Monday 8 August
Lauren Agnew is the Advocacy and Campaigns Manager for Tearfund Northern Ireland. She is passionate about the church taking its place as bringers of justice; speaking out for change and advocating for policies and systems which benefit the world’s poor. Here is a summary of her seminar at #NH2022.
Tearfund is a Christian international development agency that goes to where the need is greatest. It operates in fifty crisis areas, including Ukraine and the Central African Republic. It has three main areas of work that include:
- Long-term sustainable development focuses on lifting people out of poverty through the local church. There is a real emphasis on using the church as a vessel for transformation.
- Emergency and disaster relief is where the charity is most visible as it raises funds for areas in need, such as Afghanistan.
- Advocacy and campaigning are active in Tearfund as it fights against systems that are oppressive and push people further into poverty.
Do your churches talk about the climate crisis?
(The answer for most people was “no”.
The theological foundations of climate care:
Care for Creation is woven into the narrative of scripture.
Genesis 1: 31 says “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” The Hebrew word used for ‘very good’ expresses a harmonious relationship, where all things work together in peace. We were not created separately from the natural world but its dust. The name Adam means ‘that which comes from the Earth.’ We represent God’s relation to the world as we were created in His image. Genesis 3 describes the effects of the fall on our relationships, not only with God, ourselves, and each other but with the natural world.
The story we live in is the story we live outPeter Hughes from the book All Things New
Restoration of our relationship with the natural world is central to the mission of Jesus.
Colossians 1:19-20 says God reconciles all things to Himself. Care for creation is not a side issue of the Gospel but it is central to the message. Matter matters to God. Romans 12:1-2 instructs us to be living sacrifices to God. Part of resisting the culture of materialism of today is allowing God to transform our lives in recognition that we live in His world.
What is happening?
Idzai Murimba in Zimbabwe is the Tearfund Country Director and has given a detailed account of the impacts of increased drought in Zimbabwe. Issues around food insecurity have been caused by the current climate crisis we face today. This has led to widespread issues of hunger and malnutrition among children in Zimbabwe. This has been caused by poor harvests, restricting diets to fewer types of grain, such as maize. Cases of child marriages increase in years of drought as in desperation families look to the financial benefit to be gained if they marry their daughters into another family.
Other social issues spiral out of control during times of severe droughts, such as gender-based violence or domestic abuse at the household level. Also, if droughts continue issues of generational illiteracy come to the fore as families cannot sell enough products to raise money to send their children to school.
What can we do?
Since the beginning of Genesis, our world has been interconnected. Before the fall this was a perfect union, but it has now become broken. Can we be more open to the transformational power of God in areas of our lives that have the potential to buy into systems that are damaging the world’s environment and oppressing its poorest?
We are all connected as a global body of believers, but we are connected to global systems. These systems, like clothing brands and food product companies, either operate ethically or continue the cycle of damage and oppression for those who had nothing to do with our current ecological disaster.
Estimates for the future are staggering, with projections that 132 million more people will be experiencing extreme poverty by 2030. It is easy to lose hope. But we are called to love our neighbour in a global sense. Our whole lives should be a response to the message of the Gospel as we try and bring about His kingdom. How we respond to care for the environment is a heart issue as so many of the consequences of our broken world can be traced back to the human need for more.
Advocating in local churches to push for more efficient energy use and recyclable cups are great action steps outside of prayer and donation. We need to pray that God would posture our hearts so that we might see the areas of our lives, both individually and as a church that He can transform so that we can be models of Jesus.
Below is a link to a Tearfund petition to get the UK government to act on climate finance and to use its COP presidency to influence developed countries to deliver on the $100 billion a year from 2020 that was promised in 2009.