Tag Archives: CRCNA

Christian Witness at the Paris Climate Summit

Note: Hundreds of Christian churches, denominations and ministries are present at the COP-21 Paris climate summit. The following story is from the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), The CRCNA has just updated their fellow congregants back home on the ups and downs in the Paris negotiations.

Here in Paris, it’s 3:00 AM. A group of hardy friends from the Christian Reformed Church are meeting electronically with 200 of their fellow congregants who have joined the Climate Witness Project in North America to review and pray for the Paris worldwide negotiations on climate change.

Michelle Nieviadomy, of the Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, tells the gathered CRCNA that in the Dene First Nation language, there is no word for “climate change.” Instead, the word for “strange happenings” is used. Raccoons showing up in habitats that have never seen them before. Fish covered with cancers. Seasonal changes occurring out of sequence. The CRCNA represents many indigenous Christians. They lament that indigenous communities around the world are largely being shut out of the process, but efforts continue.

CRC delegates to the Paris COP-21 conduct internet confernce with the folks back home

CRC delegates to the Paris COP-21 conduct internet confernce with the folks back home

The CRCNA is bearing witness to the reality that God is here in Paris, that he loves his world, that the church is deeply concerned about God’s creation and his people. Negotiators are surprised and encouraged to find that Christian denominations, churches and organizations are such a strong presence in these negotiations. The churches of Paris, from Notre Dame de Paris, to St. Michaels Anglican, to L’Eglise Baptiste are alive with Christians meeting to pray, worship and plan.

151 national presidents from around the world spoke to the Paris COP-21, expressing support for the negotiations and the global effort to rein in greenhouse gases to keep worldwide warming to within 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Presidents of island nations Kiribati and Maldives spoke of it being too late, and that their islands will have to be abandoned — their people permanent exiles from the rising seas.

Major questions remain about finance for the Green Climate Fund to finance clean energy and adaptation in poor nations. The US has offered $3.0 billion, funding for which US Congress leaders have sworn to oppose. Comparatively tiny Canada has nearly matched the US ambition, offering $2.7 billion, with no recalcitrant legislature to prevent them. Rich countries, which have prospered while polluting the world’s atmosphere with greenhouse gases, are facing worldwide calls to recognize the cost being borne by the world’s poorest countries, who have done little to cause it.

Thanks to the CRCNA for your excellent work here in Paris, and your faithful witness to God’s love for his creation.

The Racialization of Climate?

I recently returned from several weeks in Kenya, where a group of North American scientists, teachers and church leaders were examining the impact of global climate disruptions on poor farmers in that country. We travelers shared a profound commitment to creation care. We also shared a sincere faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we met with farming and church groups, we heard dolefully repetitious themes: the planting seasons are disrupted, often cutting harvests from two per year to one or less; droughts are much more frequent; more intense floods are washing away fertile soils; changing climatic patterns result in new crop pests never seen before….

At every visit, we took pictures of our new Kenyan friends. But I can’t help noting: They all look so different from me. Their suffering moves me. But at some level, it’s a bit harder to see their suffering as my suffering. Would it be different if they looked, spoke and dressed like me?

This is the question addressed by Albert Hamstra, a career missionary with the Christian Reformed Church, and a member of our traveling team.

A Question

Written by: Albert Hamstra

Hamstra planting a tree near Nairobi

Hamstra planting a tree near Nairobi

What if the main people who were suffering from the effects of environmental degradation and climate change were white? Would the reaction to it be any different in the USA and Canada than it is today?

One of the reasons these problems are so difficult to address is because they have been racialized. Whenever “the other” is of another race, sustained empathy with them is extremely difficult and rare. It becomes easier to find reasons for our indifference and inattention.

This scenario has been played out repeatedly in many situations so that most, if not all, of our major social/ethical challenges are racialized.

We Christians have been given the grace to escape from the destruction of racialization and the racism that accompanies it. This is a significant reason why the Church is especially qualified to address issues of the abuse of creation. We know God the Creator; therefore there is no “other” whom we can dismiss as having less value.

I encourage us to spend a few minutes imagining what it would be like if the main people who were suffering from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation today were white. What does that image say to us?

Albert Hamstra serves the CRC as its Global Impact Director. This post first appeared on May 1, 2013 in the CRC’s World Renew volunteer website.