only indicate that we have a responsibility to care for refugees, to assist them in their own experiences and to make their voices heard. They also point out that the encounter with refugees and their experiences changes all of us, that refugees and migrants in their pain reveal the need to change our world if they are to live with dignity, that their experiences as if through a broken prism shed light on steps that we all can and have to take to build a more dignified and sustainable world. This is also the case with people who are on the move because of climate change and environmental deterioration: they show us what an inhospitable environment means for people and how it involves them in conflicts over meager resources, they remind us of the conditions to be put in place to make this earth a home to all of us: we have to mitigate not only our greenhouse gas emissions but also our exorbitant and selfish consumerist ways of life as well as our tendency to create safe havens for “our” people as over against the “others”; we have to share burdens in working out adaptation resilience, particularly for those who suffer most. Environmental refugees or migrants, therefore, are not merely a barometer indicating the facts and realities of climate change, they also point towards greater solidarity and sustainable patterns of life and show us that, one day, each one of us may become one such refugee for forgetting our embeddedness in nature and the fact that we depend upon one another for dignified life. By being present with the refugees, by listening to their experiences, by learning to speak their voice, JRS people transmit an experience of conversion that may change the world. Climate migrants/refugees lead us into a similar experience of conversion that will help us to address climate change in a very real and effective way. In the wound, there is blood of life.

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Homilia del Arzobispo de Canterbury

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

El domingo 13 se celebró un servicio ecuménico en la catedral de Copenhague con motivo de la Conferencia del Cambio Climático, en este blog ya hemos dado cuenta de ello. Por su interés, hemos traducido la breve homilia del Arzobispo de Canterbury Rowan Williams. No se engañen por su apariencia suave, está cargada de densidad creyente.

Homilía Rowan Williams 13 diciembre 2009:  Williams Sermon Spanish 09.12.13

Homily Rowan Williams  December 13th: Williams Sermon English 09.12.13

COP15 – Religion, the Arctic, Climate Justice

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

COP15 has clearly moved into a new stage. On Saturday, authorities announced that they would limit the number of entries per NGO – new passes, of which only a limited number have been made available, are needed. The reason is, of course, security: ministers and heads of state have started arriving in Copenhagen. And there are a lot of people accredited to COP15 – parties, of course, but also an unprecedented number of press and members of NGO. But the measure is highly unusual in the context of UN organized meetings and some protest has already been voiced.

This morning, people were queuing up in large numbers at the entrance of the Bella Center, already accredited people and people looking for accreditation – many people have shown up for COP15’s second week, overwhelmingly many. Fortunately, accredited people as José Ignacio and myself, could enter quite easily. We went first to a side-event organized by Caritas Internationalis and the World Council of Churches (WCC): “To Renew the Face of the Earth: Climate Justice from a Faith Perspective”. There was first an encouraging talk by Joy Kennedy, a member of the WCC Working Group on Climate Change. Followed an intervention by Rev. Fr. Erny Gillen, President of Caritas Europa and Vice-President of Caritas Internationalis. Tofiga Falani, the President of the Congregational Christian Church in Tuvalu, spoke moving words about the situation of his fellow-citizens. This side event made it abundantly clear that religion has a role to play in the climate change crisis, and that this role complements the work of scientists, economists and politicians by emphasizing the spiritual-theological and moral aspects of people involved in the crisis. It became also clear that there still is a lot of work to do for theologians and specialists in spirituality. Archbishop Rowan William’s sermon yesterday gave an excellent example of how these issues can be addressed, empowering people and at the same time challenging leadership.

Al Gore and Nordic ministers offered a side event on “Greenland Ice Sheet – Melting Snow and Ice: Calls for Action”, which I very much wanted to attend, but the room was overfilled and I was not allowed in (a press conference illustrated the issues). Polar ice is melting much faster than has been expected, rendering North Pole summers ice free in about 10 years. This will result in powerful climate feedbacks affecting continents and people far beyond the Arctic itself. It will also result in the Arctic becoming one of the most strategic areas of the globe. The side events here at COP15 have made it clearer to me, that many of the complexities of worldwide climate change are still insufficiently explored. The effects on and of ocean warming and acidification as well as on and of polar ice melting are high on the scientific agenda.

