Climate Sunday Coordinator

Are you passionate about addressing the climate emergency?  Would you like to play a key part in UK Churches’ engagement with the issue in 2020? In the face of a climate emergency, there has never been more need for civil society to act. With a presence in every community, A Rocha UK firmly believe that churches have massive potential for positive impact. As the UK hosts UN climate negotiations in November 2020, a coalition of UK Christian charities and denominations including A Rocha UK is organising a unique national event, Climate Sunday, for the autumn. This will inspire Christians and Churches across denominations, streams and traditions, to engage spiritually and practically with the issue, many for the first time. It will enable them to raise their voices together to support bolder UK government and international action and leave a legacy of thousands of churches committed to greater action on climate change.

The Churches Environmental Issues Network is looking for an effective project manager, implementer and network builder to further develop and coordinate the delivery of Climate Sunday.

Length of contract: The post is offered on a 9-month contract initially, with efforts being made to secure funding for 12 months.

Hours: The post will be part time initially (3 days per week), increasing to full time if funding can be secured. Some weekend and evening work, and some UK-wide travel will be required.

Salary: Salary of up to £43,000 (per annum) pro rata or consultancy rate as negotiated.

Location: The post will be located at the offices of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), near Waterloo Station in Central London.

Start Date: As soon as possible.

Applications should be made by 9.00 am Monday 10th February to Abigail.burrows@ctbi.org.uk cc to andy.atkins@arocha.org with a CV and a covering letter of no more than two pages, demonstrating how you meet the criteria for the role.

For the full job description and person specification, please see here.

Prayer Email 12 January 2020: Unity, Farmers, Hope, India’s Citizenship Bill

Prayer for the Week

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on Wednesday the 18th, so this week’s prayer has Christian unity as its theme. You can also find the UK materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity here, and the international materials here.

A further collection of prayers for unity is in this Twitter thread.

Lord Jesus Christ,
who prayed that all your followers might be one,
We ask your forgiveness for our divisions.
Unite us, we pray, in your love
And grant that, by your grace, we may come to serve you
As members of the one body,
Guided by your truth
And glorifying you together
Through the gifts you have given us.

 

Focus for Prayer – Farming

Our January prayer for farmers is on our website’s Prayer Space. Further resources are available from the Arthur Rank Centre.

As you pray for farmers this week, please pray especially for:

Those in Australia who have lost farms to the bushfires

All farmers whose livelihoods and lives are threatened by extreme weather, trade uncertainties, and conflict (UK, DRC, South Sudan, and others)

All farmers suffering from mental ill health as a result of the strains of farming. Give thanks for charities, such as FCN and RABI in the UK, that offer support for farmers under stress.

Items for prayer

Reasons for Hope

There are many reasons for concern as we look at the current climate situation – but where do we find hope?

I (Maranda) have recently revisited the brilliant collection of essays on Christian hope and the environment that Margot and Martin Hodson gathered for Anvil. The articles in that collection wrestle with key questions: how do we relate our ultimate hope – our trust in God’s good purposes for the creation – to our proximate hopes for the temporal future? How do we avoid ‘false hope’ which is based on an unwillingness to confront hard realities? How do we harness ‘optimistic hope’ which inspires people to keep working on tough issues? And what is ‘robust hope’? If you haven’t read the articles – or, indeed, even if you have – this is a volume to visit or revisit. The whole volume is freely available online.

Six climate researchers also started the year by sharing news that had given them hope in 2019. One spoke of country-level events, citing Costa Rica’s work to decarbonise its economy – an antidote to people who say that governments can’t or won’t undertake ambitious climate action.  Another cited advances in forecasting that that can make it possible to predict the behaviour of – and hence prepare for – extreme weather. Four cited political or economic movements or actions: the growth of divestment, local declarations of ‘climate emergency’ leading to local action, the rise of the youth climate movement, and the plans for decarbonisation in a recent party manifesto.

Over the next week, can you read some of the pieces on hope? Give thanks to God for the things that give you hope? And pray about how you can best act in order to give hope to others?

 

India’s Citizenship Act

Widespread protests have taken place for more than a month in India in response to the Indian government’s introduction of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act [CAA], which was signed into law on 12 December and took effect last Thursday, 10 January.

The new act offers a path to legal citizenship for migrants from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan,  who entered India before the end of 2014.* According to its terms, they “shall not be treated as illegal immigrants.” The government has justified its selection of these groups on the grounds that they  “were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.” Critics point out, however, that the act does not offer such a path to Muslims from any country, including those, such as the  Ahmadiyyas or Hazara who have fled religious persecution in the countries named in the act.

The act’s passage represents the first time that the constitutionally secular democracy has made religion a criterion for citizenship, and there are fears that it will be used to marginalise or expel Muslims. It coincides with suggestions that the government might create a nationwide ‘National Register of Citizens’, requiring people to prove their right to citizenship. In the state of Assam, when such a register was implemented, around 1.9 million people were found to lack adequate documentation to show that they qualified and so were deemed stateless and under threat of deportation.  Under the provisions of the CAA, Muslims in this situation would continue to exist under this threat, while members of other groups could claim a right to remain.

