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Lutheran Disaster Response at COP28

What is COP?

COP28 took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from Nov. 30 – Dec.12, 2023. LWF/Albin Hillert

COP stands for the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is “the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC.”

What is the UNFCCC?

The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty drafted in 1992 and enacted in 1994 among 198 parties. Both the Kyoto Protocol and the subsequent Paris Agreement are implementation measures of the UNFCCC. The purpose of UNFCC is “to combat dangerous human interference in the climate system.”

Who from the ELCA attended COP28?

This year Christine Moolo (Program Director for World Hunger Initiatives), Savannah Jorgenson (Legislative Coordinator at the California State Public Policy Office) and I were honored to serve as virtual observers with an ELCA delegation. Our colleagues from Witness in Society, Tammy Wahloff (Director of Minnesota State Public Policy Office), Regina Banks (Director of California State Public Policy Office) and Christine Moffett (Program Director of Environmental Policy) served as in-person observers.

Why is Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) present at COP?

We join hundreds of ecumenical and interfaith partners because climate change is an existential threat to human civilization, per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). First, we have a baptismal calling to “the reconciliation of all creation.” Moreover, the ELCA’s disaster response ministry is already responding to more frequent and severe climate-related disasters. The LDR Initiatives program is responsible for disaster risk reduction work (hazard mitigation and disaster preparedness). Mitigating the worst impacts of climate change – anything above a net 2.0-degree Celsius global temperature rise – is disaster risk reduction. Additionally, LDR does not do this work alone; we participate with other members of the ACT Alliance and Lutheran World Federation from around the world, to coordinate this effort.

How is this disaster response?

LDR is committed to accompanying communities throughout the disaster cycle. In addition to response and recovery, mitigation and preparation are part of this cycle. Additionally, emerging research demonstrates investments in mitigation reduce the cost of future disasters by up to 600%. Simply put, disaster risk reduction is an investment in our collective future.

Delegates of the Lutheran World Federation gather for a Global March for Climate Justice at COP28. LWF/Albin Hillert

Isn’t climate change political?

Yes. The word politics is derived from the Greek word for city – polis (as in metropolis). Anything having to do with our public life together as a society is political, even disasters. This is articulated in the ELCA social statement on Church in Society as the church’s obligation to, “work with and on behalf of the poor, the powerless, and those who suffer, using its power and influence with political and economic decision-making bodies to develop and advocate policies that seek to advance justice, peace, and the care of creation.”

This is easier said than done. I would be remiss if I did not honor the stories of colleagues from areas of high levels of climate skepticism who share that the mention of climate change can shut down an entire conversation. As the Church we are called to preach the truth in ways diverse communities can receive. In some places we may not be able to say the words “climate change,” but we can discuss concerns about the impact of increased severe weather on people’s livelihoods and communities. Climate change, like many problems, will not go away just because we ignore it.

How can I learn more about the ELCA’s experience and impact at COP28?

On Jan. 24, the ELCA delegation from COP28 will share our experiences during a webinar. I am inviting you!

Resister here: https://bit.ly/ELCACOP28webinar

If you have any questions about mitigating climate change, disaster risk reduction, or the LDR initiatives program, please reach out to me at Matthew.Zemanick@ELCA.org

Pastor Matthew Zemanick (he/they) is the Program Director for Lutheran Disaster Response Initiatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Human Rights and Climate Change

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), written to address the atrocities committed during World War II. Since then, the United Nations and other bodies have adopted additional documents on human rights. The International Bill of Human Rights includes the UDHR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Not included in the UDHR is any statement related to climate change – it wasn’t a known concern in the 1940s. However, in the years since, the United Nations has published additional documents about other human rights. One such report from the United Nations Environment Programme discusses the impact of climate change on rights.

A group holding a banner reading 'No Climate Justice without Human Rights'. The group is pictured in front of a large pillar with the COP27 slogan 'Together for Implementation' on display.

People from around the globe rally at the venue of the United Nations climate change conference COP27 in Egypt, calling for respect of human rights. LWF/Albin Hillert

The introduction to the report says, “Anthropogenic climate change is the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment and human rights of our time.…These impacts, combined with direct harms to people, property, and physical infrastructure, pose a serious threat to the enjoyment and exercise of human rights around the world.”

