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Your Tuvaluan Neighbour

“17.2 million people leaving their homes because of climate disasters is not a change.” This was a sign I saw as I first stepped off the metro in Madrid, Spain in early December. I had just arrived for the COP25 (Conference of the Parties), the global climate negotiations conference hosted by the United Nations. As I walked out of the metro to the conference center, more signs lined the hallway with startling statistics, many of which I had heard before. However, in the week ahead these statistics would become real people with real stories. 

They are the nations that are crying out.

The purpose of the COP is to build ambition among the Earth’s countries to act upon the climate crisis. Currently, the less powerful, less developed nations that did very little to contribute to the problem are those that are suffering the effects of climate change most severely. They are the nations that are crying out, urging others, like the United States, to act and take this work seriously. The purpose of my presence at the COP, bearing my Christian identity, was to acknowledge that passivity toward the environment caused this crisis, and to meet with others hoping to drive ambition for action. I worshipped, prayed and engaged with fellow Christians from many nations as the universal church of Christ bore witness to the suffering of those affected, mourned the inability of leaders to move forward with justice, and to pray urgently for wisdom, positive change, and effective solutions. 

The land is integral to their culture, their way of life, their identity.

I attended a seminar where I heard from a man named Maina from the Pacific Island Nation of Tuvalu. His people have lived on Tuvalu for countless generations. The land is integral to their culture, their way of life, their identity. Their native word for “placenta” also means “land;” for them life is the attachment to the land. They are now being forced to relocate to a foreign land because their nation will be uninhabitable within 10 years due to sea level rise. They desperately do not want to move, and as he shared his peoples’ story his voice cracked and his eyes held so much sorrow that my heart completely broke. He was crying out for people to realize that human beings are being affected by our actions. 

These are real people living today who do not know the gospel, who we are called to love and share with the Truth of Christ. How will anyone take us seriously when we share the gospel, if we remain complicit in such matters of serious injustice? 

To work suggests that we are to use the Earth,

Humanity has a divinely-given responsibility to steward creation by working it and caring for it (Gen 2:15). To work suggests that we are to use the Earth, so that we may be able to produce what we need for our survival and for the fulfillment of God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. And then we are told to “care for it.” The Hebrew word used here is “shamar” which means to protect, preserve, or guard. 

God also commands us to love Him first and to love our neighbor second. Due to the sin that entered the world shortly after Creation, we struggle to live out these commands to love our Creator, each other and creation properly. Our sin has led us to abuse Creation and exploit it to meet our greed beyond our need. This has become especially consequential since the dawn of the industrial revolution when we began emitting greater amounts of greenhouse gases than the Earth could effectively process in its natural cycle, leading to the climate change we are experiencing today. 

Creation care is not only a spiritual duty, but an opportunity for worship.

God is so concerned with the created world that He freely chose to enter into it and die on its behalf rather than see it succumb to the consequences of sin and death. Therefore, if God deems creation to be worthy of redemption, what prevents us from celebrating creation and engaging in the obedience of “working it and caring for” it? Creation care is not only a spiritual duty, but an opportunity for worship. Therefore, the climate crisis is not only a moral, justice issue, but is a faith issue, an obedience, sacrifice, and love issue. My hope and prayer coming out of COP25 is that the global church will take seriously the call to love God, love our neighbor, and act on climate.

Photo by Dave on Unsplash

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