Talking about the heat ….

Talking about the Heat – Talking Points

We’ve gathered together information about the current heatwave and climate change for use in conversations or presentations. Research suggests that understanding your audience, establishing common ground and sharing stories all matter more than data in communicating around climate – but sometimes people ask for specific facts, too. So the idea is to make some of those facts easily accessible.  Please let us know how you use the material; we’d love to know what does and doesn’t resonate with particular individuals or groups.

Yes, heatwaves and extreme high temperatures in particular places aren’t just a new phenomenon …

  • This is true. The central US experienced extended heatwaves and set longstanding temperature records in the 1930s.  And if you’re speaking to someone who remembers the UK’s heatwave in 1976, they may well bring that up, as the media frequently do (the  BBC’s done a comparison of the 1976 and 2018 heatwaves for example)

And there are several factors involved in this event. But human-induced climate change is likely a key driver.

  • Weather is complex and generally involves the interaction of multiple factors. In this heatwave, scientists have generally discussed four factors:
    • higher background temperatures resulting from climate change
    • North Atlantic sea temperatures
    • the location of the jet stream, a band of high winds in the upper atmosphere
    • and annual weather patterns
  • So climate change would definitely be cited as a key driver, if only because of the importance of the rising temperatures.
  • But in actuality, some of the other factors are also affected by climate change.  For example the jet stream derives its strength from the difference between cold air coming from the Arctic and warm air from the tropics. Rapid warming in the Arctic means that there are smaller difference between the Arctic and the tropics. This can weaken the jet stream. A weak jet stream, then, can ‘stall’, leading to long periods of persistent high or low pressure in a given area … like the persistent high behind our heatwave. Indeed, a recent study which looked at various ways climate change was affecting atmospheric circulation concluded it was quite likely to create more ‘extreme extremes’
  • This means that we may well be (to borrow language from cooking programmes) getting ‘climate change two ways’ – seeing its direct influence in the higher temperatures and its more complex influence as one of several factors in the way the atmosphere circulates.

Let’s start with the increase in global temperature. It’s a simple matter of observation that in recent years, the earth is getting hotter than it used to be …

  • How much hotter overall? The trend towards higher temperatures goes back a few decades. Here’s one way of looking at things – Ed Hawkin’s ‘warming stripes’ which show the changes in global temperatures from 1850 to 2017. Dark blue represents the coolest temperatures; dark red (at the far right) the warmest.
  • If the earth weren’t getting warmer, we’d expect a fairly random distribution of blues and reds. But as the stripes suggest, we have now had 402 consecutive months of global temperatures above the 20th century average. Moreover “seventeen of the 18 warmest years on record have all been during this century, and the degree of warming during the past three years has been exceptional.” (World Meteorological Organization’s head describing 2017)  In fact, the global average surface temperatures in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were all more than 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial era.
  • The high temperatures in 2017 are particularly striking, as, unlike in 2015 and 2016 there was no El Niño event – which tends to raise global average surface temperatures – in 2017.
  • What about this year? From January to June of 2018, global surface temperatures were the 4th hottest on record according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, and right now the Global Warming Index is at 1.03 degrees Centigrade.  This is despite the fact that 2018 also has not, thus far, seen the appearance of an El Niño event.

This increase in global mean temperatures isn’t just a continuation of ‘normal’ natural processes, as some people argue. Human activity is the dominant cause.

  • Both natural processes and human activity are involved in temperature changes. But, as Professor Myles Allen shows in a brilliant presentation covering the basic science of global warming (click on the links to see the videos), if you look at the warming that would be expected were only natural processes (primarily solar variability and volcanic activity) involved, it’s nowhere near as much as the warming we’ve seen in recent years. Indeed, estimates based on natural processes alone would suggest that temperatures should have gone down from 1970 … just when the current warming trend started. If you put together what we’d expect from natural processes with what we’d expect from increased emissions relating to human activity, however, you get something that corresponds quite closely to observed temperatures. This indicates that in the warming since the 1970s, human activity is the dominant factor.
  • Here’s another great illustration, this one by Emanuele Bevacqua, inspired by the warming stripes of Ed Hawkins (used with permission – with thanks to both!)  It shows how the mean global temperature increases (bottom panel) as a result of rising CO2 concentration (top panel).  (Data: 1880-2017, @NASA, #UCSD)

So we’re starting from a hotter baseline overall. And as average temperatures get hotter, extreme heat events  are also increasing in intensity, duration and frequency.

  • As we increase greenhouse gas levels in the air and the overall temperature rises, this makes it more likely that extreme heat events will occur. If you’re mathematically inclined, one way to think about this is that if temperatures are normally within a range of probability, as the norm shifts towards higher temperatures, the likelihood of extreme lows diminishes, and the likelihood of extreme highs increases. Another analogy scientists often use is that of an athlete on steroids. If a baseball player, for example, is made stronger by steroids, not every swing at a ball will be a home run – there are too many different factors involved. But more will be, just because he has more power. In the same way, the average temperature rises don’t mean there will never be extreme lows – but extreme heat will be far more frequent.
  • And we’re seeing just that. If you look at 2018,  a map of national temperature records (both monthly and all-time)  through 18 July indicates only four record lows but fifty-one record highs.
  • Some of those record highs are extraordinary
    • Our temperatures have been high for us: in the UK, on 28 June, Glasgow set an all time record of 31.9°C (89.4°F) and Belfast of 29.5°C (85.1°F)
    • But take a look at some of the other temperatures globally. On April 30th, Nawabsha in Pakistan set a record for the hottest temperature for the month of April ever measured: 50.2°C (122.4°F)
    •  in early July, Ouargla, Algeria registered the highest temperature ever reliably recorded in Africa of 51.3°C (124.3°F)
    • On June 25th, Qarayyat in Oman set a world record for the highest minimum temperature in a 24 hour period: 42.6°C (108.7°F)
    • And you certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be taking children to visit Disneyland in California on the 6th of July; the maximum temperature nearby was 46.7°C (116°F)
    • perhaps most surprising are some of the highs from the far North: July saw 32.2°C (90°F) in the capital of the Finnish province of Lapland on the 17th and 29.5°C (85.1°F) in Sweden’s northernmost weather station on the 18th. And in Siberia, the World Meteorological Organization noted that “the Western Siberian Hydromet Center of Russia issued a storm warning due to temperatures of more than 30°C for more than five days.”
  • The fact that these high temperatures and extended heatwaves are so widespread is a clear marker of the changing climate.  To go back to the comparison between 1976 and 2018, in June 1976 the UK’s exceptionally warm summer was a fairly isolated occurrence … as the map on the left below (which shows mean June temperatures relative to a 20th century baseline) shows. But in June 2018, in a hotter world, not only is the UK facing much hotter temperatures than usual, but so are much of the Northern hemisphere and Antarctica … and some of the most intense anomalies (especially those in northern Russia) are far more extreme than anything seen in June 1976. *
      
  • Ref: https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/maps/

Temperature extremes and heatwaves can be deadly:

But they shouldn’t be taking us by surprise. Such events have long been predicted by climate models.

Take a look at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports over the years, and it’s clear …

Until recently, though, it was hard to tell whether particular events were made more likely or more severe because of climate change. But it’s now become possible to do “attribution studies” for extreme heat events and some other climate-related phenomena.

In most, though not all, cases, when scientists did such studies of extreme heat events, they found that climate change has indeed made the events more likely or more severe.

  • In 2017, Climate Brief stated that “of the 48 attribution studies that have looked at extreme heat around the world, 85% found that climate change had made an event of that kind more likely or more severe.”*
  • To give some examples, World Weather Attribution (WWA) studies of individual events have shown that:
    • The 2017 summer heat in Spain/Portugal was made at least ten times more likely by human-induced climate change
    • The June 2017 heat in central England was made four times more likely
    • Average summer temperatures like those found in New South Wales in 2017 are fifty times more likely than they were compared to early in the 20th century
    • But not all heatwaves are related to climate change. For example, the WWA study of the 2016 Indian heatwave suggests it was not. It’s important to recognise this, as people who are uncertain about climate science often express the view that people concerned about the climate attribute too much to climate change.

The World Weather Attribution group has released preliminary findings for this heatwave as it affects northern Europe and concluded that climate change made it roughly twice as likely.

What does this mean for our future? If we keep on with current patterns of emissions, scientists are predicting that extreme heat events will continue to increase so that heat events we think of as extreme will become the norm … or even cooler than the norm:

  • For example, Dr Andrew King, one of the WWA scientists who studied the European heat wave of 2017, stated that “Under a business as usual scenario, where we continue to increase our greenhouse gas emissions, we find that, in Europe, extreme heat events like June 2017 would be close to average by the end of this century.”
  • A Met Office study suggested that under the IPCC’s various scenarios, summers like 2003 could be as frequent as every other year by the 2040s … and under its two higher emissions scenarios, summers like 2003 could be on the cool side of the norm by the 2050s.

And that could have devastating effects

  • The House of Common Environmental Audit Committee has released a report noting that “heatwaves threaten health, wellbeing and productivity” and that “The average number of heat-related deaths in the UK is expected to more than triple to 7,000 a year by the 2050s.”