To name a few impacts, climate change causes warmer global temperatures, rising sea levels and changes in precipitation patterns. These consequences put numerous human rights in jeopardy, as outlined in the UN report:

  • Right to adequate standard of living: Disasters negatively impact living conditions for several reasons. Wildfires and storms can destroy or damage homes. Droughts and floods can ruin crops and endanger animals, which affects people’s livelihoods, especially in communities around the world that rely on agriculture and livestock.
  • Right to health: The impacts of climate change are dangerous for people’s health. Pollution is harmful to people living in heavily populated areas or near factories. When people lose food sources, such as livestock and crops, or access to uncontaminated water, they face malnutrition and disease.
  • Right to life: Climate change threatens the right to life every day for people around the world. More severe disasters can lead to more lives being lost. Losing the right to an adequate standard of living, health, food, water and other necessities threatens peoples’ lives daily. This is especially true for people of color and those living in vulnerable communities and countries, which suffer disproportionately when hit by a disaster.

Climate change endangers the human rights of people around the world, especially those in under-resourced communities and developing countries. Lutheran Disaster Response prioritizes the accompaniment of those who are most adversely impacted by consequences of the changing climate. During long-term recovery, we work with communities in mitigating the effects of future disasters, building resilience, and expanding preparedness capacity, knowing that disasters will continue to be more extreme.

Effective disaster response upholds all the rights described in the UDHR and subsequent documents. Even when people’s lives are upended by natural or human-caused disasters, their human rights should not be at stake. That’s why the work of Lutheran Disaster Response and our local partners in the United States and around the world is so important – after a disaster, when our neighbors are living in uncertainty, we walk with impacted communities, responding to their needs and supporting recovery efforts while simultaneously celebrating their strength and resilience.

 

Get involved

  1. Advocate. Visit the ELCA Advocacy Action Center to contact your congress members about vital issues impacting our communities, including government disaster response program reform and supporting refugees.
  2. Study. Read the ELCA’s social message “Earth’s Climate Crisis.” It provides theological rationale and social analysis to foster discernment and engagement relating to climate care.
  3. Volunteer. By volunteering in local disaster response through your synod or regional social ministry organization, you can ensure that survivors’ rights to adequate living is met.
  4. Donate. Lutheran Disaster Response is a trusted partner in disaster response. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response help accompany our neighbors when their lives are upended by disaster. 100% of your gifts to a designated disaster go to disaster survivors.
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Reflecting on the United Nations High-Level Political Forum

 

In July 2023, four leaders from across the United States joined ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran Office for World Community in New York City as delegates of the Lutheran World Federation at the 2023 United Nations High-Level Political Forum. The forum was an opportunity for UN member states, agencies and organizations to share updates on progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. As our delegation learned, progress against the goals has been slow and, in some cases, has reversed. The delegation, representing the 149 member churches of the Lutheran World Federation, including the ELCA, was able to hear from leaders around the world, meet other advocates, connect with staff from the ELCA’s advocacy office in Washington, DC, listen to stories of changes and challenges, and consider together how each of us can be part of the work toward the Sustainable Development Goals in our communities.

Below is a reflection from one of the participants, Pastor Brianna Lloyd. Rev. Lloyd currently serves as pastor of Ka Hana O Ke Akua church (UCC) on the leeward side of Oʻahu and an alum of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Center for Climate Justice and Faith, which is supported in part by ELCA World Hunger. Click here to read a reflection from Kitty Opplliger, who joined Rev. Lloyd as part of the delegation to the UN.

I didnʻt know it at the time, but as we began our week at the UN High Level Political Forum, a boat from Japan, advocating for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, had docked in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.  The Peace Boat, a Japan-based NGO with a U.S. presence at the United Nations, ended its 114th voyage in Honolulu with a “Pledge to Our Keiki”—a commitment to the children of Hawaiʻi for a future of sustainable tourism.  The “Pledge to Our Keiki” signing ceremony was organized in partnership with the nonprofits Kanu Hawaii and Blue Planet Alliance, along with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Oahu Visitors Bureau, Alaska Airlines and other groups. These groups were and are bringing some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to life in the particular context and community that is Hawaiʻi.

