NEWS RELEASE: 5 Dec 2009
CHURCH LEADERS SEND A MESSAGE OF
urgency and hope to the Copenhagen Summit
More than 20 senior church leaders have gathered for a church service, with more than 3,000 Christians from their congregations, to support the London Wave , urging an ambitious, fair and effective deal at the Copenhagen Summit on climate change.
"This weekend's events should send a clear message of urgency and hope to the Copenhagen Summit," said Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury at the service on the morning of 5 December at Westminster Central Hall.
"This is a very important moment for us all in trying to keep everyone's eyes open to the serious environmental challenges we face and the world's leaders need to hear from the world's people about their desire for a safe, sustainable environment in which God's care for all he has made is honoured by us."
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales led prayers at the service, commenting: " Today I hope we can make clear our readiness to live simpler lives, to be more attentive to the needs of the poorest people, to be responsive to the needs of our planet." He felt that " unless it is clear that we are prepared to change, political leaders will not be able to reach the agreements which are now needed."
Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance , led the congregation through the service and its prayer intercessions for people and planet. David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference , led an act of repentance.
One of the 3,000 Christians attending the event was Nicki Smith from Huddersfield who has spent the past month walking to the Wave , a journey of 250 miles. She wanted to draw attention to the climate change issue, and the report 'Hope for God's Future' produced by her Methodist Church. "I have visited an interesting A Rocha wildlife project, spoke to several youth clubs, and just raised awareness with ordinary people I met along the way," she said. Nicki arrived at the service with her hair dyed blue, the colour of the Wave day of action.
Tearfund worker Richard Avery cycled from his Greasby home, a journey of 200 miles. "I visited Bangladesh with Tearfund five years ago and I was struck by how the changing climate is already impacting people there," he said. "I met people living right on the water's edge who are so vulnerable to the extreme weather and sea level rises."
Bishop Lee Rayfield, the Anglican Bishop of Swindon also arrived on a bike, having cycled from Newbury to raise awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions: "Our Government needs to appreciate how concerned ordinary people are about the impact of climate change on our planet. They need to hear our voice urging them to take the tough decisions in Copenhagen and I hope and pray that this cycle ride will amplify that voice."
During the service, Christine Elliot, Secretary for External Relationships of the Methodist Church, interviewed partners of the Christian development agencies from the global south. Umme Kulsum from CAFOD partner Prodipan in Bangladesh spoke movingly about the impact of climate change on her country. "People are raising their houses, strengthening roofs, but sometimes they think that their effort in adapting is like using a single straw to stop the tide. The problem is big. They are trying to increase their resilience, but they also call for reducing or stopping use of greenhouse gasses, to hold the pace of climate change." Philippe Ouedraogo, who runs a Tearfund church-based partner agency in Burkina Faso called on Christians around the world to pray and to change their own lifestyles in order to combat the effects of climate change.
Daleep Mukarji, Director of Christian Aid said: "This service is an important part of today's action. Climate change is already having a devastating impact on the world's poor which is why Christians are increasingly speaking out. The poor - who have done the least to cause it - are suffering the most from climate change. Hence as Christians we are calling for a binding deal at Copenhagen that has the concerns and hopes of the world's poor and vulnerable at its heart."
Messages of support to the Wave were received from church leaders internationally. Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, said: " We fervently pray for the best possible international agreement during the UN Conference on Climate Change, so that all industrialised countries may undertake a generous commitment to reduce polluting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% (of 1990) by 2020 and provide crucial financial support to developing nations."
Anglican A rchbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi called for the bishops in the North and South to do joint advocacy work: "Most of the consequences of climate change in the South are the result of over-development and over-consumption in the western world. We need to ask the West together to slow down their consumption and this is not something that Africa, or even Asia, can do alone."
In her message Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church of the US said "The crisis of climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the goodness, interconnectedness, and sanctity of the world God created and loves." She felt the faith community "has a sacred responsibility to stand on the side of truth, the truth of science as well as the truth of God's unquenchable love for the world and all its inhabitants."
After the service many of the church leaders went on the join the UK's biggest ever march in support of action on climate change, standing with a banner reading, 'Churches say 'ACT NOW ON CLIMATE CHANGE'. One of them was Colonel Brian Peddle, Chief Secretary for The Salvation Army UK and Republic of Ireland. He commented: "The Salvation Army is privileged to join our voice with thousands of others, to call for action which will make a real difference to the lives of our entire global community now and in the future."
The church leaders stood alongside children with faces and hands painted blue and an array of banners from parishes, dioceses and justice and peace groups, which contributed towards the encircling of the Houses of Parliament during the afternoon. Afterwards, Church agencies joined others meeting with Ed Miliband, the government's climate change secretary, to stress again the need for urgent action in Copenhagen next week.
The Wave ecumenical service was organised by A Rocha, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Christian Concern for One World, Christian Ecology Link, Columban JPIC, MRDF, Operation Noah, Progressio, SPEAK and Tearfund. It was part of The Wave events on 5 December organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.
Also, on 5 December, St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square displayed the powerful Hard Rain Exhibition on the railings of their courtyard and throughout their downstairs foyer. Hard Rain, by Mark Edwards, is a photographic elegy and an impassioned and moving cry for action on climate change, habitat loss and human rights.
Westminster Catholic Cathedral and York Minster are amongst the churches in Britain which will be ringing their bells at 3pm local time on 13th December to coincide with the Copenhagen Summit. See: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/events-sections/countdoCwn-to-climate-justice/bellringing.html '
The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition represents 11 million members across 100 UK organisations, including many Christian agencies such as CAFOD, Christian Aid and Tearfund. See: www.the-wave.org.uk and www.stopclimatechaos.org .
Katie Harrison, Tearfund
07949 181 414
Ellen Teague, Columban Faith and Justice
020 8954 6255 / 07956 317 338
Revd Dave Bookless, A Rocha UK
020 8574 5935 / 07974 212713
Pascale Palmer, CAFOD
0207 095 5459 / 07785 950 585
John Davison, Christian Aid
07802 502155 / 0207 523 2416
Jo Barrett, Progressio
020 7288 8619 / 07940 703911
Ruth Jarman, Christian Ecology Link
Cathy Lefeuvre, Salvation Army
07717 448 232