In a conference later on the day, Seán McDonagh reminded me of the importance of climate restitution: rich countries may not having been aware of their actions on global climate, but these actions resulted in harm, that calls for restitution. It is as if unwillingly and unknowingly we would poison our neighbor’s house. Christians would have to recognize the damage their actions have done and they would feel called to do restitution, to repair the damage done. This climate justice and reparation is at stake in the COP15 talks: legally binding agreements would secure this justice both for mitigation and adaptation. African countries today made it very clear that they call for a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, so as to safeguard at least the existing legally binding agreements (see also John Vidal’s reporting on The Guardian website). Some of the developed countries and some of the richer developing countries seem to want to undo the KP, including it in one track with the Convention (UNFCCC), which, unfortunately, does not contain such legally binding features.

Copenhagen – Dec 13, 2009 – Climate Rally and Ecumenical Climate Service

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Posted by Frances Orchard CJ

At 11.30 we assembled in City Hall Square Copenhagen for a Public Event organised by Christian Aid under their slogan:

Time for Climate Justice – COUNTDOWN TO CO2PENHAGEN

We listened to first hand accounts from around the world where the impact of Climate Change is already affecting lives -always those of the poor – and then we welcome Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His energetic speech was designed to encourage the 25,000 present to fight climate injustice. “Hello rich countries – wake up!’ he called, “It’s cheaper to finance climate debt. 150 billion dollars a year would do it!” A petition signed by over half a million people was then presented to Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC who promised to do what he could to get the Heads of States to make a good decision before the end of COP15. “I’ve just come from the Bella Centre”, he said, “and they’re always talking about the financial crisis. But this is a moral crisis, which could result in a global climate crisis.”

Events then moved on to the Lutheran Cathedral of Our Lady where an international ecumenical service to pray for a successful and just outcome to the negotiations for the benefit of the world was to be held. Present were Her Majesty Queen Margerethe II of Denmark, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury who preached. The service was mainly in English with choirs from Africa, Greenland, and Copenhagen. Three important symbols were carried in at the entry procession: glacier stones from Greenland reminding us that glacier retreat is one of the most worrying signs of climate change; dried up maize from Africa, a symbol of the hunger of that continent brought about by changing weather patterns; and bleached corals from the Pacific Ocean – signs of the dangerous acidification of the oceans. Rowan Williams’ deep commitment to the issue of climate change came across with passion and integrity as he called us to respond with love for creation and for humanity rather than with fear at the impending crisis. The congregation applauded.

As we sang the final hymn ‘Beautiful is the Earth’ the cathedral bell began to toll out 350 times in unison with church bells all over central Europe. This connected with the global chain of prayers and bell-ringing for creation and the climate that had started in Fiji in the South Pacific earlier in the day, sounding through all time-zones to Copenhagen, on to Greenland, right round the earth and back to the South Pacific for the end of the day. 350 refers to 350ppm (parts per million), the maximum acceptable level of CO2 emissions, according to the UN.

Eucaristía en la catedral

December 13, 2009 1 comment

El viernes 11 Caritas Internacional y CIDSE , que es la coordinadora de grandes ongs católicas, organizaron una Eucaristía en la Catedral de San Oscar, aquí en Copenhague. Los católicos en Dinamarca son el 0,6%, muy pocos, era una forma de que los católicos daneses sintiesen la cercanía de la Iglesia, especialmente de organizaciones como Caritas que ha estado más implicada en el seguimiento de las cuestiones del Cambio Climático. Además era la gran oportunidad para encontrarnos los católicos que estamos participando en la Conferencia: miembros de ongs, de congregaciones religiosas pero también funcionarios. Fue una ceremonia muy bonita, animada por un coro estupendo de chavales y chavalas daneses.

