Saturday, May 26, 2012

Churches to accompany communities displaced by climate change

Churches to accompany communities displaced by climate change

Flooding in the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea, one of the first locations where resettlement due to climate change has become necessary. © Julia Edwards
To address the impact of displacements induced by climate change, participants from ecumenical, non-governmental and international organizations, as well as churches, gathered in Bossey, Switzerland, from 22 to 23 May in a World Council of Churches (WCC) conference.

The conference, focusing on the theme “Climate change-induced displacement: What is at stake?” was organized by the WCC programme on Climate Change, in partnership with the Pacific Council of Churches and the German development agency Bread for the World.

Participants in the conference analyzed the progress made by the international community since 2010, following the conference on Protection and Reparations for "Climate Refugees".

Within this international framework, presenters shared case studies from Bangladesh, India and Africa to illustrate the “vulnerabilities and capabilities” of communities affected by climate change.

Presentations and working groups assessed the challenges of resettlement in the Pacific, as well as adaptation and disaster-risk reduction in Central America. The discussions elaborated on the developments in understanding the rights of victims of climate change at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences, the Human Rights Council and the process toward United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20.

A session at the event focused on how churches are accompanying communities uprooted by the impact of climate change. In light of the rights of refugees and migrants, and building on the WCC’s engagement in this area, the event showed how churches are engaged in and calling for renewed commitment in pastoral care, capacity building and advocacy efforts. 

“For Bangladesh, addressing migration and the plight of individuals displaced from their communities due to climate change is an imperative,” said Saber Hossain Chowdhury, member of the parliament and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change and Environment of Bangladesh, as he explained the situation in his country.

At the event, ethical and moral grounds for effective responses to displacement caused by environmental disasters were also discussed.

“The cry for climate justice from victims in different regions shows that climate change is already a threat to vulnerable communities,” said Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive on climate change.

“Together with their ethical insights, churches and faith-based communities highlight the theological and spiritual dimensions of the climate crisis, accompanying resilient communities in their adaptation strategies,” Kerber added.

Discussion of appropriate terminology should not prevent urgent actions responding to the plight of “climate refugees”, a report of a working group affirmed.

Participants expressed their commitment to share the reflections from the conference with their communities and to adapt the conclusions in their advocacy work. 

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