This move reflects the BJP’s vision of India as a Hindu nation-state and its idea that  Muslims and Hindus should live in different states. BJP ministers have articulated at various pointsthat their objectives include prioritising Hindu and Sikh refugees and expelling what they call ‘infiltrators’, often seen as code for those perceived as illegal Muslim migrants.

For all – Hindus and others –  who favour a democracy that preserves religious freedom for all its minorities and heeds the constitutional principle that India is to be a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”, the moves are profoundly worrying. Politicians from other parties, students, secularists, and religious leaders from minority communities including the Christian churches have united in expressing their concern and opposition.

Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit in India, said, during the debates around the bill:  “The CAB risks tearing the country apart, reopening unhealed wounds of the Partition and ultimately destroying the secular and democratic tenets of our revered Constitution….” adding with respect to the proposal of a national register, “The country today stands at the brink of catastrophic human suffering and injustice, if the government implements it nationwide as planned.”

Students have been particularly vehement in protestinginspiring many others in civil society – but have been attacked by government forces. The opposition Congress party has ordered its members who govern states not to implement the act, and the leader of another state governed by an opposition party  has also said the state will refuse to implement it. Opposition parties are due to meet this week to decide on a strategy.

Please pray:

  • for wisdom for politicians as they decide how to respond to the CAA and the protests against it
  • for wisdom for those who will be arguing and hearing legal challenges to the CAA in the coming month
  • that India will be a place that conforms to its founders’ vision of freedom and equality under the law for members of all religious groups
  • that India, and all countries, will offer refuge to all who come to it and qualify as refugees under international law
  • for wisdom for Christian leaders, as they consider their response to the act

*The Indian government estimates that of those who have claimed refuge so far on the basis of persecution and would benefit from the act,  81.2% are Hindus and 18.5% Sikhs.

 

Update on Aid

Thank you to all who have prayed and are praying about the Department for International Development (DfID)’s  future. In the past week, as Duncan Green outlines at the end of his piece on the issue, news first came through that suggested a merger that abolished DfID wouldn’t take place. Then almost immediately other news suggested that while a complete merger was unlikely, a restructuring that abolished DfID’s ministerial post and gave the Foreign Office de facto control of DfID’s structures was still possible. Such a plan would continue to raise concerns about the future independence and efficacy of the UK’s development work.  Please continue to pray, asking God to give all involved in the decision wisdom and a desire to do what will further the reduction of poverty and the increase of economic justice.

Short Notes …

Please continue to pray about the situation in Iran, the tensions between Iran and the US, and the tensions across the Middle East. If you would like more detailed prayer points, email us.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States, Nancy Pelosi, has indicated that she will send the articles of impeachment for President Trump to the Senate this week, despite profound disagreements with Senate leadership about how the trial should be conducted. The Senate leadership has indicated that it wants to put forward rules for the trial that will not involve a decision to call witnesses or to request documents that the President had refused to make available to the House. The Senate Majority Leader has also already suggested that there will be a speedy acquittal, and he has said that “Everything I do during this [trial], I’m coordinating with the White House counsel … There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”

During a Senate impeachment trial, each Senator takes an oath to “do impartial justice, according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.” Whatever the merits of the case, there is a clear danger to the integrity of the Constitution and to the credibility of political processes if there is not a sense that a fair trial is taking place and impartial justice is being done.

As US politicians take the next steps in the impeachment process, pray for wisdom and integrity for all concerned.

Resources

2020 Dates for Prayer and Action
A reminder that the first quarter dates for prayer and action are on our website here.  Many people find them handy for planning services, rotas, and special events – and they can be used to shape your own cycle of prayer, too.

Supporting Refugees: A Guide for Oxfordshire Churches
Churches in Oxfordshire will be receiving this week a new guide to supporting refugees in our area. The booklet has been compiled by CCOW with the assistance of a range of local partner organisations. It introduces the different charities that are standing alongside refugees in Oxfordshire and the opportunities they offer to help with their work. If you would like your own copy (wherever you live), please do get in touch.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials this year include a suggestion that Christians and churches “Provide welcome and hospitality for those recently arrived into the UK and Ireland” If this call inspires people in your church who aren’t yet involved to get involved, the guide can help them find out what they can do.

 

Forthcoming Dates and Events

13 January – Asylum Welcome Charity Gala – Oxford
Information and tickets.

19 January 2020 – Peace Sunday
Theme: Peace as a journey of hope’ Materials: Pax Christi

22 January 2020 – Talk by Sophi Tranchell, Oxford
The Oxford Fair Trade Coalition is hosting a talk by Sophi Tranchell, CEO of Divine Chocolate UK at its AGM. She’ll be speaking about her experiences in Fairtrade – well worth hearing. Wadham College, 6:30 – 8:30. Registration.

