Global religious leaders representing half a billion Christians urge G20: “climate emergency demands deep-seated transformations”

In a letter to G20 leaders, global religious leaders representing half a billion Christians in over 100 countries warned that rising global temperatures will have increasingly disastrous consequences on impoverished and vulnerable communities that contribute least to the climate crisis.

Hurricane Eta hit hard on the north coast of Honduras on November 2020. Before the local population has been able to begin recovery hurricane the population is braced for hurricane Iota, now entering the region.

 Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

Many of our congregations are already experiencing devastating and intensifying climate impacts and many are also responding with concrete actions and proposals,” reads the letter. The root cause of the climate emergency is the current development model and ideology that is founded upon fossil fuel-driven economic growth.”

The faith-based groups note that, as some economies have grown wealthier, the climate and frontline communities have paid a heavy price. Unless a radical change is made to the current economic model, the goals of the Paris Agreement will not be met, and the climate crisis will not be averted,” the letter reads. Today, humanity is at a turning point. The climate emergency demands deep-seated transformations towards net-zero economies by the middle of the century, within a framework of justice and solidarity.”

And, the letter further notes, these changes must happen within a rapidly closing window of opportunity.

The path to a just and sustainable future and flourishing earth community is to be found in bold economic policies that re-embed economics in society and ecology, account for social and ecological risks and costs, as well as promote the redistribution of resources to allow space for low- and middle-income countries to combat poverty aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to respond to the existential challenge of climate change,” the letter urges. Economic policies should be directed towards improving the health and wellbeing of communities and the planet as captured by alternative measures including decent work, health, and ecological sustainability, rather than merely increasing income and production.”

The letter urges G20 leaders to release countries, especially those at the forefront of climate change effects, from their onerous and historic external debts. Debt cancellation would enable indebted climate disaster-stricken countries to break free from costly build-rebuild cycles that force them further into debt,” the letter notes. It would make available resources for transitioning to a decarbonised economy.”

The letter also urges G20 leaders to implement progressive carbon and pollution taxes at various levels, and to invest heavily in climate protection and the restoration of ecosystems. In particular, we must privilege such areas as agro-ecology, reforestation and community-based renewable energy systems in our COVID-19 recovery strategies and longer-term plans,” the letter reads. Now is the time to incentivise a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energies like solar and wind.”

Read the full letter

Religious leaders urge US president Biden to end embargo against the Cuban people

In a 15 October letter to US president Joe Biden, leaders from the World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, Council of Churches in Cuba, and other faith-based groups urged an end to nearly 60 years of embargo against the Cuban people, who are facing an appalling humanitarian situation.

Havana, Cuba.

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC, 2013.

The Obama administration, with your support, sought to rethink the policy and pursue re-engagement with Cuba, by relaxing sanctions, allowing direct flights between the two countries, and easing restrictions on US citizens traveling to and doing business in Cuba,” the letter reads, adding that former president Trump reversed that strategy, leading to severe economic repercussions for the Cuban people.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the problems in Cuba,” reads the letter. We ask you to take a bold choice and end the embargo against the Cuban people.”

The letter also acknowledges the significant political pressures and obstacles to this course of action. 

We do not see real public evidence to believe that Cuba has the will, means and capacity to sponsor global terrorism,” reads the letter. We strongly believe that there are other ways to engage with the Cuban authorities to discuss and overcome disagreements on issues and legacies, without affecting the people who want to live in human dignity.”

Read the full letter

UN maintains pressure on Philippine human rights, ICHRP calls for independent investigation

October 7, 2021 – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet, presented her oral report on the Philippines to the UNHRC today, one year after the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution to provide “technical cooperation and capacity-building” to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines for the protection of human rights.

Ms Bachelet noted the progress of the UN Joint Program for technical assistance and capacity-building on human rights, adopted only on July 22 this year. She also noted the ongoing lack of accountability for the killings and rights violations in the counterinsurgency program; continuing harassment, threats and killings of human rights defenders, church workers, environmental and land rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, farmers and lawyers. She singled out the killing of 9 indigenous Tumandok leaders on Panay on December 30, 2020, and the killing of 9 community leaders during the Bloody Sunday operation on March 7, 2021. She maintained her criticism of the government’s red-tagging against activists, media and other actors, and called for an end to the hate language during the unfolding national election campaign. 

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) fully endorses High Commissioner Bachelet’s comment that the decision of the International Criminal Court Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation in the Philippines is a significant indication of the inadequate, if not non-existent, domestic remedies in the country. 

The formal response of the Philippine Delegate demonstrated that the Duterte government continues to reject any criticism of its human rights record, doubling down on its use of red-tagging to terrorise any critics by alleging without evidence that they recruit fighters for the New People’s Army.

