Tag Archives: Durban

Moderator Mardi’s Blog: The road to Durban—what Love requires

This morning as I finish packing for Durban, South Africa, where the United Nations climate talks will take place over the next two weeks, I’m cherishing the encouraging words in a message from one of our United Church ministers:

“I’m afraid this will be another tough session for you as a Canadian who cares about the planet,” he wrote. “I am sending you love, strength, and courage every day in Durban so you can stay focused and angry and hopeful enough in the midst of all that happens (and doesn’t happen) at the official sessions. Remember: you represent the majority of Canadians.”

That last sentence is provocative, but on reflection I believe it’s accurate. Canadians are a compassionate people. We care about the suffering of the world, and we want to respond. It’s important that these Canadian values be represented in Durban.

It’s not easy to be a Canadian in the international arena these days. During the climate change talks in Copenhagen two years ago, Canadian young adults sewed U.S. flags on their backpacks so they wouldn’t be recognized as citizens of the country with the worst record on carbon emissions. Durban will be no less embarrassing. As one recent Globe and Mail headline put it: “Amid dire warming warnings, Canada is MIA.”

“Canada’s delegates will try to keep the lowest possible profile in Durban,” wrote columnist Jeffrey Simpson, “while the government’s spin machine will be in high gear talking up a target no one believes will be achieved, and fighting off complaints about this country’s poor record by pointing fingers at others.”

And yet, as Simpson also notes, there is every reason to believe that Durban represents the world’s last, best hope to avoid what the respected International Energy Agency describes as “irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.”

This is why so many Canadian faith leaders have joined in our Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change.

Fair enough. But why spend the time, the dollars—and the carbon—to go to South Africa? Will my presence there matter? Might my efforts be better invested taking action here in Canada during the talks?

I’ve been wrestling with these questions since early last year, when the World Council of Churches began encouraging me to join its delegation.

This encouragement is about more than making up numbers. As I know from my experience in Copenhagen, there will be strong faith leaders from all other parts of the world. African church leaders, for example, who are already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change (as in the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa), demand to know that North American faith leaders stand with them. They demand to know they are not alone.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminds us that our response matters: “Apartheid seemed an overwhelming challenge that could not be defeated but we mobilised and defeated it. We need the same passion and determination to defeat climate change.” Tutu and other African church leaders have organized a campaign called We Have Faith—Act Now for Climate Justice. Check it out.

Ultimately, the call to keep faith with our partners around the world had the greatest influence in my decision, but there are also other reasons to be present in Durban. There will be many opportunities to connect with like-minded Canadians. In Copenhagen I spoke with provincial premiers and mayors who committed to action. All of them spoke about the importance of having the church present and engaged. In turn, I was able to encourage them in their efforts.

It’s also likely that youth—including Canadian youth—will again bring a strong voice. I want them to know that our church supports them and they are not alone.

Whenever I face difficult decisions I consult with many advisors and I ask myself and pray with a number of probing questions. One of the best is the deceptively simple question, “What does Love require?”

In reference to the road to Durban, I believe Love requires standing in solidarity with those who suffer.

Love requires the courage to be honest when we feel like we’re losing ground.

Love requires that we act to preserve a healthy future for our children and theirs.

The way of Love heals our souls, our communities, and creation. May we travel the way of Love with words of our faith: We are not alone… We are called…to live with respect in Creation.

My bag is packed. Your prayers are welcome.

Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Changing the climate is gaining momentum

As I prepare to join faith leaders from around the world at the United Nations climate change conference in South Africa (COP17), I am watching the cascading effect of our Canadian faith leaders’ statement and efforts of last month. Here are a few of the things that have happened since then:

    • Our Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change, released October 25, 2011, has been lifted up by many global church networks and reproduced in Embassy magazine. Signatures have been added to it, including those of the Canadian Religious Conference and many religious congregations of men and women. A couple of Catholic papers, for example, picked up a recent article by Joe Gunn. If you or your congregation are willing to add your signature to our Interfaith Call for Action, please do, as signatures are still being received. Willard Metzger, General Secretary of the Mennonite Church Canada, and I will carry this statement with us into the witness of the World Council of Churches during the talks. This week I accepted an invitation from the World Council of Churches to make a presentation about this statement during the WCC’s event within the COP17.
    • Members of our varied faith communities are signing a petition to add to others from around the world, and to be offered to world leaders on our behalf by Desmond Tutu, at the November 27th interfaith rally in Durban. There is still time for you and your community to sign the petition. See the end of this blog for more information about the petition.
    • Senator Grant Mitchell has spoken to the Senate about the significance of our work, and has drawn attention to presentations that Willard Metzger and I made to the Deputy Speaker’s breakfast with parliamentarians.
    • Former Moderator Bill Phipps will be fasting as a prayerful discipline throughout COP17, and you may wish to join him in solidarity. In particular, Phipps says he will be “holding The United Church of Canada’s current Moderator, Mardi Tindal, in his prayers,” as well as others of the World Council of Churches’ delegation of which I am a part.
    • During his fast, Phipps also plans to visit the constituency offices of various political leaders, including those of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Alison Redford. The schedule of those visits can be found on Phipps’ website.
  • A Canadian All-Party Caucus on Climate Change has now been formed and will be especially interested in hearing from you. Members are:
  • Michael Chong, Conservative MP – Wellington—Halton Hills, ON
  • Denise Savoie, New Democratic Party MP – Victoria, BC
  • Kirsty Duncan, Liberal MP – Etobicoke North, ON
  • Maria Mourani, Bloc Québecois MP – Ahuntsic, QC
  • Elizabeth May, Green Party MP – Saanich Gulf Islands, BC

My plan is to blog from the COP17 talks, so please stay tuned for further developments.

May we encourage one another in this fast-growing and necessary movement to participate fully in God’s healing of creation.

Finally, here’s more about that petition:

The petition has been designed to conform to House of Commons rules so it can be presented in the House of Commons by Members of Parliament. That is why it is a hardcopy petition, not an electronic one. This petition has been certified as correct by the Clerk of Petitions of the House of Commons.

When you have 25 or more signatures, contact your MP and ask him/her to present the petitions from his/her constituents in the House of Commons. If you have a petition signed by 25 or more people, it can be presented to the House of Commons. There is a 15-minute time slot in the agenda of the House every day for presenting petitions. Generally MPs are expected to present petitions from their constituents even if they don’t support the cause. You can find your MP and contact info on the Parliament of Canada website.

The best thing would be to arrange a meeting with your MP when you could discuss climate change as a moral issue and hand over the signed petitions. Ask for a commitment on presenting the petitions to the House of Commons, and ask to have a report back on the date they will be presented so you can check in the record of debates (or Hansard) online.

If a meeting cannot be arranged, try to set up a phone call with your MP, or failing that, send a letter with the petitions attached asking that they be presented in the House of Commons. Be sure to ask for a reply on whether the MP will present them and, if so, on what day she/he plans to do so.

If your MP refuses to make a commitment to present the petitions, send them to Citizens for Public Justice at 501–309 Cooper St., Ottawa, ON, K2P 0G5, and they will arrange for another MP to present them to the House of Commons. Please report back to CPJ by sending an e-mail to Melodi Alopaeus at melodi@cpj.ca telling her how many signatures you gathered and which MP you have sent your petitions to.

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact Melodi Alopaeus by e-mail or phone 1-800-667-8046.