25 January 2020 – ‘Saying yes to life’ – Reading
Day retreat (9:30 for 10:00 until 2:30 pm) based on Ruth Valerio’s new Lent book. Free. Lunch provided. For further information and registration, email maranda.stjohnnicolle@oxford.anglican.org.

1 February 2020 – Green Christian ‘Way of Life’ Day – London
Day conference on ‘rediscovering and maintaining a radical, creation-centred way of being’. Presentations on prayer, ‘living gently’, public witness and encouragement. Sessions on poetry, prayer and music. Information and registration.

This Week’s Readings

Revised Common Lectionary Readings – Isaiah 42 1-9  •  Psalm 29  •  Acts 10: 34-43  • Matthew 3: 13- 17

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”

Isaiah 42: 1-4

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Prayer Email for 4/08/19: Climate Emergency – Action Stations

Readings for this week :

Verses for meditation:

” So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.  Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly…”
(Colossians 3:1-5a)

Reflection on the verses:

“The values from above should shape our earth.  Paul does not call us to escape this earth for heaven but to transform the earth with the gospel of heaven.   In so doing, we have the promise: ‘When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory.'”
Robert Smith,  Commentary on Colossians 3:1-11, A Plain Account

 

Coming Up This Fortnight

For prayer before, during or after the events…

9 August – International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

12 August – International Youth Day
2019 Theme: Transforming Education. Info from the UN. Could youth in your church lead prayers for young people worldwide?

19 August – World Humanitarian Day
2019 theme: Women Humanitarians. Pray for humanitarian workers/efforts worldwide. Info from UN

Items for Prayer

Emergency – Action Stations

As we’ve been writing the Pray and Fast for the Climate prayer points this week, I (Maranda) have had company. A group of bluetits and a mistle thrush have taken up residence outside my office window. They flit from the rosebush to the windowsill, tap the sill probingly (it’s metal – not much satisfaction there) and then flit back. The rose’s blossoms nod as they land in its branches – and nod again as they take off for the nearby elder, whose darkening berries are an abundant source of food.

It’s all very idyllic – the kind of thing that recalls nineteenth century poetry: “the lark’s on the wing; the snail’s on the thorn: God’s in His heaven – all’s right with the world.” Juxtaposing that with the climate impacts I’ve been writing about has been somewhat jarring. It has highlighted one of the problems many of us in the UK  face: surrounded by a natural world which, on the surface, doesn’t look that different from the one we and our parents and grandparents have grown up loving, how can we maintain our focus on confronting  the very real planetary crisis that means that all is decidedly not right with the world?

For me, the hardest  prayer item to write was the one about the Arctic. What’s happening there is deeply disconcerting. There is the incongruity of intense heating in the coldest regions. Record-breaking heat in contexts where you expect heat is one thing. But three straight months of above average temperatures and highs above 30 in Alaska? Then there are the reports of mass animal deaths in recent years – tufted puffins starving, most likely  because of the warming seas, and thousands of Cassin’s Auklets being washed ashore. And finally there  is something that is both present and imminent – the awareness that the Arctic impacts that we are seeing are themselves drivers of accelerated heating, that we are looking at the type of feedback loops that scientists have long warned pose a primary threat to our ability to avoid runaway global heating. Ice melt means that less heat gets reflected and so leads to further ice melt; wildfires spread soot, increasing heat absorption that helps to create the conditions for further wildfires; the fires’ heat warms permafrost, releasing long-sequestered carbon ….

The crisis is real. And if we’re honest, it’s present even in our part of our common home. The birds at my window are lovely – but where are the flocks of swifts that used to wheel around the village? The roses are beautiful, but what about the more shallow-rooted plants, that have withered in the heat? If I’m working late at night, can I fail to notice that there are fewer moths bumping against the windowpane, trying to reach the light? The quiet apocalypse is a reality here, too.

This is why the language of emergency – climate emergency and, more generally, planetary emergency – feels so important. Human beings are, by nature, adaptively resilient. When things change, we change, too. If the change is gradual enough, it’s easy to embed the ‘new normal’ in our established patterns of language and action, shifting definitions so  that we can disguise from ourselves the significance of what’s happening. A ‘hot summer’s day’ this year is 38, but because we talk about  summer heat and ‘ice-cream weather’ as we once would have to describe a day of 30 degrees, it feels less threatening. The language of emergency cuts through this, acknowledging that what we are seeing is not a temporary extreme that we can fit within our extant paradigms, but part of an abnormal shift that can’t be ignored.

But there’s a challenge with ’emergency’ language, too. For some people, it feels disempowering, as if we’re saying that the situation is beyond our control, too difficult to resolve and hence pointless to fight. We may feel that it invites us to become like that stock figure of disaster films and real-life situations – the person who disconsolately moans ‘We’re doomed’ as a  crisis becomes apparent.

