FEATURE: ‘When You Hear Our Songs, Promise to Take Action’
LWF Youth Seek Active Engagement in Climate Change Issues
ARUSHA, Tanzania, 11 July 2008 (LWI) – “Climate change is threatening our future!” chanted young adults from member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) during a role-play session at the 2008 Pre-Council Youth workshop in Arusha, northern Tanzania.
“Mount Kilimanjaro is no longer as attractive as it used to be. Probably my children will not see any snow on it,” said Namsifu Aminiel, a participant from the LWF Council host-church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT).
“I remember not so long ago, when I was 13, the snow on the peak was still so beautiful. Now, I am 20. The snows are nearly gone!” remarked Aminiel, recalling her childhood memories of Africa’s highest mountain, which, she said, future generations in Tanzania, may not experience, or only see in pictures.
Working under the theme of the 25-30 June Council meeting, “Melting Snow on Mount Kilimanjaro – A Witness of a Suffering Creation,” the workshop brought together 17 young church leaders from LWF member churches around the globe, with the aim to empower them to act as multipliers in the response to the issue of climate change.
Organized by LWF Youth at the Department for Mission and Development, the 20-24 June event incorporated a variety of activities including Bible studies, role playing and field exposure trips. Participants also formulated a youth message on climate change, which was presented to the Council delegates.
UN Conference Delegates
The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, was the focus of the young adults’ role play as country delegates. The aim was to deepen their understanding of climate change issues at a global level, said LWF Youth secretary, Rev. Roger Schmidt.
“It was really terrible to witness the nasty politics and selfishness of each country. The delegates from the United States of America, Europe and the emerging powers keep shirking their responsibility throughout the debates,” said Aminiel, assuming the role of UN Secretary-General.
Evariste Mamadou, 23, Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (ELCCAR), shared his thoughts after the UNCCC session. “We tend to think that only those developed economies with factories and many cars are causing the problems. But it is not the case. For example, it is common to see people in my country burning forests in order to create more farmland. I now realize I should stop them, because these kinds of activities also contribute to climate change.”
The workshop participants from the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Hong Kong (China), Lithuania, Madagascar, South Africa, Tanzania, USA and Zambia, also visited some of the ELCT’s diaconal work outside Arusha.
Mamadou was particularly impressed by a renewable energy project in a remote village, where a household beneficiary of a small loan had installed a solar panel, allowing the children to finish their schoolwork after dark.
“I can feel the impact of a micro-credit project. It certainly can make a difference in people’s lives. I am very interested to introduce this kind of project in my country. Besides bringing renewable energy to the village, it would also be very meaningful to grant people small loans to buy seeds or start small businesses,” said Mamadou, who audits ELCCAR-coordinated projects in his home country.
Leadership and Action
During a Bible study session on creation and climate change, the youth reflected on what could be done in their church and society. “My brother from Tanzania told me that each of them has to plant two trees during their confirmation classes. It symbolizes our role as stewards of God’s creation. That is indeed a wonderful idea. Perhaps we could not plant many trees in Hong Kong, but certainly we should take visible action to give back to nature,” said LWF/DMD youth intern Francis Chan from the Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong, China.
Chan said he felt inspired to develop similar activities for the confirmation class and youth groups in his church. “Facing the life-threatening change in weather patterns, churches certainly have to put more emphasis on leading us to be good stewards of creation so as to fight against climate,” he noted.
Nineteen-year-old Nathalie Rahelimalala from the Malagasy Lutheran Church expressed her enthusiasm for more active engagement. “When I go back home, the very first thing I will do is write a song about climate change. A youth group is currently [working] with me to produce a music album on CD. Now, I have decided to add one more song! It will depict the problems facing us and urge people to take action,” she said.
Rahelimalala, the youngest workshop participant continued, “I remember when I was a child, normally we had around four to five cyclones a year, but last year there were nearly 10! One cyclone that hit the northern coast was particularly destructive, and many people lost their family members, friends and homes. I am afraid one day my home will be hit by cyclones like that.”
In addition to sharing the climate change song with youth groups, Rahelimalala plans to promote the songs through radio stations. “Perhaps one day you turn on the radio, you can listen to our songs carrying messages about climate change. If we make it, promise me you will take action!” she added. (893 words)
(A contribution by LWF/DMD youth intern, Francis Cheong Mun Chan.)
*The message from the 2008 LWF Pre-Council Youth workshop will be made available on the LWF Web site.