COVID-19, Climate Action, and Faith
Recently I saw a picture in the news, depicting a temporary field hospital in Madrid, Spain, for the unprecedented number of patients suffering the COVID-19 disease. It brought back some vivid memories, for it was only several months ago I spent many days at that very site, originally a huge convention and exhibition centre. Since then, the world has been turned upside down.
In December 2019, I traveled to Spain to participate at the the 25th Conference of Parties, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a.k.a. COP25, as an officially registered NGO-Observer. I went with twenty-plus ministry partners from Canada and the US as part of the Christian Climate Observers Program, which I helped organize.
Our objective being there, in a nutshell, was to bring Christian witnesses and voices to these critical meetings by speaking up for God’s creation and for those most urgently affected by climate change. This was done through onsite praying gatherings, networking with representatives of other NGOs (Christian and otherwise) from around the world, learning from various experts at the frontlines of research, mitigation and relief efforts, and observing the various dynamics at play during negotiations.
Questions would be raised, like, “Why do Christians get involved in these conferences irrelevant to our faith? Why do you need to travel all the way to the COPs for merely witnessing? Could you not simply pay attention from home?” Some might even challenge, “Flying across the ocean for these events would produce more greenhouse gas emissions than an average person driving for a year. Are you a hypocrite?”
These are all legitimate questions, deserved for careful reflections and sincere answers. While I am still trying to unpack my thoughts from observations and learning, here I put forward a few unpolished thoughts, pointing to further reflections.
- Caring for God’s creation, in regards to the concerns on the climate change crisis, matters tremendously with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, echoing the profound statement from the Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town Commitment (Part I, 7A): “… creation care is thus a Gospel issue under the Lordship of Christ.”
- The mission of God’s people involves more than merely verbal proclamation of the Gospel; it must also include prophetic ministries and speaking truth to power for the concerns of justice, others’ well-being, and shalom.
- From the experience of ministry involvements in the last decade, and also in light of various recent events and crises around the world, I am increasingly convinced that one of the main ways Christians should be engaging the issues of the world, perhaps the only one in many cases, would be our “faithful presence” with those who are in suffering and despair, those who are in discernment and seeking, and anyone who is in need of God’s presence.
(a variant of this article was published at A Rocha Canada’s blog, 2020.05)