There are, however, other models.  One that springs to mind is the airline pilot  ‘Sully’ Sullenberge and his team. Sullenberger famously landed a crippled, engine-less jet in the Hudson River without loss of life. In what was a seemingly hopeless emergency, with only four minutes from engine failure to impact, he drew on decades of experience, his own courage and skill, the absolute knowledge of what the technology he commanded *could* do, and a well-trained team. He, his co-pilot, the air traffic controllers who alerted those in their path, the flight attendants who then helped evacuate the passengers,  the ferry and boat crews who rescued them, and the passengers themselves (barring one who panicked and opened a rear door) saw what needed to be done, and did it.

For us, too, the declaration of an emergency can be the impetus not for panic but for a focused, realistic assessment of where we are, the tools we have available to us, the changes that need to happen, and how we can both implement them on a small scale and work with others to see them implemented on a large scale.

Neither the climate crisis nor the broader planetary environmental crisis is going to be simple to resolve. But one of the main merits of the Paris Agreement is that it has given us a clear long-term goal for climate action. To fulfill this goal, it’s now generally recognised that the world has to get to net zero emissions globally by mid-century. In this, developed countries need to lead the way as ‘early adopters’. This goal provides a framework for our efforts: it’s not just about doing this or that action, advocating for this or that policy. It’s about assessing now what it would take for us – individually, as Christian communities, as part of our wider societies –  to begin to approach the net zero target in a scientifically and morally credible time frame.

How we do this isn’t simply a technical matter. Any attempt to answer the question ‘How then shall we live?’ brings us back to the first principles of our faith – the nature of God, what it means to be human, what the relationships between God, humanity and the rest of creation – now so often manifestly broken – are meant to look like.   As Christians, our faith gives us some clear principles that can be a gift to the general response – a worldview that sees the intrinsic value of all creation, for example; a calling to love of neighbour which incorporates the need for climate justice; and a trust in the One who created, redeems and sustains all that is – the wellspring of our hope. Perhaps our first challenge is truly to ‘own’ the things we say we believe – so that they become the deeply embedded foundations on which we seek, by God’s grace and using all the technical tools at our disposal, to build a concrete reality.

In four weeks’ time, we start the Season of Creation, which runs from 1 September to 4 October and this year has the theme ‘Web of Life – Biodiversity as God’s blessing’. It’s a time for people and churches who are already deeply committed to caring for creation as part of discipleship to take stock and to renew that commitment … and for those just exploring this aspect of discipleship to take the first steps.

We hope and pray that it will be a time to celebrate the glorious diversity of what Richard Bauckham calls ‘the community of creation’. We hope and pray that it will be a time to pray together in repentance, praise, thanksgiving and intercession for the creation. But we also hope and pray that this won’t just be ‘the time of the year when we think about creation’ but a time to start or review a long-term plan for living as we have to live if we are to be responsible members of the creation before God. What would it look like, for example, if our churches committed, this Season of Creation, to developing over the coming year a credible net zero plan  and/or a credible plan to celebrate and protect biodiversity… and then began a year-long process of exploring the underlying principles and the technical tools that could shape their response?

This week, in our resources section, we highlight the official Season of Creation resources. But with the aim of helping churches to think about long term plans, as well as celebrating the season,  each subsequent week’s  resources section will have a particular focus: understanding and explaining the crises facing the planet, reflecting on our Christian calling, practical tools for action, and tools that help us connect with each other and our communities. At every point, we’d love to hear from you about things you’ve found helpful – so please do write in with suggestions! Please also let us know if you’d like to be part of a process of thinking through how we, ecumenically, can strengthen each other’s response. And please pray that this Season will further a restoration of relationships between God, humanity and all creation.

DRC Update: Ebola and Wider Concerns

Please continue to pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the eastern provinces. In the province of Ituri, a renewed outbreak of violence has led to many deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have fled to the city of Bunia. Pray for all affected,  especially for people who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. Pray too for those who are seeking to offer assistance to people who have been displaced, and especially for Caritas Bunia, which is coordinating aid to people in camps.

Ituri, together with the province of Nord Kivu, is also affected by the Ebola outbreak, which, one year after it began, has now claitled over 1,838 lives. On 17 July, the World Health Organization declared that the Ebola outbreak is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The immediate causes for the declaration included the first Ebola case in the provincial capital of Goma. Goma is a major transport and trading hub, and there has long been concern that if cases began to appear in the city, the virus could spread more widely from there to other parts of the DRC and potentially to other countries.

Part of the hesitation in declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern has been a fear, especially within the Congolese government, that such a declaration could result in countries closing their borders with the eastern DRC – something which would further destabilise the already fragile economy there. The declaration explicitly asked neighbouring countries not to do this; thus far, most seem to have complied, and while Rwanda temporarily closed its border with Goma, it appears to have reopened it.

