Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Praying for Courage

One of my tasks here at COP17 is to pray for courage.

It takes courage to listen humbly.

Climate change is having a devastating effect on most countries and countless lives. Increased flooding, expanding areas of drought and extreme weather have claimed and threatened millions of lives. The woman representing Thailand spoke yesterday through a wavering voice, telling the world that over five million families have been affected by recent flooding in her country. The man representing Somalia spoke of 29,000 children who have died and the four million people who face starvation as a result of drought. It takes courage to share these truths with such grace, and to keep one’s heart open to suffering on such a large scale.

It takes courage to raise difficult questions.

During this morning’s early briefing session with Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s Chief Negotiator and Climate Change Ambassador, young adult Canadians filled the room to respectfully ask pointed questions about Canada’s position. Shortly thereafter, Willard Metzger  and I were asked the same questions at the faith communities’ briefing. Willard is the General Secretary of the Mennonite Church Canada. It seems that everyone in Durban – from national negotiators to hotel staff – wants to understand Canada’s position. It takes no time for Canadian news reports to find their way to Africa, so everyone wants to ask if it’s true that Canada intends to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. To most nations, this comes as terrible, shocking news. When asked about it this morning, Guy St. Jacques answered, “”There is no decision that I am aware of that Canada will withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. And Minister Kent has neither confirmed nor denied the reported statement.” It takes courage to represent Canada, whether you’re asking tough questions or grappling with the answers, whether you’re a negotiator or a representative of youth or churches.

At every turn, it seems, I am meeting friends of The United Church of Canada, from Canada and elsewhere, who tell me that our church is a courageous church. When I sat down to eat a sandwich yesterday I landed next to Vernie, a woman with the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Centre in the Philippines. We had never met before and yet had so much to talk about. I knew about her organization as a result of visiting partners in the Philippines a year ago and we have several friends in common.

It takes courage to pray.

And, if we are to be truly courageous, we will be grounded in prayer. During an Advent service with Christians from around the world last evening, we prayed these words:

Guide by your wisdom those who have power and authority, that, by the decisions they make, life may be cherished and a good and fruitful Earth may continue to show your glory and sing your praises.

After yesterday’s first plenary session, Willard Metzger and I offered a similar prayer over the two chairs reserved for Canada’s official representatives. We prayed that those who sit in these chairs will be courageous. That they will be both blessing and blessed.

May we lift our voices in prayer from every part of God’s Earth. We who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves, as we wait for God to make us children, and set our whole being free. (Romans 8:23) May we be set free in the Spirit that gives courage.

I invite you to pray with me on Sunday, December 4, for the success of the climate talks in Durban. You can watch my video prayer on the United Church website or on YouTube.