But if we reduce our emissions dramatically in line with the Paris ambitions of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, extreme heat events, while they’ll still increase, won’t increase as much:

  • Going back to the articles mentioned above, Dr King noted that if we meet the Paris ambition of keeping global warming to 1.5°C, he “would expect very hot June temperatures in Portugal like this year’s to occur [in Europe] in about one in every four years.” If we get 2°C of global warming, however, “such heat would occur in about one in every three years on average.”
  • And the Met Office study cited above suggests that while almost all scenarios will mean that once exceptional heat will become common in the UK by the 2040s, rapid action to stabilise emissions could significantly lessen the intensity of future heat extremes.

So the key variable in determining what happens in the future isn’t some uncertain force or scientific principle. It’s people. Including us. And people’s … our … choices.

The need to act is urgent. Really urgent. So what can we do? 

For one thing, we can bring our concerns before God. We can ask God to guide us in our own responses. And we can pray for those who are making decisions for businesses and countries around the world …

  • Some of the things that need to happen seem way too big for us to have any impact. But God is bigger than all of them. As Ruth Valerio reflected in ‘Making no sense if God does not exist’, prayer about the climate – entrusting our fears and concerns to God and asking God to act in our lives and in the wider world – is a radical act in itself
  • More specifically, people may tell you that nothing we can do matters because China and India won’t change, and Donald Trump says that climate change isn’t real. But China and India are changing, and many state and city governments in the US are taking radical action regardless of Donald Trump. We can pray for people around the world who are caring for creation and offering hope.
  • resources for prayer abound – take a look at Season of Creation, Pray and Fast for the Climate (which offers monthly prayer points relating to the latest news)  Eco Church and CTBI for starters

We can find out our carbon footprint and take an individual pledge to reduce it. Some of the most effective ways to do this are

  • switching to a green energy supplier for our electricity and gas – it’s easy and has a significant impact. An average UK household switching to renewable energy for its electricity would reduce its emissions by about 1.4 tonnes a year. (Data: Average UK domestic electricity consumption; Climate Stewards footprint calculator). You can also work on making your home more energy efficient … saving emissions and money.
  • not flying unless it’s absolutely necessary. The difference it can make in your footprint is truly astonishing. A return flight to New York adds  about 1.7 tonnes to your footprint, Orlando 2.1 tonnes, Rio de Janeiro 2.8 tonnes, and Sydney? A whopping 5 tonnes. By contrast, Eurostar to Paris comes in at just … 4.1 kg.  (Climate Stewards footprint calculator, Eurostar)
  • using public transport, taking advantage of some of the amazing new technologies in electric vehicles (see our piece on electric cars and the information from the Energy Saving Trust) or getting exercise on our bikes or on foot for shorter journeys
  • eating less meat … or switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet

All of this becomes even more significant if we encourage others. What if your church encouraged people to switch to green energy and ten families did?

We can encourage our Government to increase its ambitions on carbon reduction, help Britain adapt to a changing climate, and work to ensure that other people have what they need to develop sustainably and to adapt.

  • Hope for the Future is a leading advocacy charity that helps people develop positive relationships with their MPs around climate issues. They have great advice on how to approach and hold good conversations with MPs (contact us for a copy of their handbook) as well as issue briefings covering topics from health and climate change to decarbonisation of heating and the encouragement of renewable energy.

And we can encourage businesses to act responsibly on climate issues:

For Christians, taking this kind of action is a matter of faith, love, hope and joy.

  • faith
    because we believe that God made and loves the world and all that is in it. Caring for creation involves our affirming and proclaiming our faith in the Creator and the goodness of God’s work.
  • love
    God calls us to love both God and our neighbour. If I work (however imperfectly) on reducing climate risks, I’m seeking to protect my neighbours, especially the most vulnerable, from losing their livelihoods or lives. That’s love in action.
    If I don’t, it’s hard to claim to be part of a community of love.
    So reducing climate risks is something we need to do – a central part of our discipleship, not an optional extra for ‘the greenies’.
  • hope
    because we believe that God loves the world and reconciles all things in Christ. This gives us (as the excellent articles in Anvil’s Hope and the Environment issue indicate) both an ultimate hope and a proximate hope for the planet … a hope that results not in casual optimism but in loving perseverance and shared engagement
  • joy
    Creation is a gift. The more we care for it, the more we come to appreciate the wonder of that gift and to rejoice in its beauty and diversity.
    Sharing with others in the work of protecting creation can create new communities – we realise that we are bound together with brothers and sisters locally and around the world, and we share together in ways that create new bonds of action and affection. That’s a joyful thing!
    Above alll, as Pope Francis says: “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us” (Laudato Si 84)”. As we and our fellow humans come to understand this love better through our care for creation and each other, we encounter the source of all our joy.

 

 

 

*The large heat anomaly in northern Russia is actually particularly concerning from a climate perspective. This is why.

Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees

This is less about subtle negotiations of words and phrases, and more fully about real people’s lives.”

Revd. Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance


In September this year, two major new compacts on migration and refugees will be presented for adoption by member states at the
United Nations General Assembly. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be the first global agreement negotiated under the auspices of the UN that addresses ‘all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner’. The complementary Global Compact on Refugees seeks to establish a wide-ranging and more equitable global response to large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations. It is hoped that this response will better support both refugees and the communities that host them.

Both compacts will have involved almost two years of consultations and negotiations following the New York Declaration in December 2016.

Ahead of the latest round of consultations on the compacts, Caritas Internationalis and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN recently co-hosted an interfaith conference at the United Nations in New York. Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders brought different perspectives to the question of how the global community can achieve effective international cooperation and shared responsibility to alleviate the suffering and build hope for millions of refugees and migrants. The voices of migrants and refugees were also heard. Reverend Rachel Carnegie, the co-executive director of the Anglican Alliance, was invited to offer the concluding remarks at this significant event.

We’ve excerpted some of the discussions here; you can read a fuller summary involving all the participants on our website.

Faith based organisations not only relevant but crucial

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN, who chaired the session, described how faith-based organisations provide so much of the infrastructure for the immediate and long term support for refugees and migrants. He talked of a person-centred, holistic approach, helping refugees and migrants to achieve their full potential while enriching their new societies through the exchange of talents and culture. “Even when [a migrant] is of a different faith, many know of the reputation of faith based organisations to extend care to anyone in need, because of the principles of charity, mercy and solidarity flowing from that faith. Faith based organisations start not from political or economic perspectives, but from the affirmation of the human dignity of all people before all else. This person-centred approach, while not unique to faith based organisations, is at the heart of all their work. It also inspires a more holistic approach to caring for the migrant and their families, rather than addressing migration simply as a political or economic problem. Faith based organisations typically address the needs of every person as an individual in communion with others and the common good of all society.”

After outlining the wide range of practical responses of faith based organisations in the care of migrants, Archbishop Auza said, “During negotiations towards the global compacts there has been discussion on the role of faith based organisations. Some have questioned their relevance but as today’s event hopes to show, we are not only relevant but crucial to help migrants and refugees and also to the work of states in caring for them. The pivotal part they play in welcoming, protecting, promoting, integrating and sharing the journey of migrants and refugees should be noted and lifted up as an example for all of civil society and receive explicit reference in the global compacts.”

There must have been a refugee or migrant in all our pasts

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the President of Caritas Internationalis and the Archbishop of Manila, reflected on the guiding principles set out by Pope Francis – the four verbs that articulate our shared responsibility – to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees at all stages of their journey. He reflected on his own family history of migration, and said,

We invite everyone here never to forget that in our families, clans or peoples there must have been a migrant or a refugee some time, somewhere. In their name the God of Israel calls us to love the stranger, but will we remember or choose to forget? …. Christians believe that Jesus migrated from the condition of being God’s glorious son to that of being a lowly human being. As a baby he became a refugee in Egypt with his parents to escape the ire of Herod. He praised outsiders in his stories, like the Good Samaritan, and presented strangers as models of faith, such as the woman of Samaria at the well, the grateful Samaritan healed of leprosy, the persistent Syro-Phoenician mother, the Roman centurion who cared for his servant and believed his word, and to cap it all, Jesus identified himself with strangers. ‘When I was a stranger, you made me welcome’ (Matthew 25) declaring that what we do, or fail to do, to strangers we do, or fail to do, for him.

For Christians a stranger has a human face – the face of Jesus”.

To turn one’s back on migrants is to turn one’s back on God himself

Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, spoke about the duty of a society to its own citizens, alongside its obligation to maximalise human dignity and freedom for all – preventing exploitation, and enabling safe and secure passage for people on the move – as well as ensuring decent living and social conditions for refugees and migrants. As did Cardinal Tagle, Rabbi Rosen reflected on the Biblical mandate to care for the “stranger” and the centrality of the experience of migration to the Biblical narrative.

We are commanded not only to love our neighbour in the Bible, but also specifically to love and empathise with others who seek to dwell in our community…. The Hebrew word ‘ger’ that is commonly translated as stranger is better translated in terms of the meaning in Hebrew as sojourner. … As it is written in Leviticus and Exodus, ‘for you know the soul of the sojourner for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt’. The ancient Jewish sages point out that our historical sojourner experience is referred to more than anything else in the Hebrew Bible, some 36 times, precisely in order to serve as inspiration for our moral conduct.