The declaration has had a positive effect in mobilising resources for the health response, and numerous countries and agencies, including the World Bank, have increased their involement.

Pray  that countries will continue to keep their borders open and that the declaration will continue to have a positive impact on the resources available for prevention and treatment.

In another development at the end of July, the oversight of the Ebola response was switched from the Minister of Health to a team of experts, led by Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, reporting directly to the President. The shift may be related to questions of which vaccines and vaccination strategies to use, concerning which there has been a division of opinion (perspectives: RFI, Muyembe press conference, Minister of Health’s letterPeter Piot and Harvard Business Review). We pray for the new team as they take on their new responsibilities, asking God to give them wisdom and strength.

Finally, the Congo Church Association recently sent out its newsletter. We rightly hear much about the difficulties that people in the DRC face – we must be aware and pray in response. But in the newsletter, we also hear about the loving and courageous work that Congolese Anglican churches are doing, by God’s grace, to show God’s love in word and deed. We need to hear about this, too. Do take a look at this and at the Caritas Bunia website – and pray for Christians in the DRC, thanking God for them and asking God to guide and bless them and their ministries.

Some more prayers for the DRC can be found here and from the Congo Church Association. CAFOD has a prayer specifically for those affected by Ebola.

Short Notes

Yemen
845,017 people. It’s a little more than the total population of Berkshire – and it’s the number of people who are thought to have contracted cholera in Yemen between January 2018 and 7 July 2019. More than 1,230 have died. An estimated 3.3 million Yemenis have been displaced; 10 million are in need of food aid.

Please continue to pray for the people of Yemen, especially for the many civilians for whom the war and humanitarian crisis have meant loss of family, friends, health, homes and livelihoods. Pray that an apparent deal to increase the flow of aid will last and will be effective. Give thanks for all people of good will who are working for peace and to provide assistance to those in need. Pray for their safety and effectiveness.

Pray, too for all parties in the conflict – that they may seek a just peace. As the United Arab Emirates draw down their troops, pray that the result is an opening for a negotiated peace.

Sudan
Sudan’s army and its main opposition coalition have signed a constitutional declaration that sets out a plan for a transitional government. Pray that this development leads to justice and stability for all inhabitants of Sudan. Pray for those who will lead the new transitional government, as they seek to negotiate the country’s economic and political challenges.

Hong Kong
Please continue to hold the people and government of Hong Kong in your prayers. As protests and strikes continue, tensions also continue to mount, and there is concern about China’s response. Please pray for wisdom for all involved. Pray, too, that the  situation may end in a just resolution, by which the human rights, freedoms and safety of all Hong Kong’s inhabitants – and the preservation of their distinctive place – can be guaranteed.

For Prayerful Action

WIn addition to starting to plan for Season of Creation, could you:

 

Resources to help you pray and act

Season of Ceation

Put together by a global team, this year’s Season of Creation resources include a full celebration guide with information about the theme, a ‘Season of Creation’ prayer and further worship resources, and suggestions for events. The website’s resources section also includes  promotional materials, materials for young people and clergy, and a space for sharing community-created resources. Take a look.

We also still have some of Elizabeth’s beautiful Time for Creation postcards, which you can use as invitations to special events. They’re free; all we ask is a donation to cover postage and packing. Email if you’d like some.

 

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Prayers for Week of 12 May

  • CCOW News
  • ‘God saw that it was good’
  • Ebola
  • After the Cyclones
  • World Fair Trade Day
  • This Week’s Readings

 

CCOW News

These are exciting times. We’re planning a follow-up to our 2018 conference on supporting refugees, putting together proposals to network churches around Fair Trade and local environmental action, and preparing more prayer materials for the coming months.

But we need more capacity if we’re to do both ongoing and new work – and so in addition to fundraising for our normal costs, we are hoping to raise £7,000 towards a new part-time post. We’re holding a sponsored walk on  Saturday, 1 June in the Windrush Valley (details here … walkers and sponsors welcome!) Pray that this will be well supported and also for funding from trusts, churches and individuals.

‘God saw that it was good’

One of the most striking moments in the recent event where Greta Thunberg spoke alongside Caroline Lucas and Anna Taylor came when a young woman spoke about politicians being “desensitised … to words like ‘mass extinction’ ‘climate change’ ‘deforestation'” and then asked: “So how do you make them understand quite how desensitised they are to words that they are throwing around?”

It’s a good question – and not just for politicians. Last Monday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released its ‘Global Assessment’ (summary for policymakers here). The report’s  headline points were:

  • Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’
  • Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’
  • Current global response insufficient;
  • ‘Transformative changes’ needed to restore and protect nature;
  • Opposition from vested interests can be overcome for public good
  • Most comprehensive assessment of its kind;
  • 1,000,000 species threatened with extinction

For us as human beings, a report like this could force us to acknowledge that our actions represent a threat to the entire web of life on which we depend. And for us as Christians, it could compel us to recognise that we are signally failing in our call to steward the earth and to contibute to the flourishing of what Richard Bauckham calls ‘the community of creation’. The good news is that the report also reminds us that there is still the chance to change – and to take steps that would help  heal the wounds of creation!