The Duterte government continues to use the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), created at the end of 2018, as the government framework to repress civilian dissent.  Human rights violations will continue unless the NTF-ELCAC is declared unconstitutional and dissolved. ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy calls  “The Duterte government’s claims to uphold human rights and respect the UN Human Rights Council shamelessly hypocritical”.

High Commissioner Bachelet detailed some of the many human rights violations which have taken place since last October. INVESTIGATE PH, an independent international civil society initiative, reported extensive violations of economic, social, and cultural rights of the Filipino people, as well as violations of the rights to development, self-determination, and peace. The Duterte administration’s war on dissent is now using mechanisms and tactics which were previously used in the notorious war on poor people to target alleged drug users (such as tokhang-style killings by police) to maintain its state terror to control the people. 

High Commissioner Bachelet’s report clearly demonstrated the lack of domestic mechanisms in the Philippines to end such human rights violations. In the wake of the worsening human rights situation, ICHRP reiterates the recommendations of INVESTIGATE PH, including the authorization of an international independent investigation of human rights violations in the Philippines. ICHRP also calls on the UNHRC to maintain its efforts to hold the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and its officials accountable for the thousands of violations of human rights carried out as official state policies.###

For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301 chairperson@ichrp.net 

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is a global network of organizations, concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines and committed to campaign for just and lasting peace in the country.

Immediate Response Required

On March 17, 2020, the Methodist Church lost one of its leading ecumenists, Geoffrey Wainwright. For almost three decades, Wainwright formed Christian ministers and theologians at Duke Divinity School for the church universal. In the best of Methodist tradition, Wainwright loved scripture and singing. He exhorted his students to “guard the good treasure” entrusted to us in Scripture and the sound doctrine of the church, “with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us” (2 Tim. 1:13-14). Indeed, he inscribed these verses on the books that he autographed for his students. Wainwright believed that good hymnody helped form sound doctrine. Hence, he frequently invited his students to sing hymns during lecture, especially those by Charles Wesley. Because Wainwright was Methodist, he was ecumenical. He introduced himself to his students as an evangelical, orthodox, catholic theologian, all lowercase letters. His profound doxological vision, linguistic skills and passion for Christian unity helped him become a world-renowned ecumenist. 

Geoffrey Wainwright was born in Yorkshire, England, the only child of Willie and Martha Ann Wainwright. At the University of Cambridge he studied Modern Languages and then Theology. He received a theological doctorate from the University of Geneva in 1972, and his Cambridge D.D. in 1987. He was ordained by the British Methodist Conference in 1967. For six years he served as a pastor and teacher at the Protestant Faculty of Theology in Yaoundé, Cameroon. On returning to Britain in 1973 he taught at The Queen’s College (joint Anglican Methodist) in Birmingham. In 1979 he moved with his wife and three children to the United States where he taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York before moving to Durham in 1983 where he became Professor of Systematic Theology at Duke Divinity School until his retirement in 2012. He was a member (1976-1991) in the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. He was a principal editor of the text “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” drawn up by the Commission at Lima, Peru in 1982. Between 1986 and 2011 he served as chair on the Methodist side of the Joint Commission for Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church. Among his books the most influential remain his systematic theology, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine and Life (OUP 1980), and The Oxford History of Christian Worship, co-edited by Karen Westerfield Tucker.

In 1965 he married Margaret Wiles, who survives him as do his children, Joanna Paulman (Lance), Catherine Aravosis, Dominic Wainwright (Jeannie) and his grandchildren, Wesley Paulman, Matthaios and Sofia Eleni Aravosis.

Donations in his memory may be sent to Duke Divinity School (in honor of Geoffrey Wainwright), Box 90968, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708 and will be used to provide financial aid support for students. You may also give online at https://www.gifts.duke.edu/divinity.

[Excerpts from Duke Divinity Viewpoints March 19, 2020 by Edgardo Colón-Emeric, and Pray Tell: Worship, Wit & Wisdom blog – May 1, 2020]

To attend or watch the service online:

It you wish to attend, please CLICK HERE to RSVP for the Service of Death and Resurrection for Geoffrey Wainwright.

To view online the Service of Death and Resurrection for Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright taking place Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 2pm EST in Goodson Chapel here at the Divinity School. Also included below is the announcement and invitation for the service.                         https://youtu.be/lhPAxMxFC2M

NIFEA E-Conference: Degrowth – Living Sufficiently and Sustainably

Organised by the Council for World Mission (CWM), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), World Council of Churches (WCC) and World Methodist Council (WMC) under the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) initiative, the NIFEA E-conference on “Degrowth – Living Sufficiently and Sustainably” will be a space to discuss and unpack various visions of “de-growth” or “post-growth” with a view to addressing the urgent eco-crisis and pandemic of inequality besetting the planet today.  