Not for nothing does the history of Biblical salvation begin with a story of a migrant, Abraham, who leaves his birth place in Ur of the Chaldees, in today’s Iraq, for a better future for himself and his family, to contribute to a better future for humanity…. The orientating event of Biblical sacred history is the emigration experience, being delivered from persecution and journeying towards a better future in a promised land.

To turn one’s back on another in need, but especially those whose very existence is vulnerable, most dramatically evidenced in the plight of refugees and migrants, and especially the children among them, is to turn one’s back on God himself.”

No one leaves their home town just like that – things force people to leave

Sheikh Mohammed Abu Zaid, Chairman of the Sunni Court of Saida in Lebanon raised the significant point from Islamic teaching that migration is a justified choice for those who are under threat, or being ‎persecuted, or oppressed. He also described how Islam encourages Muslims to respect the receiving community as hosts and in turn to be welcoming and helpful towards immigrants in a ‎practical way by providing support, seeing them as a blessing from God.

He described how one of his congregation had asked him what religion had to do with the issue of migration. It was a serious question. He’d replied, “Remember, Abraham had this experience. Moses had this experience. Jesus had this experience. And our prophet Mohammed also had this experience. These great religious figures experienced being immigrants…. Even our calendar – our counting of days and months and years – started with this event: our honoured Prophet leaving his hometown….

Is it easy to leave your home town? … We think that people just leave their hometown for pleasure. No one leaves his hometown, his city, his village, his country just like that. There are certain things that are forcing them to leave.

Immigration is a challenge to my belief. It is challenging me to prove my belief. If I’m welcoming, if I’m sharing, if I’m loving then I’m proving that I’m a true believer. Religion in general [and] Islam specifically, teaches us to look at migrants and displaced people as a blessing from God. God sent them to us to prove our belief in God through our good deeds and our help to these people, who are coming to us as brothers.”

It is my great hope that this meeting will bring about a range of wonderful results

The Venerable Gijun Sugitani, Chair of Religions for Peace in Japan, spoke of the vital role of interfaith dialogue. He also highlighted the crucial importance of accountability – the question of who will assume responsibilities regarding the global compacts, signalling the role of religious leaders in upholding policy recommendations as well as playing their part in the response. Nobody, he said, is allowed to be a ‘bystander’ – to ensure that policy translates into concrete implementation.

Otherness does not start with the other. It starts with ourselves

Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France, spoke of faith communities as bridge builders. He talked of the need to re-humanise the other, through encounter, reflecting in particular on the responsibility to care for young people on the move seeking safer lives, better opportunities, futures of hope.

Most people want to reside and prosper in the land of their birth. This is natural. Yet to do so they require safety, food security, economic opportunity, freedom from environmental distress and prospects for their children’s future. Forced migration is the result of war, poverty and environmental degradation and climate change that compel people to leave their homelands. Because of these factors we are currently facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. And the face of the migrant is increasingly a youthful face. For the first time in history, half of all refugees are children and youths and one in every 200 children in the world today is a refugee.

“ ‘Otherness’ is another item connected to migration. It is a perception based on our territory. The imagined ‘other’ is often part of a narrative in which the definition of oneself comes with limits and borders… Speaking about identity or even multiple identities remains a taboo in many societies because it goes against the grand narrative of many nation states that base the concept of national identity on this grand national narrative. However, globalization continues to challenge the ethno-national model and exposes us to ethnic, religious and cultural otherness to a degree never before seen in the history of the world…. Otherness does not start with the other. It starts with ourselves – with the many layers of identity that make a person unique.

We must continue to think that we are bridge builders rather than the builders of walls. And we must bring hope and peace to this world that it needs more and more today.”

A key theme running through the session was the importance of bringing a human face to the statistics of migration and to acknowledge all that migrants and refugees contribute to their new societies.

The moment I was on my feet, I wanted to help and give back

A refugee from Iraq shared his own story. He spoke of how before the Iraq war of 2003 his family had lived a very comfortable life in Iraq. After the war, as people were being kidnapped and killed his family resisted moving, determined to stay in their home country. Even when his family was robbed at gunpoint in their home, his parents still would not leave the country. ‘Leaving the country – for anyone it’s a big decision’, he said. ‘It’s really, really hard’.

Another year later, in 2006, he was kidnapped and a ransom demanded. For 9 days he was tortured. On his release the family was told they would be killed should they be seen again in Baghdad, at which point they finally decided to flee the country. Leaving with hardly anything, they went first to Syria where their passports were stamped ‘not allowed to work’ on entry. ‘Imagine starting a new life somewhere you can’t work’, he said. ‘How’s that going to work?’

With the family’s life savings completely used up, the family applied to the UN for refugee status and after two years of vetting the family was given the opportunity to move to the US.

We’re very grateful that we’re here, but it’s not easy. Being a refugee in a new country with new language, new everything – I almost felt that I was in a different world’. Watching his parents, ‘the strongest two people in my life’, struggle with the challenges of their new life – worrying about how they would find work, provide food and pay their bills – motivated him to work three jobs along with his college studies so he could help his family. ‘The moment that I felt I was on my feet, the first thing that came to my mind was that I wanted to help and give back to the community. I’ve been working for a charity since 2012 helping immigrants, refugees and people from here just helping whoever needs help. I am just one example out of millions.’

Representatives from various member states of the UN attended the session and were warm in their appreciation for the faith perspective and contribution to inform the upcoming negotiations. Maria Rubiales de Chamorro, the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the UN, said, ‘As a member state of this organisation, I am very happy and glad that I came. It is not every day that you see such an inclusive panel… A better world is possible, we all know that, but it has to take a lot of understanding from our part… This has been very clarifying for me… we thank you for giving us a very clear vision. My delegates and I are going into the next stage of negotiations with the four points you have mentioned very clearly: welcome, promote, protect and integrate’.

Ambassador Saint Hilaire of Haiti also expressed his gratitude for all the panel were doing. ‘Your actions are very inspiring to us as member states, he said. ‘You are making the difference. Thank you so much’.

Keep the image of a migrant or refugee actively present in our minds

In her concluding reflections, Revd. Rachel Carnegie appealed to all to ‘keep the image of a migrant or refugee known personally to us actively present in our minds as the discussions move forward’.

And she articulated four key challenges for the journey ahead:

  1. How can we make the Global Compacts a vision of hope, of humanity and our common good?
  2. How can we make them stronger in upholding the dignity of migrants and refugees?
  3. How can we overcome our internal barriers and become inclusive societies in an interconnected world?
  4. How can we renew, as the United Nations of the world’s peoples, our commitment for peace, solidarity and justice?

Manage Your Preferences

Wildlife and Biodiversity, Syria, Drought, Elections, Fairtrade, Migration – 28 February 2016

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Short Notes: Syria, Southern Africa’s drought, Elections, Fairtrade Fortnight, Europe and migration
  • Loving God’s world: wildlife and biodiversity (World Wildlife Day, 3 March)

Why do bad things happen? It’s a frequent question – and in an attempt to rationalise, people all too frequently blame the victims. If something has gone wrong for them, it must be their fault! But in this week’s  Revised Common Lectionary Gospel, Jesus disputes that analysis. “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?” he asks – clearly implying that they were not. At the same time, he calls all people to repentance and warns of sin’s destructive consequences.

A complex message! Where today do we see people being blamed for suffering that is not of their making – and how can we help to `comfort and defend them? And where do we see sin which may cause destruction – and how can we help to turn ourselves and others away from it?


Short Notes: Syria, Southern Africa’s drought, Elections, Fairtrade Fortnight, Europe and migration

