[Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town] People of faith need to focus on the moral and spiritual elements of the crisis brought about by rapid climate change, Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, said today in response to Pope Francis's encyclical on the issue.
In a statement issued from Cape Town, the Archbishop said:
“I would like to thank Pope Francis for this historic, ground-breaking letter. I look forward to studying it in more detail.
“Across Africa and in other developing countries, we are already suffering the impacts of climate change, and the people hit hardest by severe droughts or storms are in our most vulnerable communities.
“In our own church province in Southern Africa, the people of Mozambique have recently been hit by floods. In Namibia, drought has forced the livestock industry – upon which seven in 10 Namibians depend for their livelihoods – to declare a state of emergency, and the government is pressing farmers to sell their cattle.
“Our sister churches in the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa have similar stories they can tell. And at a recent consultation of bishops from the most vulnerable parts of the world, we heard of changes to seasons, rising sea levels, the acidification of seawater, depleted fishing grounds and of 'climate refugees' – people displaced by the changes.
“While not discounting the political, economic, social and scientific considerations, as people of faith we need to focus on the moral and spiritual elements of the crisis. The secular and the religious concerns are not mutually exclusive.
“The values of dignity and fairness are at the heart of how we respond to the crisis. How we look after the environment is at its core about how we value our fellow human beings.
“Not only that, it is about how we value the rest of God's creation and treat the resources God has entrusted to us. Pope Francis evokes this beautifully when he cites how St Francis of Assisi communed with all creation, preaching to even the flowers, and in addressing the Lord, how he referred to our planet as 'our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us...'
“I welcome especially the way in which Pope Francis has underlined the attention that has been drawn to what he calls 'the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems' by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, requiring 'that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms.'
“In drawing attention to the high levels of consumption, greed and wastefulness in our world – which we see both in developed countries and among the wealthy in developing countries – the encyclical makes clear that we need to adopt simpler, more wholesome lifestyles.
“If, in response to the current crisis, we take action commensurate with the problem, it could improve not only our spiritual lives – whether we are materially poor or wealthy – but deliver huge practical benefits for the poorest in developing countries.
“I join Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, when he challenges leaders at the climate talks in Paris in December to show the same inspired moral and ethical leadership.”
Read the declaration “The World Is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice” from the Anglican Communion bishops meeting on climate change held in Cape Town from 23 to 27 February 2015.
Learn more about the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and visit the ACEN Facebook page.