Rev. Lloyd and Kitty Oppliger await the start of a session at the UN

As our group in New York listened to the many discussions in the conference rooms of the UN, we had to bridge the gap between discussions of pressing global issues, with broad, sweeping language, and our own contexts. The week was a practice of translation, and the practice continues in the days and weeks following the event.  For example, what does Goal 6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” mean in my context of Hawaiʻi?

My own journey to the UN began with some advocacy work related to the Navy’s fuel spills on Oʻahu at Kapūkakī (Red Hill), affecting thousands of military and civilian families.  Over the course of this past year, as the Navy flushed the fuel from the groundwater, they or their contractors used nearly five billion gallons of water, while those of us living on Oʻahu were asked to limit our own use of water. The Oʻahu Water Protectors and community leaders, such as Wayne Tanaka of the Hawaiʻi Sierra Club and Native Hawaiian community leader Healani Sonoda-Pale, continue to fight to protect the sacred water reserves of Oʻahu and to hold the Navy accountable to its mission of service and protection. I believe their work addresses Goal 6. There are many other organizations, groups, and events around Hawaiʻi—like Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi and the Pledge to Our Keiki—that are working at a similar goal.

Lutheran delegates learn about South Sudan from Presbyterian leaders

As we follow up from our week attending the HLPF, I understand anew that translation and communication from the ground here in Hawaiʻi and other local communities to larger bodies like ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran World Federation, and vice-versa, are essential threads to galvanize the work. One of the most well-known quotes from Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi before the Kingdom was illegally overthrown by American businessman, goes, in part, like this:  “You must remember never to cease to act because you fear you may fail.”

There is much being done everywhere. Perhaps we might draw hope from one another.

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2021 Hunger Education and Networking Grants

 

The application period for 2021 ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is now closed.

Hunger Education and Networking Grants are one of the ways ELCA World Hunger accompanies congregations, synods, organizations, partners and local teams throughout the US and the Caribbean. We know that learning about the root causes of hunger and effective responses is key to ending hunger locally and globally. That’s why we are excited to share that our application for ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is now open!

ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants support work that

  • educates and engages ELCA congregations, groups, and/or synods;
  • provides leadership development for people passionate about ending hunger;
  • builds relationships locally, regionally and nationally; and
  • equips ELCA members and neighbors to work toward a just world where all are fed.

Previous grantees have included:

  • synod-wide bike rides to promote hunger awareness;
  • service learning events for youth and young adults;
  • online and in-person workshops;
  • community organizing training;
  • creation of new resources to help participants learn about hunger; and
  • local research projects to help others learn more about hunger, health and housing in their community.

The work of grantees in the past has focused on a wide variety of areas, including climate change and sustainability, housing security, racial justice, worker justice, reducing food waste and economic justice.

To be eligible for an ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grant, proposals must be:

  • received through the ELCA’s online Grantmaker portal;
  • submitted by a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization;
  • focused on education, engagement and networking toward a just world where all are fed; and
  • consistent with ELCA World Hunger’s values and priorities (https://elca.org/domestichungergrants).

If you are interested in applying, you can pre-register on ELCA GrantMaker to access the grant application. Approval of registration may take up to ten business days, so register now at ELCA.org/grants, and submit your application by December 1, 2021.

If you have any questions, please email Ryan Cumming, program director for hunger education, at Ryan.Cumming@elca.org.

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Hunger at the Crossroads: New Webinar Series

 

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We know that hunger is about more than food. Understanding hunger – and working to end it – means seeing the many ways hunger and poverty intersect with so many other issues, including climate change, food production, access to housing, racial justice, gender justice and more. In “Hunger at the Crossroads,” a webinar series hosted by ELCA World Hunger, we will explore these intersections and the ways we can be part of God’s promise of a just world where all are fed.

New webinar sessions will be posted below. Participants do need to register beforehand, so check back and register to attend!

