Jason John calls for Australia to have a prodigal moment, a Zacchaeus moment, turning around now.
Rallying for God's Beautiful Earth
It’s not good to be caught out in a storm. They’re unpredictable, dangerous, unstable.
In May 2011 we were driving along a South Asian highway, as fast as the cacophony of people, animals and rickshaws would allow us to go. As we drove, a storm approached from the south. The sky darkened, the wind whipped up, and people gathered their animals and ran for shelter. We increased our speed, taking advantage of the relatively clear roads, but we could see what they feared. A huge black circular storm was approaching. The afternoon became as black as night. We stopped our car and it rocked back and forth as the winds and rain pummelled it. As it passed, the sky brightened and life resumed around us. This was a small storm, but even so I wondered what damage had been done.
Storms like these kill thousands of people each year in South Asia. Worldwide, the intensity of these storms are increasing due to climate change.
We often call meetings with our Indian colleagues. More than once, they have not been able to attend because their homes and offices were flooded. Once they sent a video showing the water rushing into their stairwell and flooding the ground floor. They didn’t evacuate, they just lived on the second floor for a few days. Since there are no emergency services, they just wait for the floodwaters to recede and fix the damage as best they can. Even as I write, Nepal, India and Bangladesh are experiencing floods which have killed over one hundred people.
The frequency and severity of floods are increasing due to climate change.
We live in a town in South Asia which is relatively temperate. But a few hundred kilometres away, the temperatures soar in summer. Temperatures in some places have climbed to 51 degrees Celsius. On hot days the asphalt roads melt. Many people don’t have air conditioning and still must work outside. More than 5000 people have been killed in the past decade due to heatwaves. Imagine losing a family member because they couldn’t help but be outside for a few hours.
In 2010 there were only 21 heatwaves in India. In 2018 there were 484.
The frequency and severity of heatwaves are increasing due to climate change. According to CNN, in the future large parts of the country could become uninhabitable. Imagine how many refugees this will create.
In Chennai right now, the city is running out of water. People are lining up at water trucks for hours to get their allotted amount of water.
As storms, droughts, floods and heatwaves continue to worsen in South Asia, I must have the courage to understand, that it is partly I who have caused these disasters through my excessive use of energy from fossil fuels.
When in Australia, we visit a number of churches. One was running a sermon series on discipleship, I was disappointed and surprised to learn that the series didn’t contain any mention about living as Jesus’ disciples in a changing climate. Does this church care about my Bangladeshi friends struggling under floodwaters? About my friends in Chennai who don’t know where today’s water will come from? About friends and neighbours who need to make the choice between making enough money to eat, or sheltering from the heat? Do they know that we are partly responsible for causing these problems?
Climate change advocacy is part of Christian discipleship. If churches continue to avoid preaching about ecological ethics they have missed a large part of what it means to follow the one who is our shelter from the heat and the storms,
“You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4
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Reflect & Pray
Take time this week to reflect on your response to Mahala’s experience of living in South Asia with increasingly severe heat, storms and water scarcity due to climate change.
More and more we are hearing voices, like Mahala, who are already experiencing frequent and severe storms, droughts, heatwaves and floods. These voices are among those of the world’s most vulnerable who are being heavily impacted by changes in their natural environment.
In response to voices like Mahala, how can we stand with them and love with actions and in truth (1 John 3:17-18)?
Mahala calls us to reflect on how climate change advocacy is part of our Christian discipleship today.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).
As Christ’s disciples we are called to love one another. To actively speak and live out the Gospel in pursuing peace, seeking justice and caring for God’s good creation.
In responding in love to our brothers’ and sisters’ calls for help, we are compelled to speak out as advocates. As Christians, we seek to act and speak from a place of compassion and love. We stand alongside our neighbour in need, asking for change and reminding our leaders of God’s calling to seek justice.
Take time this week to reflect and pray through how the church in Australia is being called to be an advocate in this moment. What would a courageous, convicted and compassionate church look like? How is God calling you to be part of this movement to call for climate justice?
Hurricane Dorian last week was the most powerful tropical storm recorded to devastate the Bahamas. Three years ago cyclone Winston was the most powerful tropical cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere. Record breaking devastation is becoming the new normal. The following prayer is a cry of pain and praise, echoing from the week after cyclone Winston to this week, as we prepare to rally to demand that the Paris agreement be more than empty words.
This is an extract of the full video prayer, by Archbishop Winston Halapua.
“On hillside after hillside, trees stand like crosses.
You do not desert us even now.
Bring us the glimmering of a new dawn for Creation and for humanity.
You are with us as we reach out to each other… as we begin to rebuild shattered lives and communities.
We thank you for outpourings of generosity and compassion
We pray for the moving together of the people of the world in addressing the causes of destruction.
You were with our people in Paris- you gave us perseverance and strength.
Hearts were moved.
We give thanks that in paris people of the world made decisions to stem the destruction of our common home and bring life.
You are with us as the risen one who has defeated the powers of destruction and death.
You speak to us words of great strength and peace.
May the Risen One bring us a deep vision, deep as the ocean, of your loving purposes.
So that we may continue to work together for the well being of all peoples and planet Earth. Amen”
We have added even more resources for those coming on the 20th September. Our resources page has some downloadable placard templates to help you get your message across, and find other Common Grace members on the day. If you missed last week, the notice bulletins and powerpoint slides are still there to encourage your congregation to come, and the short reflection on why Common Grace is supporting the school strike.
You can keep up to date on Common Grace #ClimateStrike meeting points, and new rally locations here.
Don’t forget to represent your personal reasons for climate action on our online gallery, and if you are part of a congregation, get them to add their photo too. Click through to our represent gallery to see why others are rallying, and to join in.
Recently Australia forced the watering down of the climate statement at the Pacific Islands Forum. Read more, including Rev James Bhagwan’s plea to Scott Morrison, as one Christian leader to another, for action.
“Our culture starts here on the land. It is how we are connected with the land and the sea. You wash away the land and it is like a piece of us you are taking away.”
- Kabay Tamu, Warraber
Increasing storm surges are threatening the ongoing survival of Torres Strait Islander communities. They are bringing the first climate change case against the Australian federal government over human rights. Find out more and sign the petition to support their action here.
As storms rage across God’s earth in increasing intensity, their impact is being made even worse by rising sea levels in coastal communities.
This blog is part of our 2019 Season of Creation series: Rallying for God's Beautiful Earth.