  • As we write this, the Syrian truce has begun and seems to be holding, despite some violations. Please pray that it may provide a respite for civilians who have been caught in the middle of the fighting. Pray too that it may lead towards moves to establish a stable, just peace.
  • A long-running Southern African drought has been exacerbated by El Niño and is hitting many countries hard: the Guardian ran an article on Mozambique recently, and Al Jazeera did a strong story as well.  Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town also discussed the impact of the drought at an earlier stage in a beautiful and powerful video he did last year for the Mass Lobby of Parliament.A meeting of the Southern African Develoment Community (the Southern African nation states) on Friday estimated that 28 million people were vulnerable and in need of relief. Please pray for an end to the drought. Pray also for those affected by its impacts and those working to mitigate the effects of the impacts.  If you would like to donate to relief efforts, please contact us for options.
  • There were a number of elections at the end of last week – most notably in Iran, which was voting for its parliament and Assembly of Experts, clerics who have the responsibility of choosing the next Supreme Leader should a vacancy arise during the Assembly’s eight-year term. The election was seen as something of a referendum on the reformist President Hassan Rouhani and his recent nuclear deal with the Western powers. Early indications are that, despite the fact that only 200 reformist candidates were allowed to stand, reformist and independent candidates have done well in the parliamentary elections, and no single faction will dominate. Please pray for wisdom for all elected, and that the results help to lead to greater openness, justice and respect for human rights – including freedom of religion – in Iran. (Coverage: Al Jazeera, Daily Star (Lebanon)Financial Times, Guardian, Le Monde)This Tuesday, a number of US states will hold primary elections, voting for delegates to the party conventions that nominate presidential candidates. In a race distinguished thus far by unusually negative campaigning, pray for wisdom and discernment for voters and candidates.
  • Fairtrade Fortnight starts on Monday, with the theme ‘Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers’. We’ll be focusing on Fairtrade next week – but please start praying now that the Fairtrade will continue to create positive change for all involved with it, whether as producers, suppliers, retailers or consumers.  Our Fairtrade prayers and resources can be found here.
  • The UK is much concerned with our EU Referendum, but in an editorial on Friday, French newspaper Le Monde warned that the EU’s lack of a collective and coherent policy on migration threatens Europe more generally: “Shocked by the impact of the wave of migration, Europe is fragmenting, breaking up, taking itself apart … [unless there is a major change] historians will without doubt date the beginning of the disintegration of Europe to this matter, and to these years.”The immediate cause of the article was a summit convened by Austria, in which the countries of the ‘Balkan route’ – both EU members and non-EU members – met to work out ways to ‘isolate’ Greece and contain migration within its borders. Greece, Germany, and the European Commission were not informed – and Greece has recalled its ambassador from Austria in protest.  But as Natalie Nougayrède points out, the lack of EU policy coherence results from decisions by – and affects – all countries. And the need for cooperation – for the sake of both refugees’ safety and countries’ stability – is immense.As European ministers prepare to make decisions on border controls and migration policies, please pray for wisdom and discernment on all sides. Pray too for the safety of all who have fled conflict and oppression, whether to Europe or to other parts of the world. And pray for an end to the conflicts and injustices that force people to flee from beloved places and people.

Loving God’s World: Wildlife and biodiversity

World Wildlife Day is 3 March, so for this week, we are focusing on expressing love through care for wildlife and biodiversity.

The Lord said to Job,
Where were you when I laid out the Earth’s foundation… while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Do you know when the mountain goat gives birth?
Do you observe the calving of the deer?
Who has let the wild ass go free?
Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
Do you give the horse its might?
Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up?
Look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you. He eats grass like an ox. His limbs are as bars of iron. Under the lotus plant it lies, in the cover of the reeds and in the marsh.
Who has first given to me that I should repay?
Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
From Job 38 – 41

The final chapters of the book of Job read as a litany of celebration: God exults in the complexity of his creation and the wonders of his work. The sense of God’s pride, care and intimate knowledge is reflected elsewhere in scripture, for example in the Psalms: “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD” (Psalm 84:3) – and in Jesus’ words: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” Jesus asks. “Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29).

In his paper on the Bible and Biodiversity, Sir Ghillean Prance says, “The Bible is biodiverse from Genesis to Revelation”. He cites God’s post-flood covenant in Genesis 9 as “the real biblical basis for the preservation of biodiversity”, with its repeated emphasis that God’s covenant is not simply with Noah and his descendants but with “every living creature.” He goes on to explore biodiversity and its preservation in the books of the law, the psalms and proverbs, the major and minor prophets and the New Testament, finding deep wells to draw from. Martin and Margot Hodson echo this view, writing, “the pages of the Bible are buzzing with insects, alive to the song of birds, majestic in their description of trees and awesome in appreciation of the strength of large animals. The Bible contains the names of countless species of trees and animals. There are thirteen different Hebrew words for owls alone and nine for locusts.” (Cherishing the Earth, p. 35)

In his critique of Genesis 1, and in particular the vexed question of what “dominion” over the earth by humankind means, Professor Richard Bauckham writeswhen we get to the creation of humans on the sixth day and we read God’s command to us to have dominion over the creatures, we already know that what God is entrusting to our care is something of priceless value… [O]ne of the things God delights in [is] the sheer, abundant variety of the creatures… We hear of fruit trees of every kind, seed-bearing plants of every kind, sea creatures of every kind, birds of every kind, wild animals of every kind, domestic animals of every kind, creeping things (i.e. reptiles and insects) of every kind. In all, that phrase occurs ten times. This is an account of creation that celebrates biodiversity”. Dominion is therefore taking care of God’s cherished creation and “responsible rule that does not exploit its charges.”

Similarly, in his exploration of the Bible and Biodiversity Reverend Dave Bookless concludes, “This world and all its creatures (human and non-human) belong to God and exist to bring glory to God… Every species matters, irrespective of its usefulness to humanity. Avoidable extinctions damage the integrity of God’s world, erase something of God’s self-revelation in creation, and silence elements of creation’s worship of God. Humanity has a divine vocation in reflecting God’s character towards the animal kingdom through encouraging the flourishing of biodiversity and resisting its depletion. This is both a missional task to be fostered as a special vocation for some, and part of the wider calling of all Christ’s disciples”.

Thus the sheer variety of life on Earth matters for its own sake.

But it is also vital for our own (humanity’s) survival. “Ultimately we rely totally on the ecological connectivity and biodiversity of this beautiful blue pearl in space, the Earth, whose future is in our hands. So we dismiss the needs of other species at our peril”, writes Dr Andrew Gosler, Research Lecturer in Ornithology and Conservation at Oxford University.

That God’s creatures and biodiversity are under threat because of mankind is not in doubt. Whilst the extinction of species is a natural phenomenon, current rates of extinction are vastly in excess of background rates (around a thousand times higher). Such dramatic loss has been described as “defaunation” with scientists arguing that we have entered a new geological epoch, the “anthropocene”.

As do other commentators, the World Wildlife Fund regard habitat loss as the leading cause of biodiversity loss. All types of habitat, from forests to lakes to swamps, have been cleared for industrial development, housing and roads, and exploited for human consumption. Destruction of rainforests and coral reefs has been the greatest source of biodiversity loss; rainforests have been eliminated from 50% of the area on which they formerly existed. The FAO points to the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity over the millennia, with ever-increasing food production driving the conversion of natural habitats into agricultural production. Human population growth is therefore one of the factors impacting biodiversity; pollution (including from synthetic nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer use) is another.

Climate change is particularly inimical to biodiversity. A 2014 IPCC report highlights the widespread impacts of climate change on many terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species in terms of their altered geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances, and species interactions. Whilst it says that, as yet, only a few recent species extinctions can be attributed with high confidence to climate change, it is known that there were significant species extinctions in previous epochs, when natural global climate change was at a slower rate than we are currently experiencing. If global temperatures rise 4oC above pre-industrial levels scientists have projectedthat around 57% of plants and 34% of animals are likely to lose more than half of their present climatic habitat range by the 2080s.

Given this somewhat gloomy assessment, is there anything being done to address biodiversity loss… is there anything more hopeful?

We are currently midway through the UN’s Decade on Biodiversity to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. This includes the Aichi Biodiversity Targets which address areas such as tackling the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, reducing pressure on biodiversity and promoting sustainability, and safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. In addition, Goals 14 and 15 of the new Sustainable Development Goals set out a number of specific targets which would protect biodiversity (for example, reducing marine pollution, establishing marine and coastal conservation areas, halting deforestation, reducing the degradation of natural habitats) – with the overall ambition of halting biodiversity loss.

In his recent paper, “We have 15 years to halt biodiversity loss, can it be done?” Dr Richard Pearson, Reader of Biodiversity at UCL, cites several reasons for hope. These include: protected-area coverage is increasing globally, sustainable practices in industries such as fishing and forestry are becoming established, responsible investment is becoming more mainstream, 184 countries have established National Biodiversity strategies and Action Plans, and there are specific conservation success stories. He concludes, “It will take time to slow and turn around the juggernaut that is biodiversity loss, and everyone must pull in the same direction in order to shift course. The period over which the new SDGs will run, from now until 2030, will be absolutely crucial for making this happen. There are indications that things are beginning to turn around. Hints that we can do this. It would be a big mistake to dismiss the biodiversity target as a fairy tale”.

So what are some of the practical actions we can take, so that we don’t unwittingly contribute to the problem? How can we show our love for God’s wonderful world and respect for his creatures? As for last week, a definitive list is beyond the capacity of this short piece; instead, we offer here some “top tips” – several of which were kindly provided by colleagues with a passion in this area.

Reduce your ecological footprint:

  • You can calculate your ecological footprint and get a personalised action plan here: the One Plant Living Challenge.
  • In his paper, 10 things you can do to help biodiversity, Dr David Hooper emphasises the prime importance of reducing consumption. Making the connection between demand for new resources, habitat conversion, energy usage and extra waste going to landfill might be obvious, but I (Elizabeth) always need reminding…

Plastics:

  • Reduce use of plastic. There are lots of ideas here: my plastic-free life and here: Two years of living plastic-free, how I did it – both from people who’ve been trying to go plastic-free. For a specifically UK perspective, see here: Plastic Free UK.
  • Stop using products with plastic microbeads in them. These tiny non-biodegradable particles are added to a host of personal care products (including toothpaste) and end up in the “Plastic Soup” in the world’s oceans – where they pass along the marine food chain. For Smartphone users an App is available which you can use to scan barcodes to find out whether the product contains microbeads. Greenpeace has recently launched a petition urging the UK Government to follow the lead of the USA and Canada in banning their use.
  • Never throw away plastic bags, too many finish up injuring wildlife injuring wildlife

Home and garden:

Palm oil:

Palm oil is the world’s most popular vegetable oil, currently accounting for over 65% of all vegetable oils traded internationally. It is currently found in around half of all packaged supermarket foods and is also used in detergents, cosmetics and biofuels. And its use is increasing. Millions of hectares of tropical rainforests have been destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, with a devastating impact on biodiversity.