Who

The webinars are open to anyone passionate about ending hunger and eager to learn more. In each session, we will dive deeply into the topic, with presentations from ELCA World Hunger staff and partners and time for questions and conversation.

Upcoming Webinars

“Conflict and Hunger” – November 3, 2022, at 1:00pm Central time

Violent conflict is one of the most significant drivers of hunger around the world. From wars between nations to ethnic and tribal violence, conflicts affect farms, markets, jobs, housing, trade and more. In this webinar, we will hear from ELCA staff from around the world, who will help us dive more deeply into the tragic and significant ways violent conflict impacts hunger.

“Health and Hunger” – December 1, 2022, at 6:00pm Central time

Hunger and health are related in complex ways. Hunger and under-nourishment can both contribute to long-term health problems, while health challenges can increase the risk of hunger through lost wages and expensive medical bills. In this webinar, we will be joined by experts from both the United States and overseas to learn more. We will also hear from leaders working to improve health in their communities and learn some effective steps that can be taken toward a just world where all are fed – and where all are healthy.

Register

Registration for both “Conflict and Hunger” and “Health and Hunger” is now open through one form! Visit https://forms.office.com/r/N1XnPD3r9D to register. You can register for one or both of the upcoming webinars through this form.  Follow ELCA World Hunger on Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-date information, including dates and links for registration for future webinars. Questions about “Hunger at the Crossroads” can be sent to hunger@elca.org.

 

Previous Webinars

“Sexuality, Gender Identity and Hunger” with Rev. Heidi Neumark (Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, New York) and Rev. Joe Larson (Fargo, North Dakota) – August 12, 2021

“Climate Change and Hunger” with Ryan Cumming and Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) – October 27th, 2021

“Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers: Where Are We at Now?” with Ryan Cumming (ELCA World Hunger) – December 9, 2021

“Housing and Hunger” with Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) and featuring a NEW! resource on housing – June 29, 2022

Watch the recordings of previous “Hunger at the Crossroads” webinars here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/8758461.

 

We hope to see you “at the Crossroads”!

 

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New! “River of Life” VBS At-Home Guide

 

We are excited to share that the at-home guide for ELCA World Hunger’s “River of Life” Vacation Bible School program for 2021 is now available for download! This at-home guide is a supplemental resource for the full “River of Life VBS leader’s guide and includes modified activities, suggestions for online and at-home VBS, links to new videos and tips for parents, caregivers and other adults leading VBS with children at home!

Learn more in the video below:

To download “River of Life” VBS, including the full leader’s guide, the at-home guide and the toolkit with images and graphics to use on your website or social media, visit https://elca.org/hunger/resources#VBS.

To watch the story videos or the “Meet Our Neighbor” videos from ELCA World Hunger’s partners and companions, visit the ELCA World Hunger Vacation Bible School collection on the ELCA’s Vimeo page at https://vimeo.com/showcase/7224146.

Share your story! If you use “River of Life” with your congregation or group, let us know! Email Hunger@ELCA.org and share your feedback, stories or pictures!

Looking for more ideas? Join the community-run ELCA World Hunger VBS Facebook group and chat with other leaders from across the ELCA about VBS in 2021!

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New! Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith

 

We know that ending hunger will take more than food. Addressing climate change is a critical step in this work. That’s why ELCA World Hunger is excited to share a new opportunity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Center for Climate Justice and Faith. The Center’s work focuses on helping leaders learn about sustainability, caring for creation and working for justice so that all can enjoy the abundance of God’s creation.

This Center’s new Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith offers a cohort-based, online trans-continental curriculum which empowers participants to cultivate moral, spiritual, and practical power for leadership in the work of climate justice in communities of faith and in collaboration with others.  Topics covered include theology, ethics, and spirituality; climate change knowledge; and social change practices that connect ecological well-being with racial, economic, and gender justice.

Lay and rostered leaders throughout the Lutheran World Federation communion and from other faith traditions are invited to complete an interest form if you are curious to know more about this inaugural, non-degree learning program scheduled for September 2021 – May 2022.  Long-term collaboration and networking are expected to endure well beyond certificate completion date.

