By Brittany Ederer (with contributions by Lydia Robledo)
Caring for God’s good creation, and caring for the plight of those who experience poverty, unifies Christ followers all over the globe. In 2010, 4200 evangelical leaders from 198 countries met in Cape Town, South Africa for the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Item 7 of the ‘Cape Town Commitment’ clearly connects God’s act of love through creation with our response in worship: “If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth.” The authors specifically call out our mistreatment of God’s good creation through addictive consumerism, pollution and wastefulness of God’s bountiful gift of the earth.
The strongest statement reads, “Creation care is thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ,” and inspired further collaboration of Lausanne leaders to pursue action on creation care, culminating in a meeting of world leaders in Jamaica in 2012. From this gathering the Lausanne Creation Care Network and the ‘Jamaica Call to Action’ were formed.
In 2016 the World Evangelical Alliance officially partnered with the Lausanne Creation Care Network, now called the Lausanne/WEA Creation Care Network. Through conferences in places such as Southeast Asia, East and Central Africa, thousands of Christ followers from every corner of the globe are mobilising their local communities and national Christian networks to enact plans to tackle creation care issues. So far, five regional conferences have touched 47 countries and over 480 participants, with at least four more conferences being planned for 2016 and beyond.
Example from the Philippines
One strong leader within this Creation Care Network is Lydia Robledo, a Filipina woman who is the founding chairman of Christians in Conservation Philippines. She’s especially passionate about solving problems of human rights and ecological health in the Philippines. Below is her account on the challenges of ecology and poverty in her country.
The Philippines is ranked as one of the 17 megadiverse countries of the world, possessing two-thirds of the earth’s biodiversity due to high species endemism (which means most plants and animals are only found in this one place). In fact, the Philippines is believed to have more diversity of life on earth per hectare than any other country in the world.
Based on the United Nations latest report, our current population is 102 million, the 12th most populated country. Its people are largely dependent on land and sea ecosystems for their basic needs. The forest ecosystems provide important supplies of water for agricultural, industrial and domestic use. The islands’ coastal areas provide food and generate livelihood for millions of people.
The Philippines ecosystems are threatened by the consequences of poor governance, over population, lack of education and greed. The forest reserves have been severely logged due to the high demand for fuel and timber, agricultural expansion, upland migration of poor families (who practice slash and burn activities), poorly planned eco-tourism and urban development. Mining has not only caused massive destruction of the forests but has affected gravely the water systems including marine life. Local communities have been displaced and the fishermen’s livelihood severely affected.
The unabated destruction of the Philippine environment is now aggravated by the devastating effects of climate change. In 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms recorded in history, woke the world from slumber. More than 6000 people were killed and over 4 million lost their homes. The people of the island of Leyte, which was hit especially hard by the typhoon, don’t understand storm surge or climate change. Likewise, people affected by heavy deforestation, who live far from coastal areas, don’t realize that they’re experiencing a similar ‘environment surge’ – just at a much slower speed than the typhoon. The effects of deforestation due to heavy logging and mining subtly confront those unprepared for the consequences of climate change. The present status of the Philippine environment puts the people in a dangerous situation. This country, devoid of green cover that keeps soil from running off during storms, has been suffering greatly from extreme weather.
Climate change intensifies the adverse weather conditions a tropical country normally experiences. For 150 years highly industrialised, developed countries have induced the devastation of climate change due to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The Philippines has already suffered too much from its effects. Together with other developing and poor countries, we remain at the mercy of those responsible for the greenhouse emissions, who continue their economic dominance with reluctant commitment to address the urgency and trauma brought about by climate change.
Filipinos believe climate change is a human rights issue. We’re doing our share to address the local environmental situation while the government campaigns in the global arena, urging polluting countries to find lasting solutions and to compensate countries gravely affected by it. Many lives, property and livelihoods have already been lost. Many are still unaware and are ill prepared.
An active campaign is needed to make climate change known to every Filipino, in terms that can be readily understood. Christians in Conservation is a non-profit evangelical organization established to inspire and equip Christians to become responsible stewards of God’s creation. Through Biblical and science based research, education and advocacy, our vision is to see transformed Christian communities caring for creation, thereby honouring God.
Without understanding ecology, it will be difficult for anyone to feel the need to care for our environment. We urge people, young and old, to go out to experience, discover, learn and enjoy nature. To reduce carbon footprints, we teach and encourage everyone to live simply. We also plant trees to help mitigate the impact of climate change.
People like Lydia and Christians in Conservation Philippines address simultaneously the dire problems of poverty and ecological damage, because the present status of the Philippine environment puts the people in danger of losing their homes, property or their very lives. As Christ followers, it’s our duty to continue working together to restore human dignity and environmental health.
Brittany Ederer works for Care of Creation, a Christian environmental non-profit in Wisconsin, USA, and serves as the Global Campaign Administrator for the Lausanne/WEA Creation Care Network. Lydia Robledo is the founding chairman of Christians in Conservation Philippines.
What do you make of the contrast between the ecological richness and the dire environmental problems in the Philippines, especially when we consider it’s about 90% Christian?
In what other ways are human flourishing and ecological health interconnected?
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