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Resolution B023 Passes General Convention!

Nice piece here by Lynette Wilson of Episcopal News Service. Reposted from ENS:

Convention moves to balance ‘environmental’ and ‘economic’ justice

By Lynette Wilson | July 20, 2012 4 Comments |

Kivalina is the only village in Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough region where people hunt the bowhead whale, a cultural tradition and dietary mainstay that has been severely hampered by the thinning ice. Once, hunters camped on the ice for weeks at a time; now, they stay only a few days and mostly look for whales that have strayed from the herd. This historic photo shows a whaling team and was provided courtesy of Janet Mitchell.

[Episcopal News Service] In the past 20 years the state of Iowa has experienced three crisis-levelfloods, the latest, in 2008, put nearly a third of the state underwater.

“It was a 500 year flood, causing $60 billion in damages,” said the Very Rev. Cathleen Bascom, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in downtown Des Moines, adding that the frequency of the floods “is what opened our eyes to the climate change issue.”

The cathedral, which sits on High Street along with the four other remaining “old churches,” weathered the storms, but the low-lying areas – mostly home to low-income residents and immigrants – “suffered the most,” she said.

“One of the economic justice issues I was made aware of following the flood was that the levee above Birdland [a low-lying neighborhood in north Des Moines] was allowed to remain weak, so it broke,” said Bascom, adding that areas downriver, including the city’s financial district, have experienced re-gentrification. “So the water, then, was not a threat to higher income properties.”

Bascom, an Iowa deputy to the 77th General Convention in Indianapolis July 3-13, testified before the National and International Concerns Committee in Indianapolis on behalf of a resolution to address environmental justice (B023).

In a post-convention telephone interview with ENS, Bascom said one of the things she really liked about the resolution was its call to action, which implores institutions, the church, dioceses and congregations “to support to implementation of grassroots, community-based solutions to climate change,” including ecological restoration, promoting food sovereignty and making local adaptations toward resilience. The latter being something the cathedral has done already by mitigating storm-water runoff.

Replacing dilapidated asphalt with permeable pavement and a filtration system, the cathedral has the capacity to keep 12 swimming pools worth of water out the storm-sewer system and out of the river, Bascom said. The cathedral also planted a garden, including native-plant species like prairie grasses, that is irrigated by the water. The garden also serves as a “welcome mat” and place of respite for nearby workers and a conservation laboratory for urban children, she added.

In addition to B023, General Convention passed Resolution D055, which advocates for public policy to reduce climate-change emissions. Both B023 and D055, in addition to previous general convention resolutions, form the basis for the church’s environmental and economic justice work in the coming triennium.

“To me, two of the issues about which the church is called to be more and more visible and proactive are climate change and poverty/economic inequity,” said Michael Schut, the Episcopal Church’s officer for environmental and economic affairs. “Resolution B023 calls us to ‘resist the development and expansion of ever more unconventional, dangerous, and environmentally destructive sources of fossil fuel.’”

“That resistance may mean we need to be out on the streets in peaceful protest of such efforts. Such resistance obviously answers the call to be more proactive about climate change. But the resolution recognizes that in such resistance the church must support those who might lose their jobs in the transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to a clean energy economy… which answers the call to address poverty.”

Balancing the need to protect the environment while simultaneously working to alleviate poverty, however, can often leave Episcopalians in the trenches feeling at odds, especially in states like Pennsylvania where the unemployment rate is high and where generations have made a living working in the mines and the oil and gas fields.

“Finding the social justice right mix representing the church’s good stewardship of the environment and its love and concern for people and to mitigate poverty is not an easy path,” said Joan Gundersen, who served as a deputy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and on convention’s National and International Concerns Committee, in a July 17 interview with Episcopal News Service.

In Pittsburgh, the diocese has a “double concern,” Gundersen said: “Of course we are interested in the environment, and making sure that whatever is done, is done safely, but we are also cognizant of the high unemployment rates and the hunger for jobs.”