Con motivo de la Conferencia Caritas ha invitado a un grupo de obispos de todo el mundo para hacerse presentes, por eso presidió la Eucaristía el obispo de Kampala, Uganda, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga (ver homilía). Estaban también el obispo de Copenhague, Czeslaw Kozon, el obispo de Nuevo Laredo, Méjico, Gustavo Vega; el obispo de Padang, Indonesia, Martinus Situmorang; el obispo auxiliar de Dhaka, Bangladesh, Theotonius Gomes; y, el obispo de Chimoio, Mozambique, Francisco Joao Silota. Fue realmente una imagen muy universal de la Iglesia.

El evangelio del día me pareció muy oportuno para lo que está pasando aquí en Copenhague: (San Mateo 11,16-19). ¿Con quién puedo comparar a esta generación? Se parece a esos muchachos que, sentados en la plaza, gritan a los otros: ‘¡Les tocamos la flauta, y ustedes no bailaron! ¡Entonamos cantos fúnebres, y no lloraron!’. Porque llegó Juan, que no come ni bebe, y ustedes dicen: ‘¡Ha perdido la cabeza!’. Llegó el Hijo del hombre, que come y bebe, y dicen: ‘Es un glotón y un borracho, amigo de publicanos y pecadores’. Pero la Sabiduría ha quedado justificada por sus obras”. Nos han avisado, nos lo han dicho: los científicos, los habitantes de las islas del pacífico que ven como el agua va ganando terreno, los habitantes de zonas tropicales que padecen tifones cada vez más frecuentes y graves, los indígenas que ven sus bosques desaparecer, y con ellos su modo de vivir; los habitantes de alta montaña que asisten impotentes a la desaparición de glaciares y reservas de agua; los campesinos africanos que sufren sequías cada vez más prolongadas y recurrentes… nos han avisado, han entonado cantos fúnebres y no hemos llorado. Desde luego somos una generación difícil.

El problema del cambio climático es una señal, tal vez la más grave y urgente, de todo un sistema que falla. Un mundo social y económico instalado sobre supuestos de satisfacción de necesidades a corto plazo sin responder a criterios de solidaridad, presente y futura. Y siempre encontraremos escusas: Juan era demasiado austero, Jesús vivía demasiado bien. Siempre hay una buena excusa para no renunciar a lo nuestro y atrevernos a vivir desde el don y la gratuidad.

COP15 – Puzzling Thoughts 4/4 – Eucharist

December 12, 2009 2 comments

Yesterday, Dec 11, I attended various side-events to COP15, and I am left with some puzzle pieces of thoughts.

 (4) José Ignacio and myself participated in a eucharistic celebration at the roman catholic St. Ansgar cathedral in Copenhagen, presided by the archbishop of Kampala and organized by Caritas Internationalis on the occasion of COP15. Although Roman Catholics are a very small minority in Denmark, this eucharist reflected a very lively and welcoming community. The youth choir was impressive.

Participation in the liturgy reminded me how important a eucharistic celebration can be in the context of the worldwide climate change crisis: this celebration connects us globally – the eucharist is celebrated worldwide; there is time to take in reality, our responsibilities and our mistakes in reality; we celebrate the beauty of our world and thank God for it; we participate in God’s work in creation and bring this on the table, where this shared work shapes us into a church; the readings, and particularly the gospel reading, remind us that we belong to the world, as in the incarnation the Lord belongs to the world – our faith is not about moving out of the world into some other kind of world, but about moving into the world to move with it into its full future, the Reign of God; there is celebration of communion with God, with our fellow human beings and with the world; we are reminded of our mission into our world and of the fact that this mission leads us into total commitment – that we may be celebrating the eucharist as Christ did, on the eve of his passion. All of these are crucial attitudes today, in the midst of a growling world, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his “Messe sur le Monde” was well aware of. I refer to him here, because his writings and those of Thomas Berry, accompany me here, and I am glad to have those two beacons with me in Copenhagen.