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

1 October 2021 (Friday)

 

Session 1: 10:00 – 12:00 CEST
Click here to register for session 1

 

Session 2: 14:00 – 16:00 CEST
Click here to register for session 2

 

How do we address the contradictions between modern society’s obsession with limitless economic growth and the ecological limits of our only planetary home? Are there models of the good life that meet the needs of all people, share wealth and power, whilst nurturing the environment? What resources do we have and what strategies can we employ as faith communities to empower a just and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a just transition from a growth-oriented, extractivist economic paradigm to a life-affirming economy where all of God’s creation can flourish?

The NIFEA E-conference takes the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a vital backdrop for reflections and aims to promote discussions towards developing a short ecumenical message directed to the G20 Leaders’ Summit taking place in Rome from 30-31 October 2021 on theme of “People, Planet and Prosperity”.

Session 1, 10:00 – 12:00

Moderator:
Dr Rogate Mshana, moderator (Tanzania, Oikotree)

Speakers:
Lemaima Jennifer Vai’i (Fiji, Pacific Conference of Churches)
Dr George Zachariah (India and New Zealand, Trinity College)
Dr Martin Kopp (France, Federation of Protestant Churches in France)
Prof Lalrindiki Ralte (India, Aizawl Theological College)
Rosario Guzman (Philippines, Ibon Foundation)

Summary of the discussion:
Rev Dr Peter Cruchley (CWM), Rev Dr Sivin Kit (LWF), Rev Philip Peacock (WCRC), Athena Peralta (WCC), and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (WMC)

 

Session 2, 14:00 – 16:00

Moderator:
Rev Dr Gordon Cowans, moderator (Jamaica, Ecumenical Panel on a NIFEA)

Speakers:
Rev Chebon Kernell (USA, Native American Comprehensive Plan, United Methodist Church
Dr Arnie Saiki (USA-Hawaii, Imipono Projects)
Dr Fundiswa Kobo (South Africa, University of South Africa)

Dr Priya Lukka (UK, Goldsmith University)
Rev Rozemarijn van’t Einde (Netherlands, De Klimaatwakers)

Summary of the discussion:
Rev Dr Peter Cruchley (CWM), Rev Dr Sivin Kit (LWF), Rev Philip Peacock (WCRC), Athena Peralta (WCC), and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (WMC)

Interpretation into Spanish will be available for this session.

Panelist bios:

Lemaima Jennifer Vai’i is a young person from the Methodist Church in Fiji and the Pacific Conference of Churches. She is passionate about climate justice and is part of the Reweaving the Ecological Mat Youth Team.

Dr George Zachariah is from India and is currently the Wesley Lecturer in Theological Studies and Coordinator of the Research Committee at Trinity College in Auckland, New Zealand.

Dr Martin Kopp chairs the Commission on Ecology and Climate Justice of the Federation of Protestant Churches in France and holds a doctorate in Protestant theology from the University of Strasbourg.

Prof Lalrindiki Ralte is an Indigenous person from Mizoram, India and teaches theology and ethics at the Aizawl Theological College.

Rosario Guzman is the executive editor and head of research at Ibon Foundation – a non-profit research, education and information-development institution based in the Philippines.

Rev Chebon Kernell serves as executive director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan of the United Methodist Church in the USA and a member of the WCC’s Ecumenical Indigenous People’s Reference Group.

Dr Arnie Saiki is from Hawaii, coordinates Imipono Projects and authored the book, “Ecological-Economic Accounts: Towards Intemerate Values.”

Dr Fundiswa Kobo is a senior lecturer on Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology at the University of South Africa.

Dr Priya Lukka is a lecturer in economics at Goldsmith University in the UK. Previously she worked with ChristianAid.

Rev Rozemarijn van’t Einde is a pastor in the Netherlands and co-initiated and is a spokesperson for De Klimaatwakersor Climate Watchers.

Palestinian peace prayer

As we join an international wave of prayer this week for peace in Palestine/Israel, we stand with the World Council of Churches in asserting that all forms of violence are deplorable and should end. We affirm that religious affiliations should not justify the application of different moral standards for different communities. We insist that International law, as an expression of justice for all peoples, must
be respected as a moral norm to be implemented politically and socially. We continue to stand
Palestinian Christians and Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups working to uphold international law. The Methodist liaison office is one sign of our ongoing response to the cry of Palestinian Christians for their sisters and brothers in faith around the world to come and see the impact of the occupation.

