[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] The vital role of the church and faith communities in tackling climate change was highlighted during a televised discussion broadcast live from the UN Head Office in New York yesterday (6 June). Advocacy Officer and Head of New York Office for the Anglican Communion, Jillian Abballe, was one of six panellist taking part in the live UN TV discussion about the role of faith communities in planting and nurturing the seed of climate responsibility.
Addressing the crucial role that faith-based organisations, religious traditions and communities play in addressing the threats of climate change, Jillian shared stories of how members of the Anglican Communion are having an impact through influence, earth stewardship and in modelling responsibility towards the environment.
She said: “The Anglican Communion is a global family of churches that is located in over 165 countries throughout the world representing roughly 85 million people.” She told the delegates that the Communion is working to address both current and future environmental challenges.
“Along with my colleague Jack Palmer-White, who is the Anglican Communion Representative to the United Nations,” Jillian said, “we work to bring Anglican voices and expertise to the global stage, build strong relationships with the UN and other partners so that the grassroots work of our parishes and dioceses is more effective.”
Jillian said the Anglican Communion is speaking out about the environment and how to understand the world through a holistic theology that reconciles the people, the planet and prosperity.
She said: “The commitments we make as communities and global networks make a statement to the world and re-shape our imagination of mission and how we respond to such crises. For example, at the recent 17th session of the Anglican Consultative Council a resolution was passed that recognised the scale of the global climate emergency and encouraged all Anglican churches to live out what is called the fifth Mark of Mission – ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’”
She highlighted the role of the Anglican Communion Environment Network in advocating for responsible environmental stewardship, support and leadership to local initiatives, and educating Anglicans as individuals and communities to become better stewards of creation.
Jillian said the Communion has begun to implement collaborative strategies across its provinces and working with the Environmental Network and the Anglican Alliance, it is bringing together development, relief and advocacy activities combined with capacity building and training.
The proactive role of the Communion in South America and Southern Africa were cited as examples of action in areas where, according to Jillian, the most vulnerable are already experiencing catastrophic climate change-related disasters.
She said: “Bishops and representatives from six South American countries are pursuing environmental justice work in their dioceses with high priority given to land use and deforestation, youth-oriented community organising, reducing carbon footprints, recycling and organic gardening, water issues involving public use rather than privatised water, soil contamination from oil drilling, and education around the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Further examples of the Communion’s active work in tackling climate change, highlighted during the live programme, included Sri Lanka where in the Diocese of Colombo, 450 children participated in an Environment Art Competition to create awareness and concern on environmental issues among Children. Jillian also spoke about Pakistan where a small-scale Christian faith-based organisation – the Society for Peace and Sustainable Development – is working at grass root level in five districts of South Punjab, Pakistan running Green Climate Clubs and a Green Schools Project to engage children with nature.
She said: “from the UN office, we take all of these concerns seriously and are going to start work on a strategy for the acceleration and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals across the Communion from 2020-2030. We are also placing a specific focus on climate induced displacement, indigenous rights, and Pacific small island developing states (P-SIDS).”
Responding to questions, Jillian said: “there is urgent action that needs to be taken that we possibly haven’t fully imagined. . . I hope in our faith traditions we can call up the spirituality to usher us into an era where we can have that imagination to create new solutions.”