But will the report actually have these effects? Or are we so desensitised that news like this will come and go, and we’ll keep on as we are? The report got coverage in some media outlets (eg Guardian, New York Times) – but after a day or two it was supplanted by other stories. What can we do to keep the question of earth’s survival in the public eye and to push towards the action that scientists tell us is needed?

There will be many specific issues to address: the panel’s press release mentions, among others, plastic pollution, which has increased tenfold since 1980; the dumping of “300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities …annually into the world’s waters”; overuse of fertiliser creating marine ‘dead zones’; the impacts of overfishing and intensive farming. Each issue will demand concrete action.

But perhaps the three most crucial things we can do – from which other, practical actions will flow –  are these. Firstly, to re-connect ourselves (and seek to help reconnect others) with the sense of wonder at the miracle of God’s diverse creation, so that we can truly appreciate what we are in danger of losing and can come to love it.  Secondly to reject views that instrumentalise creation as a vehicle for meeting our needs, rather than as something which is precious in its own right. And thirdly to reflect on Bauckham’s idea of a ‘community of creation’, in which all created things exist to praise God … and we are invited to listen to their praise and to, as it were, join the choir.

If you have a few minutes, take the time to read Bauckham’s short sermon ‘The Community of Creation’ and reflect on it. Then ponder … what do you feel called to do to help address the current groaning of the earth? What steps could you take in your own life? How might you add your voice to advocacy by others to enable larger actions to take place?  If you’d like some further inspiration, you might also want to look at Elizabeth’s powerpoint ‘God saw that it was good’.

Please pray:

  • in thanksgiving to God for the majesty and diversity of creation
  • offering praise to God for earth’s beauty
  • asking forgiveness for our part in misusing creation’s gifts
  • giving thanks for Christ’s work to redeem all things
  • that humanity may come fully to appreciate the intrinsic preciousness of the whole creation
  • that the UN report will inspire genuine action to preserve and protect species and ecosystems
  • that God will lay on each person’s heart things that they can do to play a part in protecting the earth
Ebola

“We are life-savers — we will not be intimidated by this attack. We will strengthen our resolve, and we will fight to finish Ebola.” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus citing comments by health workers in Nord Kivu

During April the WHO released data showing  that the Merck Ebola vaccine which has been administered in North Kivu is protective over 97% of the time. This news  gives hope: furnished with such an effective tool, doctors can potentially contain an outbreak.

But April was also the worst month so far for new cases in North Kivu – 406 were recorded. That single month’s number would, on its own, constitute the fourth largest Ebola outbreak on record anywhere in the world. And the start of May has been equally worrying: 139 new cases (probable and confirmed) recorded in the opening nine days – with more likely unrecorded.

The issues that continue to hamper prevention and treatment efforts are social, political and economic).  Conflicts make some areas hard to reach, disrupting attempts to treat patients and trace their contacts. Many communities are  angered by the priority being given to Ebola when there are so many pressing health and economic needs …and/or see local elites making money from foreign interventions, so resent public health efforts. Various people and groups have promoted unhelpful rumours and conspiracy theories about Ebola  – from a denial that Ebola exists to suggestions that vaccination campaigns are in fact a way of infecting the population or that the disease itself has been introduced for political ends. “The Ebola vaccine isn’t poison” …”Ebola isn’t a tool to reduce the population density in Beni and Lubero,” a Congolese group recently tweeted, trying to counter some of the disinformation and get correct information to the public.

Given these issues, there has been not only a reluctance to engage with public health programmes, but also violence directed at health workers and health facilities. As of 3 May, there had been “since January … 119 separate attacks on Ebola response workers or operations,  42 direct attacks on health facilities, and 85 health personnel injured or killed” including Cameroonian doctor Richard Mouzoko, who was killed in Butembo in late April. Just this past week, another health worker was killed and violence closed most operations in Butembo.

This is a crucial time: two public health experts pointed out last week that the West African Ebola outbreak “really began to accelerate when daily case counts reached the numbers we are seeing now in the DRC.” It is still possible to contain the epidemic – but there needs to be more funding (the WHO has received only half its requested funds), more vaccine doses – and perhaps a new vaccination strategy – available, better security for the region, community ownership of the public health response, and greater trust among the different parties involved.

Improving the situation is possible. The UK has pledged more funds, and other donors may follow suit. A strategy to vaccinate more people, and supplies of a second vaccine, are due to be coming on stream. The DRC government and the UN mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) have offered their help with security – though there is, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowwledged, a balance between the need for security and the need not to seem to intimidate local communities. New strategies for testing and treatment are more integrated with general healthcare. Churches and faith groups are committed to trying to get correct information to their followers; Tearfund speaks of its partners “producing Ebola prevention songs in local languages for broadcast on the radio and for use by choirs; talks and announcements in church services; and door-to-door sharing.”