Applications are now open and will be accepted until June 15, 2021. To apply or to learn more, visit https://www.plts.edu/programs/certificates/certificate-in-climate-justice-and-faith.html.

 

 

 

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COP22 Blog

Ruth Ivory-Moore, Program Director Environment and Energy, traveled to COP22  in Marrakech, Morocco in November as world leaders meet to discuss implementation of the Paris Agreement that went into effect on November 4, 2016.  The first week she is supporting ACT Alliance  of which ELCA is a member by  participating in Side Events that allow for everyone to be directly engaged in discussions addressing the diverse issues surrounding climate change.  The second week she is serving as part of an ACT Alliance delegation as an observer. Below are some reflections and photos of her first week of experiences at this amazing conference where people project to be on one accord to protect and steward all of creation.

In This Together

11/15/2016

“If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  – African Proverb.

This proverb is particularly instructive in describing the events at COP22.   There is a strong sense of diversity and inclusiveness.   Senior level governmental officials negotiate Paris Agreement implementation provisions; civil society observes and seeks to influence; and those most likely to be impacted now and in the future, sought to be heard.   The latter included indigenous people and our children.  These voices were heard in various ways during this session of COP22.21

The indigenous people have contributed least to climate change, but are significantly impacted.  They need the rest of the world’s assistance, but those providing the help must first understand their community dynamics. Those offering assistance must do so in an accompaniment manner.  We must walk and stand with them in partnership – bridging gaps, while laying the foundation for sustainability and resilience. A diverse group of people including the indigenous staged a march to express the need to hear their voices; and to recognize that they must be included in the conversations. (See picture left)

While the indigenous people are likely to be impacted as part of the world’s vulnerable population today, we should not forget that we must leave a vibrant, clean world for our children.  22

The COP presented opportunities for some amazing young people to show the world that they have voices, and deserve better than what we are on course to leave them today. Whether it was the young girl from Senegal speaking about biodiversity. (See picture left)

The students quizzing a panel of experts with questions that challenged the brightest. (See picture left)

Or those students capturing the moments as camera and production personnel for the hour and half, each presented themselves not only professionally, but passionately and 24credibly. (See picture left)

This COP22 cleverly demonstrated the importance of all and the need for complete inclusiveness.  This all-inclusiveness extends to religion.

Sessions incorporated diverse religious personnel.  An Islamic cleric spoke of the importance of ecology, emphasizing that the Islam mandates that people must protect all. The universe is to show gratitude to God, who is beauty. God loves beauty, not war. A Buddhist leader spoke of how all life is interdependent and that we were born on this earth not to be part of the destruction. COP demonstrates that caring for 23creation is a stewardship requirement that is shared by the faith-based community in general.

We are commanded by God; and have a duty to our children.

Prayer: Oh God of Heaven and Earth, you desire a reconciliation of the whole creation.  We confess that we too often make choices that separate and destroy.  Forgive us our selfish ways.  Help us to seek justice, oh God, and to walk humbly beside you as we seek life that is centered on you and as we protect your creation.  Help and guide us to joyfully seek your wisdom and guidance.  Amen.  

(Prayer adopted from Creation Justice Ministries, https://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50750/images/Gods%20World-1.pdf?key=85797681.)

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Gender and Equity

11/10/16

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28, NRSV)

It is unfortunate that being “one in Christ” is not recognized  universally in the world as we live our lives today.   The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) a Malaysian based organization sponsored an interactive discussion session at COP22 entitled “Paris Agreement and Women – Locating Health in Climate Change Discourse”.    The reality is that women are disparately impacted by the effects of climate change.  The time has come to acknowledge and integrate the gender rights issue into the discussions addressing climate change.

The Paris Agreement in the preamble states:  “ Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity…”   At the COP22 where the representatives from the many nations are beginning to hammer out the implementation rules and guidelines of the Paris Agreement, the hope is that key linkages between women’s health and climate change will be considered and incorporated in the implementation discussions.

ARROW has captured the stories of women on post cards.  Here are the stories of two of them.