Pittsburgh sits over the Marcellus Shale, an enormous natural gas reserve lying a mile beneath the surface and covering an area from New York through parts of Pennsylvania into Ohio and West Virginia. Given its location near major population centers in the eastern United States, some see the Marcellus as ripe for development.

In 2010, the city of Pittsburgh voted to ban corporations from drilling for natural gas, including hydraulic fracking, within the city limits. The diocese, which includes rural, high-unemployment areas like north Cambria, hasn’t taken a position on fracking and hasn’t had a “deep conversation” on the matter, said Gundersen. In addition, General Convention discharged a resolution to “oppose dangerous fracking.”

During a hearing on Resolution D055, Gundersen testified that selling the resolution in Pittsburgh might not be difficult, but the same wouldn’t hold true in surrounding rural areas.

“When you’re in the countryside where 39 percent of the population is unemployed and these fuels are their livelihood,” she said. “… How do you sell it in the rural depressed coal mining areas?”

Unlike in West Virginia, where the state receives a bigger cut of the profits generated from resource extraction, which it can use to repair roads and for environmental restoration projects, Pennsylvania where infrastructure and regulation have lagged doesn’t receive the same revenue. And depending on where you are in Pennsylvania, reaction is mixed regarding environmental contamination, the extent and its existence, she said.

A natural gas processing plant, Gundersen added, is poised to open along the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, bringing at least 2,000 jobs to the area.

Resolution D055′s explanation states: “… Other costs of fossil fuels include oil spills, contamination of ground water with mercury and other pollutants from coal mining, and accumulation of improperly stored radioactive waste as a result of hydrofracking. There are many concomitant health care costs from our exposure to these pollutants…”

It continues, “The continued use of fossil fuels is not sustainable.”

Also during the testimony, the Rev. Barbara Schlachter, a visitor to convention from the Diocese of Iowa who helped found Iowa City Climate Activists, called attention to the real costs of low-cost fuels, as pointed out in the resolution’s explanation, and called for support for renewable energy sources. Schlachter said reducing reliance of fossil fuels is a “moral issue.”

“What is going to happen to our environment, our atmosphere,” she asked. “It’s [climate change] has already come to some parts, and it’s coming here.”

During his testimony on B023 before the committee, Austin Swan Sr., a deputy from the Diocese of Alaska, and a resident of Kivalina, an Inupiaq island-community where climate change threatens the community’s continued existence, shared his experience.

“I am a lifetime resident of Kivalina, born and raised there. When I was a child, we had probably two-thirds more land and now have 35 percent of that land, all this loss due to erosion mostly in the last four or five years,” he said.

And despite living in an environment rich in natural resources, including the world’s largest zinc mine located upriver, Swans said: “We still live in third world conditions. Where does that money go?”

Proposed by Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, the resolution resolves “That the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with those communities who bear the greatest burdens of global climate change: indigenous peoples, subsistence communities, communities of color, and persons living in depravation around the world…”

The village of Kivalina sits on the tip of a six- to eight-mile-long barrier island – a quarter-mile at its widest – some 80 to 120 miles above the Arctic Circle between the Chukchi Sea and the Kivalina Lagoon in Alaska. It is home to about 400 people and reachable only by plane and boat in the summer and plane, and snowmobile in winter.

Of the 200 native coastal communities in Alaska, varying degrees of erosion affect about 180 of them, according to the federal government’s General Accounting Office. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said that Kivalina is one of three native communities in need of relocation.
As explained in the resolution’s explanation, Kivalina “has been ever-increasingly at risk because of global climate change. Loss of sea ice has led to increased coastal erosion, land failure, and unreliable, if not perilous, conditions for the practice of subsistence hunting.”

In 2008, the village of Kivalina filed a lawsuit against 24 oil, electricity and coal companies, including Exxon Mobile Corp., Conoco Phillips and BP. The claim alleges that, as significant contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions, the corporations have exacerbated global warming, thereby accelerating erosion in Kivalina and leaving the island vulnerable to storm surge and flooding.

