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‘Climate justice’ new concern of Christian communicators

June 6, 2011

NEW YORK

Climate change in Asia is falling hardest on poor and indigenous communities and Christian communicators should adopt the concept of “climate justice” as they advocate for solutions that do not reinforce corporate control and consumerism, delegates at a conference on communications said.

Meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia from May 16-21, the triennial assembly of the World Association for Christian Communication’s (WACC) Asia region said in a communique that churches should take a proactive stand on the issue by promoting awareness through traditional media and among congregations.

The assembly was attended by 51 delegates from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. Among the climate changes affecting Asians are the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, which affects the availability of fresh water for crop irrigation and daily human use, especially in arid countries such as Pakistan and India, according to current research.

However, many people don’t see a connection between faith and climate change. “For most of our local faith communities, climate justice is not a lens that we bring regularly to the reading of our sacred texts nor to our understanding of what it means to be faithful,” WACC president Dennis Smith said in his keynote address. Smith is a longtime Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission worker based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“What part does climate justice play in our utopian vision as followers of Jesus? What part does climate justice play in our proclamation of the Reign of God?” Smith asked. He noted that “often the struggle for climate justice takes place on the margins of our world, in those precarious communities most vulnerable to the droughts and floods spawned by climate change. Extreme weather destroys roads and changes rivers that allow precarious communities to send their goods to market and gives them access to education and health care.”

Among the climate events reported at the conference were last year’s floods in Pakistan, which affected more than 20 million people, and rising sea levels that are threatening to flood about 4,000 Indonesian islands. “The WACC Asia region is committed to keeping climate justice high on its agenda,” said WACC Asia president Samuel Meshack, who reminded participants that the Sunday in June that is dubbed Asia Communication Sunday will focus on climate issues.

The conference communique also recommended that climate justice issues be incorporated in general education and in theological education and preaching. It called for preparation of “green guidelines for communicators and theologians” and for an interfaith approach to addressing climate change.

After attending the conference, WACC general secretary Karin Achtelstetter said, “I very much welcome the ideas and proposals the Asia region has on climate justice.”

WACC, based in Toronto,  promotes communication for social change. Believing that communication is a basic human right, its worldwide membership “works with faith-based and secular partners at grassroots, regional and global levels, giving preference to the needs of the poor, marginalized and dispossessed,” according to its website.

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