What can we do?

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature argues that boycotting palm oil is not the answer but that sustainable palm oil is. CSPO stands for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and means the oil was grown on a plantation that “was established on land that did not contain significant biodiversity, wildlife habitat or other environmental values, and meets the highest environmental, social and economic standards as set out by the RSPO” (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). Ethical Consumer do encourage a boycott of products from companies that aren’t currently using 100% responsibly sourced palm oil and provide a helpful list of palm-oil free and sustainable palm-oil products here: Ethical Consumer guidance.

RSPO certification is not without its critics. Greenpeace argues that RSPO standards do not prohibit deforestation and peatland destruction. These criticisms appear to have been addressed in the recently announced “RSPO NEXT” voluntary add-on criteria for RSPO members.

Traidcraft have introduced FairPalminto some of their products – a fair trade, sustainable palm oil grown by smallholder farmers in West Africa alongside other crops.

Finally… campaign on climate change, get involved in A Rocha (the world’s biggest Christian biodiversity NGO), and get your church signed up to Eco Church.

With thanks to Martin Hodson, David Morgan and Mike Perry for their suggestions.

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Short Notes: Syria, Nepal
  • Reflection on Freedom
  • Our Impact on Others’ Liberty – Modern Slavery

Lent has begun, and the Gospel reading in the Revised Common Lectionary texts for this Sunday focuses on the narrative of the Temptation of Christ. The Old Testament reading may be less familiar. It is, however, appropriate for Freedom Sunday, as it is a reminder of the Exodus, God’s liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Our two Lenten reflections for this week focus on freedom and liberty: what are some of freedom’s resonances for Christians? And how do our actions affect – for good or ill – those whose freedom is curtailed by slavery? 
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Short Notes: Syria, Nepal

  • The International Syria Support Group announced on Friday that it had agreed a cessation of hostilities and access for humanitarian aid in Syria to occur within a week. The announcement has received a cautious welcome, with relief at the prospect of access for relief and an end to the increased violence of the past weeks tempered by an awareness that the ISSG is composed of external powers, concerns about how reliable the promises of different parties are, and uncertainty whether the agreement will enshrine zones of influence for the foreign parties engaged in the conflict and what the impact of that might be. (Chatham House, FT, Foreign Policy, Guardian) Please pray that the agreement will be a means towards creating a lasting peace with justice, and that the humanitarian operations scheduled to begin immediately will bring effective relief quickly to those who have suffered so much.
  • We recently received welcome news that the blockade on the India/Nepal border, which has created such difficulties for Nepal and about which we asked you to pray earlier this year, has been ended. (Times of India, Himalayan Times) Please give thanks for this and pray that the ending of the blockade and the long-delayed establishment of Nepal’s National Reconstruction Authority will enable rebuilding after the earthquake to begin in earnest.

Reflection on Freedom

This first week of Lent,  we consider ways in which we can pray and act to protect and promote the liberty of others who are affected by modern slavery. As we do so, it is perhaps helpful to reflect on Christian understandings of freedom. What does the term evoke? Perhaps we think of freedom primarily as release from oppression, from burdens, from the things that bind us or hold us back. And indeed our God is the one who liberates Israel, escorting the people out of slavery in Eygpt. And our Christian faith is founded on forgiveness of (and freedom from) our sins through the death of Jesus. Throughout the Bible we are reminded that freedom comes as a gift of God.

But in the Bible we see that God’s acts of liberation are not the end of the story, but only the beginning. Christ’s death not only frees us from sin, it also opens the door to a life lived in freedom. In Galatians 5:1 Paul writes that ‘it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’ Christian freedom is not only liberation from the things that bind us, it is also freedom to live life to the full. We are free to be all that God created us to be, to live with and for God and each other.

We see this kind of freedom embodied in Godself. The theologian Karl Barth writes that God’s freedom does not consist of ‘unlimited possibilities…or…naked sovereignty’, it is not expressed in ‘aloof isolation’ but in Trinity. In the same way, human freedom is not founded in self-assertion or individualism but in the freedom to be ‘for others’.

Part of that being for others involves sharing the gift we have been given: those who have received God’s gift of freedom are also called to participate in God’s acts of liberation, by refusing to participate in the oppression of others. Isaiah 10, for example, reminds us of the judgement of God on those who ‘issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.’  In this sense Christian freedom both releases us (from sin) and binds us (to God and each other). It is a gift to be lived out in community.

As we pray and act for the freedom of those who labour to make the goods we consume,  let us remember that our freedom is the gift of God, which both releases us from sin and frees us to be in relationship with God and to live ‘for others’. Let us pray that those who are oppressed, whose liberties are so curtailed, will know this kind of freedom.

Our Impact on Others’ Liberty – Modern Slavery

How is people’s liberty compromised today by modern slavery?

Anti Slavery International write, “Slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. The practice still continues today in one form or another in every country in the world. From women forced into prostitution, children and adults forced to work in agriculture, domestic work, or factories and sweatshops producing goods for global supply chains, entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts; or girls forced to marry older men, the illegal practice still blights contemporary world”. Ownership, the buying and selling of people, dehumanizing treatment, physical constraint and work enforced through threat are some of the defining characteristics of modern day slavery.

One type of modern slavery is forced labour. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), almost 21 million people around the world are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. Forced labour by the state (in prison, by the military or rebel forces) accounts for 10% of these; the majority (90%) of victims – 18.7 million people – are exploited by individuals or enterprises in the private economy. Of these, 4.5 million people are sexually exploited, the rest are victims of forced labour in economic areas such as agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing. Just over half (56%) of forced labourers are exploited in their place of origin or residence; just under half (44%) are moved internally or internationally. Most are adults, but 26% are children. Geographically, over half of forced labourers are in the Asia-Pacific region, but 7% (1.5 million people) are in the Developed Economies and European Union.

Thus, although illegal, slavery continues today as a major global scourge. Indeed, such is its prevalence that modern slavery, including human trafficking, was identified as a key issue affecting local communities in every one of the regional consultations carried out by the Anglican Alliance.
What does modern day slavery have to do with us?

Whilst most types of modern slavery hapen a very long way away, research indicates we might be more connected to some of it than we would imagine or want – in particular through the supply chains of the products we buy.

For example, investigative journalism by the Guardian exposed slave labour in the supply chain of seafood sold by major British supermarkets. Coffee, tea, chocolate and palm oil are among other food products implicated in forced and child labour. The clothing sector has long been associated with sweatshops, but research by the Ethical Trading Initiative in 2015 found that an alarming 71% of UK companies believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage in their supply chains. Forced labour has also been exposed in the electronics sector (including smart phones). The US Government list 353 products from 75 countries which they believe were produced using forced or child labour in violation of international standards. Closer to home, trafficking and forced labour is known about in nail bars and amongst seasonal migrant workers in the UK.
What is being done to address the problem?

Thankfully, given the prevalence and scale of modern day slavery, several organizations exist which are working to tackle the issue. These include:

  • Anti Slavery International, the world’s oldest international human rights organization whose roots stretch back to the original abolitionist society. Today they are “committed to eradicating all forms of slavery throughout the world including forced labour, bonded labour, trafficking of human beings, descent-based slavery, forced marriage and the worst forms of child labour” and they both help people leave, recover and protect themselves from slavery and campaign and advocate for change.
  • Stop The Traffik is a global movement of activists which gathers and shares knowledge about human trafficking, equips people to take action to prevent it happening in their communities and campaigns for change in supply chains by engaging both consumers and businesses.
  •  International Justice Mission is a Christian organization that directly rescues victims of slavery, brings traffickers and slave owners to justice, helps restore survivors and works to strengthen justice systems.

In October 2015 the Modern Slavery Act came into force, designed to fight modern slavery in the UK. Thanks to the endeavours of campaigning organizations, this included Transparency in Supply Chain Provisions, which require all UK businesses with a global turnover in excess of £36million to publish an annual Modern Slavery Statement disclosing what they are doing to address and prevent modern slavery in their business and any supply chains. Businesses are not legally required to conduct due diligence on supply chains, but their statement must state if they are taking no such steps. “It is important for UK companies to note that an offence under this act occurs if a person knows, or ought to know, that they are holding a victim in circumstances that constitute slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, no matter where this occurs globally”.

This last quote is from ‘Forced Labour, Human Trafficking & The FTSE 100″ which was released jointly by USPG, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), Stop the Traffik and Rathbone Greenbank Investments to coincide with the Modern Slavery Act coming into force in October 2015. The report examines the nature of forced labour and human trafficking risks for FTSE 100 companies and their investors in selected sectors, makes recommendations for risk mitigation and highlights examples of both good and poor practice.

