Sharing to you the speech of Nora, an intern of Zentrum für Mission und Ökumene – Nordkirche weltweit, during the Climate Justice Prayer on 21 February alongside with the Friday for Future Demonstration in Hamburg.
In 2016, the face, or better yet: the slogan, of an elderly, anonymous woman rose to world fame – a picture of her went viral, where she’s on a demonstration in Poland for the right to abortion. In her hands, she’s holding a cardboard sign that says: “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit.”
We could say the same thing today, or paint those words on our signs. Politically, economically, but also in society, way too little is being done way too slowly and way too naively in order to stop the global climate catastrophe, realize effective alternatives and reflect ourselves in existing power dynamics – the one condition to overcome them and take on true responsibility.
Everyone is constantly talking about responsibility. While no one really knows where responsibility starts and where it ends. Climate justice must happen everywhere, we’re constantly hearing. In our thinking, our speaking, our doing, on all levels and in all spheres of societal life. That we must all participate in change is pretty much clear. What comes to mind is sustainability, as well as other keywords like consumption or carbon footprint. What comes to mind is the way we live our private lives, the way we shop, plan our vacations, get from A to B….
And yeah, we can go to protests on Fridays. We can sign petitions against the destruction of some distant rainforest or make a donation because of the latest drought.
But in all honesty, that was pretty much it, politically. Everything else lies way above our heads, the capitalist global economy anyway – what are we to do about companies, NGOs and governments? When confronted with the big players of our world, we ourselves often feel like we’re on the low end of unshakable power relations, just like those who are directly and existentially threatened by climate change, land grabbing, the flooding of markets. Those who are expelled from their ancestral land, forced into industries that rob them of their dignity, murdered if they refuse to make way or show active resistance. When we take a close look, the social consequences of our way of inhabiting the world are just as frightening as the ecological ones. Frightening, but also frustrating, for there is no science, no technology, that we could invent against the violation of human rights.
Is this really the age we live in? Where we’re made to believe in the universal solution of our massive, historically unique environmental problems (the stopping of global warming, for example), but not in the end of injustice and exploitation, which we can find in the Old Testament.
Though today we’re all here to be part of a climate justice movement, not just a bunch of individual, private climate savers! Still, the question remains – how?
Feeling guilty for our own privileges may be unavoidable when we truly engage with these issues, but it isn’t exactly helpful. It’s at this point that I want to introduce a keyword that is just as crucial to climate justice as the green term of the decade “sustainability”. Another word with S that sums up the human dimension that we lack and need in this movement – solidarity.
And it’s at this point that the Church, too, is welcome to listen up, along with all those who feel like the mere ecological aspects of climate justice are none of their business. I’m not saying that the Church shouldn’t also shake a leg to become more sustainable, and to become more sustainable faster – what I’m saying is that we – as people of the Global North – must also start fighting – in solidarity with the battles that people in the Global South and all over the world are already fighting in defense of their own rights – and that the Church is uniquely positioned to shelter this movement, as the oldest and previously the most powerful institution in Europe where people have been coming together and organizing themselves for hundreds of years, where people have been practicing hope and their faith in humanity.
It goes without saying that the Church too has had a role to play (in the past as well as today) in upholding injustices, exploitation, hierarchies. Racism, white supremacy, white saviorism, eurocentrism, patriarchy – all of these things are alive in the Church today. Colonial structures and dependencies don’t just disappear over time – decolonization must be an active process!
And it’s today – today! – that this process urges us to make solidarity a key value. Cause solidarity does not mean solving problems or pushing development for others. Solidarity isn’t a shout for anything that echoes down the ladder of hierarchy or from the outside to the inside, it doesn’t mean “We can show you what democracy, freedom, human rights, ecology, and sustainability are,” and it also doesn’t mean “We’re willing to let the rest of the world have a slice of our cake.”
What solidarity really means is hearing the shouting voices that are grower louder and louder in every corner of this world. And no, they are not just shouts for help, but also shouts of anger, of rebellion, of autonomous dreams. Solidarity means acknowledging the knowledge, the values, the initiatives of marginalized groups and offering one’s own capacities where people are already fighting as hard as they can – where the climate crisis and the dark sides of capitalism manifest themselves in reality in a way that doesn’t even leave people with a choice.
Whether praying and preaching save lives or not is something I don’t want to be the judge of. Also, I couldn’t say whether or not we save lives by recycling, protesting and sending our good intentions to the Global South. What I know is that responsibility has its limits. And that nevertheless it’s important to do all of these things.
Because, as I said, change is something that must happen everywhere, with everyone, and all at once. The politicians can do their job by remembering that it’s not about the well-being of the few, but of the public – the economy can do its job by understanding that it’s not about growth, but about balance – the Church must grapple with the fact that its central message is not about becoming more like God, but about becoming more human – just as everyone in the climate justice movement is required to look beyond plants and animals and oceans and understand that this planet needs free, equal human beings as well.
Thanks for being here, for your solidarity and for joining the protest. Fridays For Future may not be the one solution to the world’s problems, but that’s generally something we’d rather not claim as Europeans – especially as Churches For Future. We may not be able to save the world, but we can love the world. And as long as we love it, I believe we will continue to hate it – at least for as long as we have to protest this shit.