What do these women from Australia, Uganda, Peru, England, New Zealand, the USA, Singapore, Kenya, India and Trinidad and Tobago all have in common? We’re all trying to work out what it means to care for God’s world in the very different contexts in which we live.
This little group you can see is the women who are here in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, for the Lausanne Consultation on Creation Care. The meeting is a follow-on from the big Lausanne meeting in Cape Town in 2010 and the Cape Town Commitment that resulted from it, which – for the first time – gave significant space to the concept of creation care. The idea behind what I’m at now is to put some flesh on the bones, so to speak, of what the Cape Town Commitment said, and develop more deeply a biblical understanding of creation care and point the way to how the Evangelical church around the world can pick up this mantle with the seriousness and urgency that is needed.
There are about fifty of us here, from many different countries, and this evening – serenaded by the night sounds of the Jamaican laughing frog – us women decided to eat dinner together and hear about each other’s lives. It was very moving going round the group as we ate, hearing our stories, finding out how we came to be involved in creation care, hearing about the varied things that we are doing and the challenges we face.
One of the things that has struck me throughout today has been the stories from those working in situations where climate change is hitting – and hitting hard. In the UK and US we may debate the reality or not of human-induced climate change, but that very debate is itself the result of living in privilege (although the millions currently effected by Hurricane Sandy may not be feeling that way at the moment). For so many people at this consultation, climate change is not something to be theoretically debated: it is an awful reality that they are having to cope with now as weather patterns become increasingly unreliable and farmers struggle to grow their crops.
Our little group of women are from enormously different situations. The two from Trinidad and Tobago face a country that has grown rich from oil and imports all its food – growing almost literally nothing itself – whereas the women from Africa face a continent that has agriculture as its base and faces massive challenges due to climate change. And my situation in the UK may look similar to that of the US to an outsider, but our church and political situations are actually vastly different.
So many different cultures and situations, and yet we are united in a love for God, in a deep grief for the many lives – both human and wider – that are suffering as a result of our tragic mis-use of this earth and its resources, and in a strong desire to be a different voice: one that speaks up for love, justice and peace.