Supl’s story is:12

 

Gladys’ story is:13

 

These women’s stories are unfortunately not atypical particularly in developing countries.  ARROW representatives gave the example of  Bangladesh which is a densely populated country with a poverty level that is very high. Bangladesh is experiencing more severe weather in the form of increased frequency of floods and cyclones where women are impacted the most.   The women do not want to leave their homes for fear of property losses, but are often forced to leave and migrate internally walking through high flood waters that results in gynecological illnesses that can impact the reproductive system.  These women can also be the targets  of sexual violence.  Living through situations such as these can cause depression which impacts mental health.

This ARROW presentation at COP22 was unique in that the end of the session was all about hearing what the audience had to say.  The session facilitators engaged the audience in a robust conversation.  Questions raised included: (1) How will women’s health issues be incorporated in the Paris Agreement implementation; and (2) What can be done to make this happen?  The consensus of the group was  that the time has come where gender issues needed to be integrated into the talks and be given the same weight/status as other issues.

Women in a marginalized society, are the most vulnerable among us.

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Caring for Shishmaref and all of God’s creation

By Nathan Detweiler

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Shishmaref’s receding shorelines. Photo credit: HelenMarie Bessi Sinnok

“Climate change is the biggest challenge that we face. Because of climate change we are forced to relocate within three decades,” Esau Sinnok said during a recent phone interview about Shishmaref. Esau was born and raised in this village in Alaska. He has recently become an outspoken advocate for Shishmaref and environmental conservation.

The island village has recently gained national attention for its historic decision to relocate. On Aug. 16, by a narrow majority of 11 votes, the village decided to move to the mainland.

Shishmaref residents were driven to this decision because of the unique and challenging circumstances of its environment. Located north of the Bering Strait, the Inupiat island community has struggled for decades with receding shorelines. Rising temperatures have reduced the sea ice, which has historically protected Shishmaref from storm surges.  “The ice has started to melt a lot earlier [each] year,” Sinnok said.

Climate change has led to increased flooding and erosion. In addition, the permafrost, on which the island stands, is slowly melting. As a result, Shishmaref is one of the most dramatic examples of a population effected by climate change. Shishmaref is  “two good storms away from being underwater,” said one resident.

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The Rev. Thomas Pastor Richter performs a baptism.
Photo courtesy of Thomas Richter

Thomas Richter, a Lutheran pastor, shepherds the only congregation in town, which on a typical Sunday morning sees around 50 people in worship. The relocation vote has left the village “a community divided,” he said. Many residents feel that the outside world has abandoned them.

So what are the options available to Shishmaref? Old Pond and West Tin Creek Hills are two potential sites on the mainland that could house the village. But relocating would be an expensive endeavor, costing an estimated $180 million. And just relocating would not immediately solve all the problems. Amenities and infrastructure would take time to develop, and the suggested site doesn’t have barge access, a critical flaw for a population that is isolated from traditional transportation.

“Our battle is not unique nor is it something that only applies to those in far off, hard to reach places. The sinking sands of Shishmaref are the same sinking sands of the rest of the world. This is our planet that is melting because of us. If the people of Shishmaref become climate refugees, we are all climate refugees.”

The residents are also concerned that relocating risks diluting or losing aspects of the community’s unique culture. Pastor Richter said of the challenges facing the community, “The biggest challenge is preserving the culture.” The traditional language has slowly been lost as more residents interact with other parts of Alaska and the world. Shishmaref is also a renowned hub for art. The carvings of bone and walrus ivory are sought throughout the United States. Moving to new locations may frustrate this carving industry as the resources become more difficult to acquire.

Not all are against relocating. Sinnok thinks the relocated community could be preserved. While the current location holds many dear memories, he emphasized how grateful he is for the chance “to move as a community so that [we] can still be called Shishmaref. And our 4,000-year culture can stay alive.”

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Fishing in Shishmaref. Photo credit: HelenMarie Bessi Sinnok

Residents of Shishmaref are part of a growing group of “climate refugees.” Earlier this year, a community in Louisiana received a $48 million federal grant to relocate because of the effects of climate change on their environment. As climate change is increasingly felt by communities around the world, climate refugees will increasingly be displaced from their homes.

