The Methodist Church of Peru Takes Steps Toward Climate Justice
by Annie Solis-Escalante
The 20th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP20) was held in December 2014 in Lima, Peru. It established new climate agreements to address an environmental crisis that has been facing humankind since the last half of the 20th century. In organizing the 2014 event, Peruvian officials also sought to raise their citizens’ awareness on climate change while promoting partnerships to overcome it.
The actions of the Peruvian government spurred the Rev. Samuel Aguilar-Curi, bishop of the Methodist Church of Peru, to create the Working Group on Climate Justice. He invited participation from a diverse group of Methodists who had expertise, exposure, and field experience in eco-theology, disaster and risk management, interreligious dialogue, ecumenism, and capacity building within church and society. As a member of this Working Group, I have been working with the team to design a response to our call to build the kingdom of God.
The group’s first task was to reflect on creation care and our current role as a church. We acknowledged that climate change had become a daily challenge, causing floods, droughts, landslides, species extinction, and new diseases—all these consequences being hardest on the poor. We recognized that our relationship with God’s creation was broken because of our misunderstanding of Genesis 1:28—in particular, of what “having dominion over creation” really means. We have exploited resources for our own benefit. God calls us to transform our assumptions, rethinking our relationships with humankind and nature.
We designed an action plan with the following objectives: 1) Contribute to raising environmental awareness and stewardship of the creation in the members of the Methodist Church of Peru; 2) Promote the participation of Peruvian Methodists in ecumenical, interreligious, and civil society reflection, dialogue, and advocacy for creation care and climate justice; and 3) Seek to involve our members in practical actions of creation care and environmental awareness—improvements they could make at home, at work, or in their communities. These three strategies have resulted in significant outcomes.
One of our first actions as caretakers of God’s creation was to reduce the use of disposable materials in our church offices and promote this action in every congregation. Some local congregations have already implemented this practical idea.
In July 2014, our Working Group, including lay leaders and pastors from the Lima and Callao District, developed the first roundtable for dialogue on climate justice and creation care. We addressed the topic from socioeconomic and biblical-theological perspectives. To promote simple commitments for creation care, we joined the “Play Your Part” campaign, led by the Peruvian Ministry of Environment. We helped with petition signings in meetings with teens, women, and church leaders and publicized the campaign through our social media network.
Panelists, supporters, and members of the Methodist Church of Peru’s Working Group on Climate Justice gather for a photo during the “Committed with Creation Care” conference in Peru. Photo: Courtesy Annie Solis-Escalante
During COP20, with members from different local churches, we organized an environmental awareness fair. There, we held workshops on gardening and creation care liturgy and presented a play and a concert. After that, an open conference called “Committed with Creation Care” allowed participants to discuss the role of people of faith in seeking climate justice.
Keynote speakers for this event included the Rev. Pat Watkins, missionary for the Ministry of God’s Renewed Creation with the General Board of Global Ministries; the Rev. Milton Mejía, from the Latin American Council of Churches; and Raúl Luna, an economist from our Working Group.
In the course of presenting brief sessions about the Working Group and its aims, we discovered that young pastors from remote areas formed the group most interested in getting liturgical and biblical resources related to environmental topics. They seek to enrich the programs of the churches they lead.
As members of the Interreligious Council of Peru-Religions for Peace, we joined the “Fast for the Climate” campaign led by the Lutheran World Federation, fasting and praying together one day every month up to the start of COP20.
The Methodist Church of Peru is also a member of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance Forum in Peru. As such, we supported the global campaign “ACT now for Climate Justice,” whose aim is to call upon governments to deliver fair, ambitious, and robust climate agreements. We distributed a petition to all our congregations, as well as over social media and email, for signatures.
Faith in Action
With the support of the Volunteers in Mission from the Wisconsin Conference, and in coordination with the Peruvian Methodist Women, we created “Gardens for a Healthy Diet.” The outcome of this initiative was a bio-garden implemented in the Methodist Camp Wenceslao Bahamonde in Tambo de Mora, in the province of Chincha, Ica región. In addition, we held workshops on a healthy diet and gardening for local congregations in Ica, in the Lima and Callao District.
Because of our reflection, dialogue, and actions concerning climate justice, the Methodist Church of Peru has been recognized by other faith organizations and civil society as a church that promotes care for creation. We have been invited to serve as vice-chair for the ACT Alliance Forum in Peru and to represent the Interreligious Council of Peru in the planning committee of the Rio Convergence, organized by Our Voices.
We are challenged to multiply our actions for climate justice, involving people from other church districts, developing specific responses for every context, yet valuing the unique ancestral and cultural elements contributed by each community.
Annie Solis-Escalante, a member of the Working Group on Climate Justice, is a Health Specialist for Diaconia, Lutheran World Federation. She is involved in the “Healthy and Sovereign Land” project, which works with peasant families of Ancash, Peru, to promote food production free of agrochemicals. She has served as both a Mission Intern and a World Communion Scholar with the General Board of Global Ministries.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, May-June 2016 issue. Used by permission.