In the preface, Steve Chalke in his role of UN.GIFT Special Adviser on Community Action Against Human Trafficking describes the report as “an extraordinary resource for everyone who cares about good business, ethics and human rights.” Among the report’s findings were: that companies varied greatly in reporting their exposure to risk of forced labour and human trafficking in their supply chains; a small number “showed close attention to human rights issues in their supply chains as part of their overall business practices”; however, others made no mention of either risk, nor had any measures in place that would deal with it. Within the textiles sector, “no information was provided on how inclusion of forced labour prohibition within codes of conduct is being implemented”; and “for companies sourcing seafood there was minimal disclosure of the risks and there was a comprehensive lack of company information on the issues”.

How can we pray?

Formal prayer resources are available from Freedom Sunday, the Anglican Alliance and CCOW.

Prayer points for a service might include prayer:

  • in thanksgiving for the gift of forgiveness and freedom through Christ’s saving work
  • in thanksgiving for all those who work to share that gift of freedom with others, and especially for the work of people and organisations confronting the evils of modern slavery
  • that all who have been trafficked or are imprisoned in conditions of forced labour may be released from their slavery and may find healing and true freedom
  • that we may make choices which liberate rather than participating in structures that perpetuate slavery and exploitation

What else can we do?

The principal way our lives are likely to connect with modern day slavery is through the supply chains of products we buy. Taking care in our shopping is consequently a central way we can act justly. Options for positive choices abound. There are numerous outlets for ethically-sourced goods (the British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTS) and Traidcraft are good starting points). Buying Fairtrade certified products ensures we are not unwittingly benefitting from exploitation. There are even companies which actively support victims of trafficking (links can be found on the Stop The Traffik website and include Global Seesaw and Heaven’s Attic). But how can we find out about products that don’t fall into these categories?

The Ethical Consumer Guide is a mine of valuable information, which provides detailed ethical ratings for over 40,000 companies, brands and products (including food, clothing, travel, appliances and energy). The Free2Work website provides information on forced and child labour in the apparel, electronic and coffee industries and End Slavery Now have a “Slave Free Shopping Guide” you can download via their website.

For some, investments provide another way of taking action. “It is easy to forget that we are all ‘investors’ in systems and businesses which can, through complex and distant supply chains, be connected to trafficking”, writes Rachel Parry of USPG in ‘Forced Labour, Human Trafficking & The FTSE 100″. The ECCR add, “New guidance within the report gives faith investors the knowledge to challenge companies and ensure they are working to the highest standards in this area and, in so doing, help protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people”. The Modern Slavery Act provides a

Supporting organisations that are tackling modern day slavery and trafficking, both financially and by engaging in campaign actions, is a further option for action. Some of the areas anti-slavery organisations are currently focusing on include: actions organisations are currently asking for support with include: the fashion industry, chocolate, tea, Uzbek cotton and calling on the British government to ratify the ILO Domestic Work Convention.

Engaging our churches with the issue through prayer and action are vital. Freedom Sunday (Against Modern Slavery) can be marked at various points of the year (14 February, 25 March, 30 July, 23/24 August, 18 October) and provide useful occasions for church engagement. Prayer resources are available as noted above.

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Red Hand Day
  • Loving God and Neighbour in a Globalised World
  • Short Notes: Syria, Zika, Taiwan Earthquake

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for this Sunday focus on the Transfiguration, when the glory of Christ was revealed to some of His disciples. In the reading from Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

This week, can we take time to meditate on and give thanks for the glory of God in Christ … and to pray for the Spirit to shape us in Christ’s image? 
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Red Hand Day

Red Hand Day (12 February) is a time to pray and campaign for an end to the use of child soldiers. The organisations supporting the initiative advocate for a comprehensive response to the continued misuse of child soldiers, including: laws to be implemented in all countries banning the use of any soldiers (including in reserves or non-combatant roles) under the age of 18; punishment of those responsible for using child soldiers at the International Criminal Courts; protection, assistance and asylum for those who have been child soldiers; a ban on weapons exports to countries where child soldiers are used; and peace education in schools. This approach aims to both prevent children being used as soldiers and to rehabilitate and gain a measure of justice for those who have been forced to fight.

While it is difficult to estimate the numbers of children involved in fighting in armed conflicts, it is clear that many conflicts including those in Afghanistan, Yemen, DRC and Nigeria continue to see thousands drawn in to committing violent acts, and that increases in violence in some of these areas are also seeing the numbers of child soldiers begin to rise again. Last year, for example, Yemen saw the numbers of children joining the Houthi rebels double. Human Rights Watchestimates that up to 1/3rd of fighters in Yemen (on all sides) are children. Most of these are teenagers but some children as young as 7 have also been seen to be working as soldiers. Children continue to work for the Yemen government forces, despite laws passed in 2014 prohibiting their use.

This week the death of a 10 year old Afghan boy, fighting alongside the Afghan Local Police and the video of a boy carrying out an Islamic State beheading have witnessed also  to the presence of child soldiers in some of the most intractable conflicts of recent years. Whilst some children are forced or coerced into joining an armed group (such as those in South Sudan), in many cases, experiences of conflict (the loss of family members, the destruction of their homes or a lack of shelter, food and water) leave children so desperate, that armed groups appear to be the best option available.

Please pray for child soldiers:

  • For permanent and lasting peace in the many countries where children are drawn into violence.
  • That work to implement effective laws preventing the recruitment of child soldiers will continue and be successful, and that governments will enforce the laws which exist.
  • For those children living through conflict who may begin to see violence as the only option. Pray that they will be helped to see other choices and will be brought safely out of conflict.

Loving God and Neighbour in a Globalised World

Fasting and penitence are two of the great themes of Lent, which starts next Wednesday, February 10th. The prayer that some churches use for Ash Wednesday asks that our hearts might be renewed as we re-turn to God and seek forgiveness:

Almighty and merciful God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent;
create in us new and contrite hearts,
so that when we turn to you and confess our sins
we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.

In The Blue Mountains of China, Mennonite author Rudy Wiebe says, “In a Jesus society, you repent not by feeling bad but by thinking different.” This statement has echoes of the redefinition of fasting found in Isaiah 58:

“…on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

During Lent, we will be offering a series of reflections exploring how we might repent and fast in this spirit. How might we think differently, tread lightly, show restraint or act positively – in our everyday lives and choices – to express our love of God, of our global neighbours and God’s world?

Our series begins next week with a reflection on our impact on the liberty of others, to coincide with Freedom Sunday on February 14th. In other weeks we will look at areas such as the world’s resources, the climate, wildlife and biodiversity, livelihoods and oppression.
We hope you will find these reflections helpful as we journey together through Lent and find new ways of living out our love of God and neighbour in a globalised world.
Short Notes: Syria, Zika, Taiwan

  • The recent Russian and Syrian-government offensive around Aleppo is widely thought to be designed to break the moderate opposition, leaving the Assad government as the only alternative to radical Islamists. The UN Secretary-General  has blamed it for the failure of the latest round of peace talks, and aid agencies fear its humanitarian impact. Please pray for those in the city and region, as well as for the tens of thousands who have fled towards Turkey. Pray that diplomatic meetings in Munich this week will help to re-establish the peace talks, negotiate a ceasefire, and assist the providers of humanitarian relief.
  • The WHO has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern relating to clusters of microcephaly and neurological disorders that appear to be connected to the Zika virus. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is related to dengue, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. It was confirmed in the Americas in May 2015 and has since spread rapidly; the WHO estimates that there will be 3 to 4 million cases there in the next 12 months. The disease is often asymptomatic, but appears to affect the foetuses of some pregnant women who contract it: it is associated with clusters of children born with microcephaly, or significantly smaller than usual heads.Le Monde calls the disease “the new scourge of poor mothers,” for people living in poverty are at greater risk: less likely to have means of preventing mosquito bites and more likely to be in areas where insects breed. According to Le Monde, a Brazilian newspaper reported that 70% of the country’s mothers with children suffering from microcephaly are living in extreme poverty.

    Please pray for assistance for the mothers and children who have been affected. Give thanks for efforts to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds and to raise awareness of the need for preventive action, and pray that they will be effective. Give thanks that the WHO has moved quickly, and pray that this releases funding for innovative research on vaccines, diagnosis and treatment.

  • Please pray for all in Taiwan who have been affected by the recent earthquake and especially for those who have lost loved ones or homes. Pray that rescue and rebuilding efforts may be effective.

In this week’s prayer email:

  • 2016 Year Planner
  • Plough Sunday
  • North Korea
  • Short Note: Anglican Primates Meeting

Many churches will use Revised Common Lectionary texts this Sunday that speak of Christ’s baptism and reflect on baptism more generally. If you get the chance, why not spend some time this week reflecting: what does baptism mean to you? Pray that all Christians will be given grace to live out their baptism in their daily lives, and that many more will know the joy of being baptised.
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2016 Year Planner


Attached to this email is the 2016 version of the CCOW Year Planner for Churches. We’re aware that people use this in different ways:

  • to help action/mission grous plan engagement with global issues during the year
  • to help editors plan prayer points for church bulletins and newsletters
  • to find service materials for special Sundays
  • to circulate to prayer leaders as an aid for use throughout the year

However you use it, we hope that it will be useful to you and that God will guide your prayers and actions throughout this year.

