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European Christian Environment Network Meeting 26-31 May 2001
Raubichi, Belarus

" We had good discussions, some interesting excursions (Chernobyl children's recovery home), a donation of sport bicycles to the docents and students of the Christian Academy of which we were the guests and some sight seeing in Minsk with a visit to the very tragic monument for all fallen soldiers in Afghanistan. "

Nellie Smeenk-Enserink Hetnet (a Dutch participant)

"Contact with organisations and people working with victims of Chernobyl brought home to us the harrowing effects of poor energy policies. The reality of the situation, particularly the children's situation hit us, and the fact that an area the size of Dorset Devon and Cornwall is contaminated for 20,000 years. 250,000 people have been displaced."

Martyn Goss (from Devon):

" We ask the churches to commit themselves to promoting future energy scenarios in which the top priority is unambiguously and deliberately given to gaining energy from renewable sources. Although we are well aware that it will be quite impossible to transfer from one day to the next from one set of energy sources to the other, we believe that the present sources -as their effects so clearly deonstrate - belong to the past and must now prepare to give way to the new."

Statement given by the Third Assembly of ECEN


Church Call for a "New Energy Age"

Questions of what sort of energy and how much power will be needed by the human race were central to an international church conference held in Belarus last week (26th-31st May). The third Assembly of the European Christian Environmental network was meeting at Raubichi, near Minsk, involving over eighty participants from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches from across the whole continent.

The Assembly's theme of Energy was particular significant given that Belarus is the country most severely affected by the catastrophe at Chernobyl just over 15 years ago. Various contacts were made during the event with projects caring for child victims of the tragedy, reminding delegates of the extent of the ongoing destructive consequences of Europe's worst nuclear disaster.

Those present re-examined the faith basis from which our churches might assess such concerns. They agreed that belief in a God who wishes to see the Creation respected and justly treated, implies a need to respect values which go deeper than short-term economic decisions, vested interests and narrow horizons.

A short paper from the Assembly outlines three ways forward for the future and commends all churches to re-think matters of energy provision as we approach the global Rio+10 negotiations in South Africa in 2002. There is a call to better efficiency of primary energy resources, including for church buildings and transport; less wasteful lifestyles with an emphasis on consumption limits; and better development of renewable energies from wind, solar, water and other natural sources.

In all these, the Christian communities are seen to have a key role in promoting a better quality of life for all, not only for those with plentiful resources or strong economic influence. The report concludes that there should be a shared commitment from the churches to review these great ecological questions of our time.

One of the participants was Martyn Goss, Social Responsibility Officer working ecumenically with the churches in Devon, who felt the event had been a valuable opportunity to address such questions. "There is no doubt that Climate Change issues present a major challenge to use at this time. Finding solutions must take into account new ways of thinking and acting as we struggle to live more sustainably for the sake of the planet's natural balances and for future generations. Bringing together so many diverse people has given us a strong commitment to move forward in our different countries and varied traditions," he said.

Members of the Assembly have also written a letter to the United States. Churches urging them to continue their sharp criticism of President Bush's unwillingness to support the international Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of Greenhouse Gases.

For more details contact Martyn Goss, Social Responsibility Officer Board for Christian Care, Exeter, 96 Old Tiverton Road Exeter Devon. EX4 6LD Tel: 01392-278875
N.B. Photographs of the Assembly and copies of the Energy Paper are available on request from Martyn Goss (as above)

or Claire Foster, Environmental Issues Network and Board for Social Responsibility Officer of Church Of England. Board for Social Responsibility Church Street Great Smith Street London SW1P 3NZ Tel: 0207 898 1523

Link to ECEN site

During the planning stage the previous yoear, His Eminence Metropolitan Filaret of the Russian Orthodox Church (Belarussian Exarchate) had said "Come and see for yourselves the continuing devastating effects of the greatest environmental catastrophe of our century."

The Enabling Group had also met last year Gennadij Gruschevoj, from the Children of Chernobyl Foundation, who said: "The situation is becoming worse. Many post-Chernobyl diseases have broken out only recently and to a large extent people are left entirely alone. In one hospital in Minsk, where victims of Chernobyl are treated, only 2.5% of all newborn children are healthy. At the same time, scientific assessment stations are being closed down and the annual report, issued to date by the government, has been cancelled. We need the support of the international community more than ever and we need to link Chernobyl to other environmental issues."

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