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States must listen to churches over peace-building

Posted on: September 18, 2019 3:34 PM
Climate Action For Peace Campaign for International Day of Peace 2019
Photo Credit: United Nations

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Governments should acknowledge the pivotal and practical role of churches and faith-based organisations in peace-building, according to the Anglican Communion’s representative at the UN, Jack Palmer-White.

Speaking in the run up to the International Day of Peace on Saturday (21 September) Jack Palmer-White said this year’s theme of ‘Climate Action for Peace’ was an opportunity to call on states to take meaningful action to protect those forced from their homes by climate-related disasters and conflict.

He said: “Not only is there a moral duty to protect those affected by climate-induced displacement, but it is also important in reducing the risk of conflict caused by large population movements. States need to listen to civil society, including churches and other faith-based organisations, indigenous communities and young people, to understand better the challenges facing communities at risk of displacement.”

Churches across the Anglican Communion are actively working with communities to support and protect those forced to leave their homes due to climate change or conflict.

In Papua New Guinea the Anglican church has been very active in the past few weeks helping thousands of people displaced, after the second eruption from Mount Ulawun in the Diocese of New Guinea Island. The eruption led to water contamination and respiratory infections for vulnerable people with transport and infrastructure affected which hindered the emergency response. The Church organised an appeal to help bring in aid and support to those affected.

A team of youth and church leaders from the Pacific Islands shared their experience of extreme weather impacts at a recent climate change conference organised by the Diocese of Lincoln in the UK. Amongst the group were young people from All Saints’ Fasi in Tonga who trained in Community Integrated Vulnerability Assessments (CIVA) for natural disaster response. They explained how they used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map their community, which enabled All Saints’ youth to respond swiftly and accurately when the most recent cyclone struck.

In Pakistan 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.

The Anglican Alliance, which helps to co-ordinate the activities of Anglican relief and development agencies, has been offering practical support to churches through capacity building and training.

One of the resources to enable churches build resilience and prepare and respond to disasters more effectively is the toolkit ‘Pastors and Disasters’, developed by Episcopal Relief & Development in partnership with Anglicans around the world, including the church in Sri Lanka.

The Anglican Alliance has also partnered with the Diocese of Harare helping lead workshops on ‘Resilience and Church and Community Mobilisation’ which led to transformation for communities in Zimbabwe.

The International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations in 1981, “Peace Day” and provides an opportunity for everyone to promote peace personally, politically, and communally. The World Council of Churches has invited all denominations to join in with peace themed services, events and acts of peace.

The Day of Peace leads into the UN’s Climate Action Summit on 23 September, which will focus on plans to accelerate action to implement the Paris Agreement.