Please let us have any comments by email: they’re always helpful and have improved the resource over the years.

Plough Sunday

Plough Sunday reflects an ancient tradition of asking for God’s blessing on the plough ahead of the new farming year. It is traditionally held on the first Sunday of Epiphany, the day before work resumed in the fields after the twelve days of Christmas.

This year, Plough Sunday comes as many farmers in the UK are facing weather-related difficulties, which scientists are saying may be a sign of a “new normal” in our changing climate. A number of farmers have lost crops or livestock in floods. In other parts of the world, El Niño is contributing to droughts, which are particularly severe in Central America and eastern and southern Africa. Ethiopia has a food security emergency; and Hope Africa has launched an emergency appeal for the countries of southern Africa. Small producers are being particularly severely affected – while producing most of the world’s food and caring for the land they farm, they often lack the capacity to deal with severe weather-related shocks.

In a world where we have outsourced much of the growing of food, the actual work of ploughing and the struggles farmers face have become quite distant to many of us. The Arthur Rank Centre (a Christian charity serving rural communities and churches) has a beautiful liturgy for Plough Sunday, which reminds us of the fundamental importance to all of us of ploughing in the production of staple food crops and provides helpful material for personal reflection on our relationship with the land. The liturgy also contains the following widely applicable prayer of confession:

When we are ungrateful for the rain, sun and frost and forget they are God’s gifts to us: O God, forgive us.
When we are blind to the mystery of germination and forget it is God’s handiwork: O God, forgive us.
When we are careless with our beasts and forget they are God’s creatures: O God, forgive us.
When we are unkind to those who work with us and forget they are God’s children:
 O God, forgive us.
When we are careless about our work and forget we are God’s co-workers: O God, forgive us.
When we ill-treat the land and forget we are God’s stewards: O God, forgive us.

Arthur Rank Centre, reproduced with permission.

Please pray this Plough Sunday:

  • For all who plough, sow and reap and produce the food we depend on.
  • For farmers facing unpredictable weather patterns, price volatility and an uncertain future, both in the UK and throughout the world.
  • For the Arthur Rank Centre and the rural officers of the different denominations in the UK as they serve rural communities.
  • For Farming Community Network (formerly Farm Crisis Network) in their support work of farmers, often in very difficult situations.



North Korea

On Wednesday North Korea claimed to have successfully tested their first hydrogen bomb. This test follows a series of nuclear tests in recent years. Whilst reports show seismic activity in the area, experts believe there is no evidence of an explosion of a full scale hydrogen bomb.

But whatever the actual make-up of the bomb, the dangers of a state like North Korea continuing to pursue a nuclear programme shouldn’t be underestimated. Chatham House reports after a nuclear test last year suggest that North Korea’s increasing isolation is making their ownership of such weapons even more concerning. Kim Jong Un has cemented his leadership through eliminating those closest to him (such as his uncle) and has also paid less attention to China, previously his only ally. Experts suggest that the lack of any collaboration or outside influences leave the safety of North Korea’s neighbours essentially in the hands of one man.

North Korea hopes that this latest nuclear event will encourage the US to negotiate on a peace treaty between North and South Korea and lift some of the existing economic sanctions, but their actions have had the opposite effect, with the US continuing on its current course of economic sanctions and cooperation with South Korea. This week the United Nations Security Council also met to discuss a course of action, including options to increase economic sanctions against Pyongyang and government officials.

China has strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear development, suggesting that instead of developing weapons, North Korea should look to foster more positive international relations in order to improve their economy. But China remains reluctant to clamp down too severely on North Korea, fearing an influx of refugees from North Korea should the country’s situation deteriorate. China’s inability to stop the nuclear programme also suggests it has a weakening influence on North Korea – which is worrying.

During 2015 Russia spent some time increasing ties with North Korea and has spoken of a reluctance to increase economic sanctions after this week’s events. Whilst such an alliance is difficult to understand, it may be that such links may be able to prevent North Korea from tipping into dangerous isolation.

Overall, response to North Korea have been vocal but cautious. This is because of the clear need to maintain some form of stability in the country in order to avoid a conflict which may draw China and the US into confrontation and would clearly involve nuclear capabilities. But as North Korea continues to test weapons and progress in its nuclear abilities the options for dealing with the country are reducing. So far economic sanctions have had little effect and deteriorating relationships make it hard to know what Kim Jong Un might do. It is hard to see how the US, China or the UN can stop the nuclear programme or offer any response which might alleviate the intense and unprecedented suffering of North Korea’s citizens.

Beyond climate change, as Pope Francis recently noted, 2016 brings a number of challenges that require nations and individuals “to show solidarity and to rise above self-interest, apathy and indifference in the face of critical situations.” Bethan and Elizabeth have outlined some. Other particularly contentious areas include efforts to bring peace to Syria and counter the Islamic State in its various global manifestations, moves towards tax reform, and work on international trade negotiations: one worrying trend of recent years is the quiet collapse of WTO negotiations amidst the proliferation of secretively negotiated regional and plurilateral deals, which inherently favour stronger negotiating powers and can be more easily influenced by vested interests.

A commitment to relationship building, transparency, and positive, open engagement with a broad range of constituencies could greatly enhance the possibility of just agreements in many of these areas. And there is quite a lot of scope for wider, deeper, cooperative Christian engagement, both in theology and praxis, with the issues involved … engagement that could help us learn to listen to God together more generally.

Pray for North Korea:

  • Pray for Kim Jong Un, that his heart might be changed and that God will turn him away from the pursuit of death and destruction.
  • For North Korea’s political relationships, praying especially that the country will not slide into complete isolation, that doors will remain open and that North Korea will begin to see the benefits of cooperation and communion with other countries.
  • That those who continue to live under this regime will soon see freedom from oppression and, even now, that they will know they are not forgotten by the outside world.
  • For the international community. Pray that renewed efforts will be made in tackling the suffering of those living in North Korea, that diplomatic efforts will go beyond self-preservation and will seek the good of all parties and that efforts to curtail North Korea’s nuclear programme will be successful.


Short Note: Anglican Primates Meeting

There has been much press coverage of the Primates Meeting this coming week in Canterbury, which the Archbishop of Canterbury has convened so that the Anglican primates (leaders of churches around the world) can reflect and pray on the future of the Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a call to prayer, and there are prayers, reflections, stories and news items going up regularly on the Primates Meeting website.

Please pray, as the Archbishop requests, for wisdom and love for these church leaders as they gather to consider the Communion’s future.

Prayers for the New Year

The New Testament readings in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary texts speak of the creation and reconciliation of all things, offering a look backwards and hope for what is to come. Instead of a regular prayer email for this week, we asked each member of our team to reflect on 2015 and look forward to 2016, with prayers for the coming year. This comes with all our hopes that 2016 will be a year of many blessings.
____________________________________________________________________________

Bethan


Refugees

This year the flow of refugees into Europe has been at the forefront of public attention. This has inspired many positives in terms of response. Increasingly individuals, churches and communities have been seeking to find ways to respond to the refugees’ needs` in creative ways – offering their homes, their spare clothes, or a cooked meal. In Tuzla, Bosnia, a local Christian charity (Wave) started driving to the border areas to provide food and clothes for refugees waiting to cross. In Oxford Emmanuel Church (like many others) have been providing fun and friendship to refugees through a weekly football session and helping to furnish a home for a newly arrived Syrian family. Activity on a national level (such as the Home for Good fostering appeal) and international level (such as the ‘Safe Passage’ initiative by the Churches Commission for Migration in Europe, which monitors borders and coordinates advocacy work) has also contributed to a wonderful response of love and care for the stranger in our midst. There is much to be thankful for.

But despite increased attention to forced migration and the many efforts to provide and care for refugees, there is much more that needs to be done in the coming year, particularly in terms of political solutions. In Europe political efforts so far have focused on concerns such as EU border control, debates over relatively small numbers of resettlement places, and concerns over security, rather than a big picture view which seeks a long-term solution for what is a truly global problem. Aside from the current crisis in the Middle East, 25% of the world’s refugees are in Africa, displaced due to violence and persecution. Many South Americans continue to seek refuge in the USA from ongoing gang violence, and stateless Rohingya fleeing persecution in Burma continue to seek shelter in neighbouring countries, often ending up in the hands of human traffickers.

As we look to the year ahead here are some particular areas to pray for:

Persecuted Minorities

Even amongst the displaced and dispossessed, there can be factors which make individuals or groups more vulnerable. In September the Archbishop of Canterbury, amongst others, sought to bring attention to the plight of Christians in the Middle East who were unable to stay in official refugee camps run by the UN due to attacks by other refugees. Since official resettlement programmes run through these camps, Christians and others such as Yazidi have been less able to access resettlement despite arguably being amongst the most needy. Already US figures show that these groups are under-represented in US resettlements based on pre-war demographics. Campaigns such as Operation Safe Havens are having some success in finding ways of resettling those unable to access UN refugee camps, but ensuring the inclusion of minorities requires ongoing attention.