While support for Shishmaref has been shown by some church groups, more support from other people and groups will be needed for relocation. Pastor Richter said that support from the lower-48 states is paramount to helping Alaska transplant Shishmaref. Thinking more broadly, Sinnok emphasized the importance of everyone recognizing their impact on the environment and trying to reduce it. He encouraged people everywhere to raise awareness of the effects of climate change with their peers and to be more social in the outdoors. Being outdoors reduces the energy resources used and improves sustainability.

The Rev. Shelley Wickstrom, bishop of the ELCA Alaska Synod, said the synod will accompany the community through prayer and support as it relocates. In particular, she mentioned the need for a new church and parsonage when the community relocates.

Everyone who was interviewed emphasized the importance of raising awareness of Shishmaref. As people of faith we are called by our social statements to recognize that “care for the earth [is] a profoundly spiritual matter.”[1] In raising awareness of Shishmaref, we are both fulfilling our duty to love our neighbors and committing to care for all creation. This commitment to creation involves us as individuals, congregations, advocates and members of a larger community.

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Shishmaref’s coastline. Photo credit: HelenMarie Bessi Sinnok

One way to raise awareness is by writing to lawmakers about the importance of supporting legislation that helps communities affected by climate change. ELCA Advocacy has an easy-to-use toolkit for writing your members of Congress. Please consider advocating for Shishmaref and other communities like it. By encouraging policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage using renewable energy resources and promote energy efficiency in all sectors of society, we send a message that Congress needs to act. In addition, if you or a community you know faces challenges associated with climate change, please contact us at washingtonoffice@elca.org. Finally, we can advocate for Shishmaref through prayer. We may face despair, but we remember that as people of faith we are called to be hopeful while committing to doing God’s work through our hands.

Pastor Richter’s parting remarks carry a call to action and an affirmation of the interconnectivity of all of God’s creation: “Our battle is not unique nor is it something that only applies to those in far off, hard to reach places. The sinking sands of Shishmaref are the same sinking sands of the rest of the world. This is our planet that is melting because of us. If the people of Shishmaref become climate refugees, we are all climate refugees.”

May we heed his words and work for God’s justice throughout creation.

 

[1] ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice” (1993)

Photo credit: HelenMarie Bessi Sinnok and Thomas Richter

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Get Ready for World Food Day – October 16, 2016

 

 

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World Food Day is a day of action against hunger.

On October 16, people around the world come together to declare their commitment to eradicate hunger in our lifetime. Because when it comes to hunger, the only acceptable number in the world is zero.

Each year, people around the world mark World Food Day as a special occasion to take action, learn more and join together to fight hunger.  World Food Day 2016 falls on a Sunday, giving Christians concerned about hunger a special opportunity to worship, pray and serve together.  Below are some suggestions for actions your congregation can take.

GIVE

ELCA World Hunger supports projects in nearly 60 countries, including the United States. These projects include job training programs, food pantries, agricultural training, health promotion and care, and much more. Together, our Church accompanies communities around the world toward a world of justice where all will be fed.  Prayerfully consider supporting ELCA World Hunger with your gifts.  Visit https://community.elca.org/hungerdonate to make a gift.

World Food Day 2016 is on Sunday October 16.  Use the occasion to host a special offering for ELCA World Hunger in your congregation.  Order posters and envelopes at http://resources.elca.org/Products-Hunger.html. You can also use a blessing like the one below to dedicate your offerings to the work God is doing through the ELCA.

Blessing of Offering

Abundant God, all creation displays your goodness.  For the hungry, you provide food.  For the thirsty, you give water.  To the wandering, you promise a home.  You have blessed us with your gifts that we may be your hands and feet to share these gifts with our neighbors.  Bless these offerings, that they may be signs of your grace in our world.  As we share with others, keep us mindful of our own need – for food, water, shelter, and community.  May our gifts be an invitation to deeper relationship with each other and with you. In the name of Jesus Christ, your gift to the world, Amen.