Egied Van Broeckhoven, a Flemish Jesuit priester worker in Brussels during the second half of the twentieth century, parts of whose diary have been published also in English, describes this double movement of incarnation as participation in the work of a growning world, a world that struggles against injustice and inhumanity; as well as as intimate encounter with God precisely in this world. His holy ground was the factory, our holy ground today is our planet.

The Global Peace Initiative of Women: “Addressing Climate Change by Awakening to Oneness”

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Posted by Frances Orchard CJ

Given the apparent lack of faith-based inputs at COP15 it has been a welcome oasis to be able to participate in The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) here in Copenhagen. GPIW has been working for the past year to organize a strong gathering of spiritual leaders from across the world in support of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Dena Merriam, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell and Sister Joan Chittister OSB are leading this delegation of 35 spiritual leaders and thinkers, environmentalists and scientists to participate in the numerous events taking place in Copenhagen around this UN Summit. The delegation includes strong representation from the Eastern traditions and includes faith leaders from countries strongly affected by climate change. Included in the delegation are representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Pakistan, Senegal, Thailand, UK, Uganda, the United States, and Vietnam.

The message of GPIW is that as climate change poses an unprecedented challenge and opportunity for the human community what is most greatly needed is the guidance of our spiritual traditions, the wisdom and the love that comes from deep prayer and contemplative practice. Climate change, more than any other issue, has the potential to unite us as a human community. It also has the potential to divide us. We will succeed only if we are able to tap that which unifies so that we can know more deeply our Oneness, the underlying source from which all life is drawn.

It has not been possible to attend all their sessions but yesterday GPIW hosted an evening entitled: “Voices of Hope- Responding to the Call of the Earth”. Guest speakers included: the Hon Maurice F. Strong, a leading environmentalist and Secretary-General of the Stockholm Conference on the Environment; Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Laureate and Founder of the Greenbelt Movement in Africa; Professor Dr. Phra Dharmakosajarn, Rector of the MCU University in Thailand; Swami Veda Bharati of the Sadhana Mandir Ashram in India; Andrew Harvey, architect of Sacred Activism, and others.

Keys themes that emerged were the belief that only religion has the power – the height, and depth, and breadth – to bring about the shift in consciousness that humanity needs to face the emerging crisis of climate change. Maurice Strong took a long view of change and emphasized that the collapse of communism and socialism removed the restraints of unbridled capitalism and irresponsible acquisition has been the consequence. 

Professor Wangari reminded us to re-visit the Book of Genesis to see how God views humans in the whole scheme of things. We were created only on the sixth day because we needed everything else in creation to be there for us. Had we been created on Monday we would have died on Tuesday because our support structures were not yet in place! Our role is to be custodians of creation not exploiters. If we exploit we undermine the structure within which we are designed to exist. As custodians we need values. Values have no price tag (which is not the way the negotiators at COP15 see things), but without values our humanity is diminished. Only Christian values such as compassion towards those who suffer without cause, and empathy to do to others what we would wish them to do to us, can help us to be truly human. Values and compassion are not words in use at COP15.

Dr.Phra Dharmakosajarn returned to the key question of how we raise awareness to the threat to humanity. He reminded us that Darwin’s research showed that it was not the strongest or the most powerful who survived but the fittest. Fitness entails the ability to adapt to a changing environment. As our environment changes how do we adapt our behaviour to survive?  Not by continuing our pattern of relentless acquisition but by being aware of what we have to do to adapt to our circumstances: consume less; be more compassionate to those who suffer; stay firm to our values; pray that we might be transformed.

Pope John Paul II spoke about the need for ecological conversion and ecological vocation. This is very close to the message that is coming from the spiritual leaders of the world here in Copenhagen. It is also the message of Pope Benedict XVI when he writes: “”we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop ‘that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God'”.