For other minority groups facing persecution such as the Rohingya Muslims, there can be political issues which prevent their situation being fully addressed. Talks this past Mayinvolving the UN and regional agencies seeking to address forced migration in Asia failed to address or name the particular issues of persecution of Rohingya at all.

Pray for persecuted minorities:

  • for those refugees who continue to suffer persecution and discrimination
  • that governments and other agencies dealing with refugees and migration issues will pay particular care and attention to those who are most vulnerable, persecuted and overlooked.

Afghanistan

This year has seen a renewed spread of violence in Afghanistan, with the Taliban briefly seizing Kunduz in September. The long-term prospects for Afghanistan will require international cooperation, particularly from Pakistan, and opportunities for economic growth. There are some hopes that a new gas pipeline (TAPI) and work with Pakistan on tackling the Taliban may bear fruit in 2016. Already Afghanistan has been a significant contributor to recent increases in refugees (in 2012, for example, 25% of the world’s refugees were from Afghanistan). For the majority of these, living in Pakistan and Iran, there are further hardships such as lack of documentation, and discrimination in employment and in access to government services. Violence against Afghans in Pakistan has also increased dramatically this year. This has both forced many to return home despite the risks and also encouraged longer, more dangerous migration journeys to Europe.

Pray for Afghanistan:

  • for its future prospects for a flourishing economy and peace
  • for those who have been forced to leave the country and those refugees forced to return to a violent and unstable situation.

Burundi

The past year has seen increasing concerns about instability in Burundi and the rising possibility of widespread civil conflict and ethnic cleansing. Since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for office in April, an attempted coup in May, and Nkurunziza’s disputed election victory in July, clashes between government and opposition militias have seen 200 people killed. Others have been arbitrarily arrested, and around 150,000 people have fled the country. Many of those leaving Burundi are finding refuge in camps in neighbouring countries such as Nyuragusu camp in Tanzania. Here there are risks of heavy rains and cholera outbreaks. Amongst those now fleeing Burundi are some of the 50,000 people who have been living in Burundi as refugees from the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For some, fleeing violence in the region has come to dominate their lives.

Pray for Burundi:

  • that full civil conflict will not break out
  • for those currently leaving the country and for those who have spent a life time fleeing violence in the region.


Elizabeth

For me one of the high points of the past year was the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals in September. They came into effect on 1 January 2016 and are, in the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people”.

Like the Paris COP21 climate agreement, the SDGs are not perfect – but they do establish a comprehensive framework for tackling poverty, which builds on their MDG predecessors and recognizes that poverty has multiple manifestations that interrelate – and that must be tackled together.  Also like the Paris agreement, the SDGs are the product of years of negotiations (and therefore the result of the hard work of many dedicated people) and have been agreed by all the UN member nations, creating a sense of energy and new possibilities. I am particularly thankful for the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si, which seemed to capture people’s imaginations and breathe fire into the period leading up to both summits. Perhaps my perspective is skewed by having taken part in the Pilgrimage to Paris ahead of the climate summit, but I sense there has been a remarkable coming together this past year of the nations (through their leaders), international bodies and mechanisms, religiousleadership and ordinary people, which has shifted the paradigm and moved us all on – and that prayer has been a part of all of that. We could easily have been looking at failure in both the SDG and climate summits, but we are not – and that is something to be celebrated.

My own feeling that things can change is also based on the good news stories we have shared this past year, which relate to specific areas addressed by the SDGs. Examples include the dramatic decline in deaths from leprosy, measles and tetanus, the development of a highly effective vaccine against meningitis A for Africa, the free-of-charge availability of Mectizan to people suffering from elephantiasis and river blindness (October – can’t find on the CCOW website), and the significant, though insufficient, advances in the fields of education and maternal health.

Looking forward, there are clearly many areas that need our prayer. As with the Paris climate agreement, what has been “hard-won needs to be hard-wired” for the SDGs too (to quote the Director of Christian Aid, Loretta Minghella). Specific challenges will include having reliable data to monitor progress, integrating the SDGs into national policies and communicating the SDGs at local level. Then there are the specific areas addressed by the SDGs, all of which require ongoing work and prayer: the need to improve access to healthcare, quality education, good jobs, clean water and sanitation, to achieve gender equality, to end hunger, to build sustainable communities and peaceful societies, to protect habitats and ecosystems… and so much more.

Please pray:

  • In thanksgiving for the many achievements and advances that have happened – and for the people who have helped them to happen.
  • That as the SDGs take the place of the MDGs, they will truly become “a to-do list for people and planet,” and that the spirit of possibility that has been evident in the decision-making processes of the past year will continue to galvanise people as the implementation phase begins.
  • That people in all spheres of life and influence will find ways of engaging with their aims and of helping to implement their ambitions.
  • For all who work to combat poverty, inequality and injustice.
  • For religious leaders, development agencies and all who strive to communicate the interrelatedness of different aspects of poverty and to increase understanding and empathy.



Maranda

Much of my (Maranda’s) time this year was spent working on climate change, whether through CCOW or through other prayer initiatives of which we were a part. So it’s no surprise that, as with Elizabeth, climate issues come to the fore here.

The Paris talks were clearly a main focus for 2015. Getting agreement at Paris was vital – both to provide the level of consensus necessary to galvanise climate action, and to offer a framework of cooperation within which to fit policies and programmes that tackle climate change at every level.

But in the end the significance of Paris wasn’t just in the agreement; it was also in aspects of the process of preparing for and steering the talks, and in the role that a wide range of actors played as part of that process. Three points are among my highlights for the year:

  • Key leaders in charge of the talks invested prodigious amounts of time in relationship building before the conference, criss-crossing the globe to ensure that they understood countries’ priorities and built up trust. Their efforts, combined with their commitment to transparency and to delivering texts that were widely owned by the different countries, created an atmosphere where, while inequalities of wealth and power remained, countries generally felt their voices had been heard, and negotiation was possible.
  • In the run-up to the conference, the UNFCCC secretariat and France created an enabling environment by convening meetings that involved and highlighted the role of non-state actors – businesses, local governments, financiers, NGOs, faith communities, and others – who are already doing good work on climate. This created a sense of momentum, moved the discussion beyond national interests, and reframed the call for climate action as a matter of seizing opportunities to create a better world.
  • The depth and width of Christian theological engagement with environmental issues, together with Christian prayer and action for climate justice, offered valued and valuable messages and provided a powerful witness. Christian leaders’ interventions emphasised climate as requiring responses based on principles of love and justice, as well as those of science, and contributed to the reframing noted above. Laudato Si’ was particularly effective in this regard. It also communicated clearly that climate change is not an isolated issue – it is a manifestation of the brokenness in our relationships with God, our neighbour and the earth and requires the restoring of right relationships in all these areas.Words were accompanied by actions. Christians joined together in prayer, fasting and pilgrimage to place climate issues before God, trusting in God’s love and power.  Churches and individuals engaged with wider divestment campaigns and a range of initiatives helping with practical action. They joined in advocacy with other groups through climate marches, petitions, and meetings with politicians. And individual Christians, in their professional capacity, witnessed to their faith through their work. The whole not only played a role in the talks – as seen in Christiana Figueres’ letter of gratitude and choice of this as her favourite COP21 photo – but helped to heal our internal divisions and to manifest something of God’s love for the world.

Why pick these aspects? Primarily because they offer hope for what is to come. And we need hope. The Paris Agreement’s actual value will be determined by its implementation and the rapidity with which the large economies, in particular, can increase the scale and scope of their commitments. Beyond climate change, as Pope Francis recently noted, 2016 brings a number of challenges that require nations and individuals “to show solidarity and to rise above self-interest, apathy and indifference in the face of critical situations.” Bethan and Elizabeth have outlined some. Other particularly contentious areas include efforts to bring peace to Syria and counter the Islamic State in its various global manifestations, moves towards tax reform, and work on international trade negotiations: one worrying trend of recent years is the quiet collapse of WTO negotiations amidst the proliferation of secretively negotiated regional and plurilateral deals, which inherently favour stronger negotiating powers and can be more easily influenced by vested interests.

A commitment to relationship building, transparency, and positive, open engagement with a broad range of constituencies could greatly enhance the possibility of just agreements in many of these areas. And there is quite a lot of scope for wider, deeper, cooperative Christian engagement, both in theology and praxis, with the issues involved … engagement that could help us learn to listen to God together more generally.

Please pray:

  • in thanksgiving for gifts of leadership given to Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC secretariat, and the French COP team before and during the Paris talks. Pray for Figueres, the UNFCCC secretariat, and the COP21 and COP22 national teams as they seek to build on the momentum generated by the talks.
  • that countries will strengthen their climate commitments enough to achieve true climate justice
  • that God will guide the Syria peace talks towards a just conclusion that protects the rights of all, including religious minorities.
  • that negotiators on tax and trade will be given wisdom and vision, so that the processes by which they operate and the results they achieve may reflect God’s love and justice.
  • that God will call people to work for justice and mercy in economic, political and environmental matters – and that such work will help the Church to grow in unity, love, and Christlikeness.

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