Please continue to pray (prayer points a mixture of those from CCOW and those adapted from the Congo Church Association):

  • for all who have lost loved ones in the epidemic, especially children who have been left vulnerable. Pray that children who have lost parents will be taken into families and not stigmatised.
  • for survivors as they seek to recover from the mental and physical trauma of the illness … and for people indirectly affected
  • in thanksgiving for the courage and dedication of Congolese and foreign health workers, who are continuing their efforts despite facing personal danger. Pray for protection for them, and for them to have safe access to affected communities.
  • in thanksgiving for work being done by Christian agencies and church leaders to provide correct information about Ebola and to support those affected by it. Pray that this work will be effective.
  • for greater funding for WHO efforts
  • for all who are seeking to build stability and trust in the region generally, and to increase trust in the Ebola response
  • for those in other cities and countries who are undertaking vaccination programmes and other preventative measures to reduce the risk of a wider spread.
  • for ongoing health education in schools, churches, markets, via radio programmes and posters: pray that the message would get through, and cultural practices and beliefs and fear would not hinder the prevention and treatment of Ebola.

Further Reading:   CCOW has a page about the outbreak, with information, links and prayer points. It’s also worth following @HelenBranswell and @DrMikeRyan on Twitter.

After the Cyclones

“I have witnessed this pain of displacement. I have seen young children traumatised. I have heard people repeatedly say ‘It happened in the night’ and they are scared at the moment in some villages to sleep at night just in case Cyclone Idai comes again.  I have seen the makeshift homes that people live in at the moment. I have seen the agricultural areas destroyed and water everywhere…So Cyclone Idai is indeed a humanitarian crisis that once again lies bare the fundamental injustice of climate change.”  Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

“‘I’m trying to fix my house but I can’t afford to fix it properly. I don’t even have the money for any food for the family. I have a bag of rice from my employers, they gave it to us when they heard about the house, but that’s all we eat. We can’t buy fish like we used to. I just don’t have the money” Gomez Salgado Tome, Mozambique

The past six weeks have seen a series of devastating tropical cyclones. First was Idai, which caused catastrophic flooding in Malawi, southern Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe. Then came Category 4 strength Kenneth, which hit northern Mozambique. Over 240,000 people were affected by its storm-caused damage, which included the partial or total destruction of over 43,000 houses. In some cases, whole villages were wiped out: in one island community, only three buildings were left standing.

Just over a week later, on 4 May, another strong Category 4 cyclone, Fani, struck in Odisha, India, cutting a destructive swathe across parts of northeast India and Bangladesh, affecting 100,000 hectares of agricultural land and uprooting more than a million trees. Despite a massive evacuation, Fani killed 64 people in Odisha State and thirteen in Bangladesh.

What happens now? While the areas affected have disappeared from the headlines, their concerns haven’t ended. With Idai and Kenneth, survivors will face for some time lack of shelter, the threat of water-borne disease, as water and sanitation facilities have been destroyed, and food insecurity, as tens of thousands of hectares of crops were ruined. Throughout Mozambique, the UN estimates that about 1.85 million people need humanitarian aid, and the World Bank has estimated the costs of rebuilding at $2 billion.

The difficulty for Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, is that the government simply doesn’t have the money needed for rebuilding. The Mozambican government has, therefore, had to seek external funding. The World Bank has offered $350 million in grants to Mozambique, as well as grants for Malawi and Zimbabwe. The IMF, meanwhile, has provided $118.2 million in funds from its Rapid Credit Facility – but in the form of a loan, not a grant. This is profoundly worrying; while the loan conditions are generous (zero interest at present), Mozambique has historically been negatively impacted by its international debts. Will any new loans tip it into a cycle of debt again? The IMF itself acknowledged that most assistance to Mozambique would have to be in the form of grants “to ensure debt sustainability”.

There is a strong argument that countries like Mozambique should, in fact, receive substantial grant funding as a matter of climate justice.

Category 4 strength Kenneth was one of the strongest recorded tropical cyclones to hit mainland Africa and the furthest north to have reached hurricane-level intensity.  Scientists say that the intensity of its rains and the impact of its storm surge are likely to have been increased by climate change, and the stalling that concentrated the rains may be part of a climate-related pattern.

But Mozambique’s carbon footprint per person is tiny  – about 1% of the US’s or 2.5% of the UK’s by some calculations. Its people are not responsible for climate change – but they are suffering the consequences. Should they then be left to bear the costs ?