In this week, we continue to pray that the conflict and division that have crushed so many lives in the region over generations may cease. We pray that the hope we share for a renewal and peace be a source of strength for all who work towards reconciliation and for those whose lives are dominated by fear and uncertainty in Israel/Palestine.

WMC Names Recipients for 2020 and 2021 Peace Awards

Bishop John K. Yambasu

Recipients of the World Methodist Peace Award for 2020 and 2021 are announced by World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams. “This Award is given annually by the World Methodist Council to individuals or organizations who have contributed significantly to peace, justice and reconciliation,” Bishop Abrahams said, “and it is a privilege to announce these two outstanding individuals for their untiring efforts.”

The recipients were chosen at the Council’s Steering Committee meeting held in August. The Committee did not choose a recipient last year, so both the 2020 and 2021 recipients were named this year as the Committee met virtually.

Both men have boldly worked for peace and  in their respective areas of the world but have also been instrumental in inspiring others to work for peace globally.

The late Bishop John K. Yambasu, the 2020 Peace Award recipient, was chosen for being a courageous peacemaker in his home country of Sierra Leone and across the United Methodist connection for many years. He provided critical leadership during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and the 2017 mud landslide, both of which killed thousands of his fellow citizens. He was known for choosing to speak truth, even in difficult situations, while at the same time living peaceably with all people and was a role model to the United Methodists in Africa and across the connection, his nomination stated.

Bishop Yambasu grew up in poverty and is quoted as having said, “I know through and through what poverty is. I have slept with it and I have woken to it. Countless times, I went to bed without food. I have not only experienced poverty, but for almost ten years I had to wrestle with it. Today in Sierra Leone, I live side by side with poverty and misery.” He then said, “I am totally fed up!…We need to embrace each other” Red and yellow, black and white, poor and rich, have and have-nots, gay or straight, bisexual or homosexual, polygamists, we all need to engage each other… We need to torment God with our prayers and give us sleepless nights until we can look at each other in the face and say, ‘We are brothers and we are sisters’.”

The Bishop was creative in thought and action and
was consistent throughout his life. He served the
people around him as the focus of his call to ministry. He was a leader in the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign, the Ebola crisis, and COVID-19 pandemic. He was a teacher to young people, founder of the Child Rescue Center, and shortly before his death in an automobile accident, was elected Chancellor of Africa University.

His nominees said that Bishop Yambasu was a man of peace: peace for those living with illness, peace for children struggling in poverty, peace across nations and continents. He exemplified the best in Christian peacemaking.

The Rev. Olav Pärnamets of Estonia was named to receive the 2021 Peace Award. His contribution to world peace began with Europe in the second half of the 20th century. The tiny Baltic country of Estonia enjoyed less than a quarter of a century as a free republic during the first half of the 20th century. Still, during that time, the Methodist Church planted roots and grew. Born in 1937, Rev. Pärnamets spent most of his childhood and adult ministry under the strict and oppressive control of the Soviet Union, his nominees explain. Yet, this man served as a pastor and district superintendent, displaying great courage when the government of Estonia oppressed those who even participated in religious activity. Worship, theological study and evangelical activities were suppressed with the threat of punishment. But he traveled the world to share about the faithfulness of the people called Methodists in this Baltic country.

One of Rev. Pärnamets greatest strengths is creativity. With little to no money and Big Brother watching, he led by faith, and his unique ability to bring together people from different cultures, nations and backgrounds is evident in the vital Estonian church.

“Whether challenged to abandon God for the state as a child, to give up his Bible while conscripted in the military, or faced with needs and not enough resources, Rev. Pärnamets has always leaned on God’s grace,” said his nomination. His actions as a child, a youth worker, a deacon, pastor, superintendent and ecumenical leader are evidence of his life-long peace efforts. His vision of a Baltic Mission Center became a reality through the generosity and friendship of people he influenced worldwide. There is a Baltic Theological Seminar that equips and sends clergy all over Europe. More than 90 percent of todays’ clergy in Estonia were educated there. Retiring in 2014, Rev. Pärnnamets remains active.

“The Peace Award is the highest honor of the World Methodist Council,” Bishop Abrahams explains. The criteria for the Peace Award are courage, creativity and consistency in one’s witness to peace, justice and reconciliation.

Previous recipients of the award include, among others, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Nelson Mandela, Boris Trajkovsky (Macedonia), Father Elias Chacour, The Community of St. Egidio (Rome) and the Grandmothers of the Plaza De Mayo (Argentina).

More information on the 2020 and 2021 Peace Award recipients will be available when the public presentations are made. The dates for the presentations will be announced when available.

Rev. Olav Pärnamets