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“Heeding the Call of Indigenous Peoples”: Anglican Communion co-hosts official COP26 side event

Posted on: November 4, 2021 4:56 PM
(From left to right) Henrik Grape, Mark MacDonald, Mari Valjakka, Ravinder Kuar Nijjar, Charles McNeill, Andreas Dahl-Jørgensen, Joseph Itongwa
Photo Credit: Dr Elizabeth Perry, Anglican Alliance

The Anglican Communion co-hosted an official side event for COP26 yesterday (3 November) entitled “Making Peace with Nature: Heeding the Call of Indigenous Peoples”.

The event, organised by the World Council of Churches, the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, the Episcopal Church, Religions for Peace and the Anglican Communion, featured key religious and indigenous leaders from diverse traditions. It was an opportunity for religious leaders across faiths to highlight the urgent need to recognise the rights and spiritualities of indigenous peoples, and how important they are to “achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement”.

Among those speaking was Archbishop Mark MacDonald, an Indigenous leader from the Anglican Church of Canada. He said: “An estimated 80% of the biodiversity that is on this planet is under the oversight, the protocols, the life of indigenous people. So, the rights of indigenous people, the life of indigenous people, is so intimate to the future of the planet, that there is no liveable future for this planet that does not address the rights of indigenous people”.

He also said that it was “absolutely critical for us to understand that indigenous people and their life stand in a prophetic relationship with humanity’s future.” He ended by saying: “Let us take heed. Let us listen. Let us understand. For in this, we will find life.”

Dr Charles McNeill, Senior Advisor on Forests and Climate for the United Nations Environmental Programme, moderated the event. He specifically noted that “Anglicans and Episcopalians and other faiths are undergoing a kind of transformation in the way they are opening up to and even embracing the need to respect and protect indigenous peoples’ rights and spirituality”.

Another Anglican participant, the Revd Rachel Taber-Hamilton from the Shackan First Nation, echoed the importance of taking seriously the voices and experiences of indigenous peoples. She said: “Unless our theologians of all kinds begin to listen closely to the theologies of indigenous peoples, we will not survive, not only as a race, but as a world, because in those stories, which are genuinely deep and profound theologies of the sacred, of creation, there is relationship with place…with other…with plants…with animals, that sees and frames the world that God has created as deeply and profoundly sacred.”

Dr Elizabeth Perry from the Anglican Alliance, one of the Anglican Communion delegates at COP26 said: “It was striking how story and narrative emerged as critical to action. The panellists, who came from diverse places and cultures, spoke powerfully about how the way we see the world - the stories we tell, the theologies we inhabit - shape us in our deepest being and determine how we live in the world. This reflects what we have been learning ourselves, as the Anglican Communion, as we have intentionally striven to put Indigenous wisdom and perspectives at the heart of our engagement with the environmental emergency.”

The event included a number of speakers. These were:

• Prof. Azza Karam, Secretary General, Religions for Peace

• Mr. Andreas Dahl-Jørgensen, Director of the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI)

• Dr. Tom Clements, Strategic Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State and Lord Goldsmith, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom

• The Right Reverend Dr. Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California and Head of Delegation for COP26

• Chief Rabbi David Rosen, International Director, Department of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee; Co-President, Religions for Peace

• Archbishop Marc MacDonald, Anglican Church of Canada, President of the World Council of Churches (WCC) for North America

• Reverend Mari Valjakka, Pastor of Sámi at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Moderator of the Indigenous Peoples Reference Group of the World Council of Churches (WCC)

• Mr. Joseph Itongwa, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Indigenous Peoples Network for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems (REPALEF)

• Bishop Francisco Duque, Anglican Church of Colombia and President of the Interreligious Council of Colombia

• Reverend Henrik Grape, Senior Advisor on Care for Creation, Sustainability, and Climate Justice of the World Council of Churches

• Ms. Ravinder Kuar Nijjar, Chair, Religions for Peace UK Women of Faith Network and Sikh Representative in the Scottish Religious Leaders Forum

• Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, Shackan First Nation, Episcopal Church

To watch the full event, please click here.