Various mechanisms exist that are helping countries with limited economic resources cope with climate impacts:

But for some time, developing countries have also been pushing for funding via the ‘loss and damage’ mechanism – money which would help address climate impacts that are beyond the capacity of countries to address through adaptation. Developed countries have been nervous about the concept of  ‘loss and damage’, as they fear that it would lead to their being held liable for climate-related damage and open them to  claims for compensation. Instead they have favoured market-based solutions, such as increased access to insurance. But market-based solutions still often throw financial responsibility onto the people who are potentially going to suffer climate impacts – and some developing countries and environmental/development organisations are pushing for a loss and damage fund, financed perhaps by taxes on fossil fuel use or production, to which developing countries would have access.

Please pray:

  • for all who continue to suffer because of the recent cyclones
  • for churches, agencies, governments and all who are working to provide relief and recovery services to those affected by the three cyclones
  • in thanksgiving for the UK’s commitment to giving 0.7% GNI to the aid budget. Pray for continued support for the policy and for a right use of the aid money.
  • for proper funding to help developing countries recover from both slow-onset and extreme weather disasters
  • for wisdom for all who are preparing negotiations around loss and damage at the next UN climate talks.

World Fair Trade Day

 “I believe beautiful things are better when the people who make them are well-paid. Fairtrade has lifted quality and equality among smallholder coffee farmers in Tanzania.”
Anna Eliuze Bwambo AMCOS

“To me, fair trade means co-operating and collaborating for justice, fairness and equality for producers, farmers and handcrafters.  It is about recognising and truly valuing those who produce many of the goods we enjoy and affording them the dignity and income they deserve.”
Sally Seddon, Volunteer Engagement Manager, Shared Interest

Saturday, 11 May, was World Fair Trade Day –  a reminder to celebrate the work of Fair Trade Enterprises around the world. The quotes above were among those gathered by TWIN Trading, one of the oldest Fair Trade organisations in the UK, which asked the people it works with what Fair Trade means to them..

The World Fair Trade Day theme for 2019 is ‘Fair Trade Innovates’ – and the focus is on ways in which Fair Trade is innovating to find solutions to issues like inequality, climate impacts, and the need to produce goods sustainably. Find out more at the World Fair Trade Organization’s excellent new website.

Over the coming week, could you pray for the Fair Trade movement? The prayer below may be helpful – we also have many more resources on our website:

Dear Lord, we ask your blessing on all who are involved with Fairtrade, lifting before you:

  • producers as they grow their crops and craft their works. Bless them, we pray, in their endeavours and grant them wisdom and discernment as they make decisions about how to use the benefits of Fairtrade.
  • people who transport Fairtrade goods to market. Grant, we pray, that they, too, may be fairly treated.
  • those who import and retail Fairtrade goods. Grant them, we pray, a genuine commitment to fairer trade for all.
  • all of us who shop where Fairtrade goods are for sale. Grant us an understanding of the impact of our choices.

We ask all these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Further Reading:  ‘4 Ways Fair Trade is a Christian value”

This Week’s Readings
  Acts 9:36-43  •  Psalm 23  •  Revelation 7:9-17  •  John 10:22-30

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
John 10:27 – 30

Image: Minster Lovell Hall  (cropped). Credit: Hugh Llewellyn, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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Light for Katowice

As the COP 24 talks begin in Katowice, Poland, Elizabeth has updated a powerpoint to help us pray for all who are taking part … and for climate action.

Download the powerpoint here:  Advent Light for Katowice

Pray and Fast for the Climate – December 2018 Prayer Points

As the next round of UN Climate talks approaches, we pray for the negotiations at the talks. We pray, too, for work – both at the UN level and locally – to preserve biodiversity. We give thanks for scientists’ labours to inform us and for churches and others showing leadership in engaging with environmental issues. And we pray for those affected by recent fires.

Download the prayer points here.

One Small Step – Barry’s Story

As Christians, we know we’re called to live in ways that show love of God and neighbour. But how do we make changes to live this call out in practical ways in our daily life?

For many of us, practical changes often take place because we’re inspired by someone else – seeing them doing something or acting in a certain way.

CCOW’s ‘One Small Step’ series shares stories of change — the small steps individuals have taken to live more in keeping with their faith – to help inspire and encourage all of us on our journeys.

In this ‘One Small Step’, Barry shares his story which starts with some plastic bottles by the side of the road …

Download Barry’s Story here.

Time for Creation

Elizabeth Perry’s powerpoint for Time for Creation combines beautiful pictures of nature with quotes from Scripture, hymns, and prayers to form an acrostic of prayer and praise.

Download it here: Time for Creation powerpoint

For the Love of Creation

“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love ….” Laudato Si’ 84

A visual meditation on love of the natural world prepared by Elizabeth Perry using words drawn from Scripture and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si‘.

Download the powerpoint: For the Love of Creation

Time for Creation Postcard

A beautiful postcard that you can use as an invitation to your Time for Creation/Creation Time/Season of Creation services … or just to encourage people to remember to take time to thank God for creation!  To request copies, email ccowemails@ccow.org.uk.