Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Indaba: Calling the Circle

The President of COP17, Her Excellency Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is bringing African wisdom to her leadership in these negotiations. This represents a tremendous opportunity for the global community.

During yesterday morning’s briefing, Canada’s Climate Ambassador Guy St- Jacques explained that Her Excellency has invited nations into an Indaba – a gathering of the chiefs, where, as I understand it, each voice is honoured and equal.

(The subject of this particular Indaba is the Green Climate Fund, a means by which to help those most affected by climate change with the very difficult work of adapting to dramatically changed lands, waters and weather patterns. Early rumours are that this process is allowing for unanimity to emerge efficiently on critical points.)

This reminded me of Her Excellency’s comment at last Sunday’s interfaith rally. She said that trust is necessary for successful negotiations here in Durban.

What I’m most concerned about at this point in the negotiations is that those both directly and indirectly involved will allow their frustrations to overflow into actions that unravel trust. That would jeopardize the negotiations. As church leaders we have a calling to behave in ways that contribute to “God’s healing and mending of creation.” Climate change is too urgent a concern to risk eroding that trust.

I was asked by ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together, through whom The United Church of Canada works with 124 other churches to respond to global emergency and development needs) a couple of days ago to speak at one of our briefing sessions here in Durban about how church leaders can influence politicians.

I was surprised by the invitation, especially given concern about Canada’s perceived position. I accepted it in order to tell them some of what I’ve learned about this from African church leaders including Desmond Tutu. For example:

  • Draw the circle wide so no one is left out of the conversation because everyone is needed if we are to meet the challenge. As Tutu said at the interfaith rally last Sunday, we are one family with only one home.
  • Assume the best intentions. Too often we react based on inaccurate or twisted media reports which lead us to believe that someone else isn’t as concerned about his or her children as we are about ours. When we assume the worst we usually get it.

I am reminded of the Biblical mandate to seek the unity that ‘one family with one home’ will need to survive. Paul wrote about “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Jesus said the peacemakers are blessed (Matthew 5:9). Again, Paul reminds us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all (Romans 12:18).

The way in which we resolve our conflicts — on this and other issues –matters to God. Wisdom from both Biblical and other traditions is required in this critical moment.

Willard Metzger (General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada) and I have asked for a meeting with Canada’s Minister of the Environment Peter Kent, when he is here next week. If he grants this meeting, we will bring with us the encouraging words of Canada’s faith leaders who, like Mr. Kent, want a solution to the crisis of climate change. And may it be a fruitful Indaba, so that all peoples may be blessed and God’s creation healed.