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World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

For immediate release - 8/31/2009 7:04:29 PM


“Nature is our home,” said Dr. Maria Sumire Conde from the Quecha community of Peru. She says some of those who have come there, however, have not been good guests.

In a 31 August hearing on “ecological debt” during the World Council of Churches Central Committee meetings in Geneva, Sumire and others shared some of the ways that the global South has frequently been victimized by greed and unfair use of its resources.

In the case of Peru, Sumire said mining has had particularly devastating effects: relocation, polluted water, illness and decreasing biodiversity.

“We indigenous peoples propose that those responsible should take on the ecological debt and commit themselves to rectify the harm done over the years” to the earth and its people, she said.

The concept of ecological debt has been shaped to measure the real cost that policies of expansion and globalization have had on developing nations, a debt that some say industrialized nations should repay. Dr Joan Martínez Alier, a professor at the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona in Spain, said that debt includes both actual financial costs as well as intangibles such as quality of life.

Martínez said climate change, unequal trade, “bio-piracy”, exports of toxic wastes and other factors have added to the imbalance, which he called “a kind of war against people around the world, a kind of aggression”.

“I know these are strong words, but this is true,” he said. Martínez beseeched those present, at the very least, to not increase the existing ecological debt any further.

Dr Ofelia Ortega of Cuba, the WCC president from Latin America, said it is a spiritual issue, not just a moral one.

“The Bible is an ecological treatise” from beginning to end, Ortega said. She described care for creation as an “axis” that runs through the Word of God. “Our pastoral work in our churches must be radically ecological,” she said.

Dr Kim Yong-Bock of the Advanced Institute for Integral Study of Life in South Korea also framed the issue in biblical language. “God has made comprehensive covenants with all living beings and with the earth as the living entity,” he said. “This covenant is broken.”

Delegates at the central committee meetings are considering a statement on “eco-justice and ecological debt”. The proposed statement first came to the central committee in February 2008 and was subsequently circulated to member churches for ideas and suggestions. Delegates heard a first draft of the revised version on Monday and offered additional refinements. They are expected to take action on the statement later this week.

More information on the 26 August - 2 September 2009 Central Committee meeting :

Ecumenical campaign on climate change:


Prayers for the environment

Tomorrow, 1 September, marks the 20th anniversary of the Day of Prayer for the Environment. The late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed the first environmental prayer day with an address in 1989, beginning a tradition of annual prayer for the environment throughout the Orthodox world.

His successor, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, issued an encyclical letter on creation on the occasion of the anniversary. Noting the many difficulties caused by the global economy in the past year, the ecumenical patriarch says the crisis “offers an opportunity for us to deal with the problems in a different way”. “We need to bring love into all our dealings,” he said, “the love that inspires courage and compassion.”

He asks for prayer for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December and for “justice and love in all aspects of economic activity”.

He concludes: “Let us all renew our commitment to work together and bring about the changes we pray for, to reject everything that is harming the creation, to alter the way we think and thus drastically to alter the way live.”

Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the World Council of Churches central committee, reminded delegates of the 20th anniversary of the day of prayer in his address that opened the meetings in Geneva last week. Altmann urged those present to also use 1 Sept. to prepare prayerfully for the meetings ahead in Copenhagen.

Message of His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, on the Day of the Protection of the Environment:

WCC countdown to climate justice:

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.



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