ADVOCATE

Last year, ELCA Advocacy, Lutherans across the Church and ecumenical and interfaith partners across the US joined together to advocate for the Global Food Security Act. After long months of advocacy and policy negotiations, the Global Food Security Act is now a law. Together with partners, ELCA Advocacy worked tirelessly on this legislation for nearly two years, and we are grateful to see that all our prayerful efforts have led to this moment. The Global Food Security Act means the U.S. will be better equipped to combat food insecurity around the world. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ADVOCACY!

But our work is far from over. Sign up for e-advocacy alerts at ELCA.org/advocacy to learn more about the important work of ELCA Advocacy and to be part of a voice for justice for all.

LEARN

This year’s message for World Food Day is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must, too.”  Host an education event at your church to help others learn more about climate change’s effect on hunger.  You can download a communication toolkit, posters and other resources from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations here: goo.gl/OFcz6D .

To learn more about projects supported by ELCA World Hunger that are responding to a changing climate, read “Three Ways ‘The Poor’ and Communities of Faith Are Leading the Way on Climate Change” on Huffington Postgoo.gl/L3MtiH.

Also, check out these resources from ELCA World Hunger and our partners:

Rooted in God’s Word and Lands: A Celebration of the Earth That Nourishes Us

This resource from Creation Justice Ministries encourages Christians to treat land as the special gift that it is.  It has ideas for sermons, Sunday School activities, and adult study and contemplation exercises. Download it for free at goo.gl/kjT5P6.

Sustainable Food in a Changing Climate

This 2015 resource from Creation Justice Ministries offers prayers and liturgies for worship, ideas for educational programs, and suggestions for personal food choices that raise awareness about and encourage action toward sustainable choices about the foods we eat.  Download it for free at goo.gl/KxddNC.

Just Climate: Study Guide for Adult Christian Education

Creation Justice Ministries’ popular 2008 resource is as relevant today as it was when it was first released.  This three-session study guide is perfect for audiences new to studying climate change.  It has discussion and reflection questions, a leader’s guide to the issues, and fact sheets on several countries to help your group see the concrete effects of climate change around the world and in the United States. Download it for free at goo.gl/ySPgkw.

Care of Creation Lectionary Reflections

Lutherans Restoring Creation offers an online archive of commentaries on the Revised Common Lectionary that is perfect for developing a sermon, a children’s sermon, or an educational forum.  The archive can be found at goo.gl/wrxb8z.

Hunger and Climate Change Connections Toolkit

ELCA World Hunger’s toolkits are easy-to-use, adaptable for a variety of settings and suitable for intergenerational audiences.  The activities can take as little as 15 minutes, or as much as one hour, depending on your needs.  Learn about climate-related disasters, the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations and actions your congregation can take.  Download this toolkit at goo.gl/x2JEBK.

Hunger and Climate Change: Agriculture and Food Security in a Changing Climate

From biofuels to gender justice, from political stability to farming in the United States, this fact sheet from the ELCA highlights the wide-ranging effects of climate change.  With ideas for what your congregation can do to support farmers and others impacted by climate change, this fact sheet is perfect for Lutherans concerned about agriculture and hunger.  Download it at goo.gl/aqnuLg.

Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice

The ELCA’s social statement on care for creation, adopted in 1993, remains an important reflection on our role as stewards in God’s world.  Read it here: goo.gl/0rFHQM.

HOST

Host a Hunger potluck or banquet after worship services to highlight the challenge of hunger in our world. Read how congregations in Ohio used “Potlucks to End World Hunger” to  support ELCA World Hunger and projects around the world – http://earthandcup.com/potlucks-to-end-world-hunger/.

The Oxfam America Hunger Banquet is a memorable, interactive event that brings hunger and poverty issues to life. Hunger Banquets have been going strong for nearly 40 years and can be a meaningful way to learn more about the challenges we and our neighbors face in a world of hunger – and what we can all do to change it.  Learn more at goo.gl/8a5ASG.

PRAY

When Lutherans pray for “daily bread,” Martin Luther reminds us that we are asking God for all of the needs we have each and every day, from food to shelter, from healthy families to good government.  This Fall, help your family remember these good gifts of God with free table blessing magnets from ELCA World Hunger.  Order for your family or congregation by emailing Hunger@ELCA.org.

 

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