Posted by: Titus Presler | August 26, 2010

Climate change warning at AABC II is an important alert for mission strategists

“I think climate change is going to cause more deaths than many of the other traditional causes such as malaria and AIDS. Whenever I say that, people look at me surprised, but it’s true.”

This declaration is reported to have been made by Dr. Rose Mwebaza, a senior legal advisor on environmental security at Nairobi’s Institute of Security Studies, in an address at the second All Africa Bishops Conference in Entebbe, Uganda, a gathering focused on issues of poverty, violence, corruption and environmental degradation.

Innumerable mission agencies and Christian “development” organizations have mobilized admirably to respond to the HIV/AIDS and malaria crises in Africa over the last couple of decades.  “Environmental mission” or “ecological mission” has been slower to coalesce.  Yet there have been important mission initiatives to struggle in solidarity with peoples whose livelihoods are threatened by deforestation or chemical pollution and to stimulate alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind power.

It is indeed sobering to reflect that the impending impact of climate change could dwarf the combined impacts of these environmental issues and the health crises that Mwebaza named.  The recent flooding in Pakistan may be an instance of what is to come.  The drowning out of some Pacific islands as a result of rising sea levels is a certain harbinger.

Information, energy projects and reforestation projects are three mitigating initiatives the church can undertake with particular effectiveness, Mwebaza said, noting that the churches combined are one of the largest landowners on the continent.

Clearly, addressing both the causes and effects of climate change must be one of the major mission priorities of churches and mission agencies in the 21st century.  I stress causes as well as effects.  Mosquito net initiatives and formation for responsible sexual behavior have rightly been as much the emphasis of churches as have medical care for malaria patients and HIV/AIDS patients.  So also with climate change.

Issues of climate change should be a major priority in the mission planning of churches, the collaborative projects undertaken by infrastructure development agencies, and the deployment of missionaries.

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