Further, the resolution’s explanation stated, that Shell Oil was set this month to begin oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea, “the deepest source of Inupaiq food, cultural identity and spirituality alike.”

California Bishop Marc Andrus, who endorsed B023 and sat on the National and International Concerns Committee, said the people of Kivalina “identify with the island and its surroundings,” and to move is not as simple as moving from Alabama to San Francisco, as he did when he became bishop.

Not unlike with the Guarani, a formally nomadic indigenous tribe in Brazil that has lost much of its ancestral land, for the people of Kivalina to move, “is a kind of death,” he said.

(Through a companion relationship with the Diocese of Curitiba in Brazil, the Diocese of California has supported the Anglican Church of Brazil’s efforts to stand with the Guarani.)

While at convention, hearing the stories of the Guarani and the situation in Kivalina, who are in “much more extreme” situations, reminded Bascom, she later said, of a lecture Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams once gave called “Renewing the Face of the Earth: Human Responsibility and the Environment,” in which he said:

“It is possible to argue about the exact degree to which human intervention is responsible for these phenomena … but it is not possible rationally to deny what the inhabitants of low-lying territories in the world routinely face as the most imminent threat to their lives and livelihoods.”


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Proposed Resolution for the 77th General Convention: Climate Justice for all God’s People and all God’s Creation.

Title: The Episcopal Church commits to Climate Justice for all God’s People and all God’s Creation.

Resolved, the House of ________ concurring, That the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with those communities who bear the greatest burdens of global climate change: indigenous peoples, subsistence communities, communities of color, and persons living in deprivation around the world; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, to organize and advocate for local, state, federal, and international policies to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions, that such policies be based on the best available scientific consensus, and that they provide tangible benefits to overburdened “frontline” communities (those already experiencing the impacts of climate change) and “fence-line” communities (those suffering in body and spirit for their proximity to the extraction and processing of fossil fuels); and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, to work for the just transformation of the world’s energy beyond and away from fossil fuels (including all forms of oil, coal, and natural gas) and toward safe, sustainable, renewable, community controlled energy, and that fossil fuel workers and their families be supported during the transition to a “post-carbon” society; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church to resist the development and expansion of ever more unconventional, dangerous, and environmentally destructive sources of fossil fuel, including, but not limited to: mountain-top removal coal mining in Appalachia, expanded coal strip-mining in the Intermountain West, offshore oil-drilling, especially in the Arctic, ongoing “tar-sands” development throughout North America, and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church to support the self-determined aspirations of communities around the world, who, like the Iñupiaq Community of Kivalina, Alaska, having emitted minimal amounts of carbon and having received negligible material benefit from fossil fuel consumption, nevertheless bear the brunt of climate-change impacts; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, including Episcopal Relief and Development, to support the implementation of grassroots, community-based solutions to climate change, including, but not limited to, adaptations to improve local resilience, to build local food sovereignty, to support ecological restoration and economic re-localization.


Especially since 2004, the Iñupiaq community of Kivalina has been ever-increasingly at-risk  because of global climate change. Loss of sea ice has led to increased coastal erosion, land failure, and unreliable, if not perilous, conditions for the practice of subsistence hunting.  Climate change is the latest of environmentally mediated “historical traumas” to descend upon Kivalina in the name of progress and development—these include the ongoing water and fish pollution from the worlds largest zinc mine (the Red Dog Mine), and the community’s near annihilation through a narrowly defeated project of nuclear hubris, known as “Project Chariot”.   In July 2012, Shell Oil is slated to begin oil exploration of the Chukchi Sea—the deepest source of Iñupiaq food, cultural identity and spirituality alike.  Recognizing that Kivalina is but one community which exposes the violence of climate change, the Kivalina Epiphany Church, through this resolution of its Mission Committee, cries out for “climate justice” for all God’s People and for all God’s Creation.

We affirm past efforts and commitments of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (2006-B002 Response to Global Warming, 2009-D035 Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, 2009-D014 Environmental Justice, 2009-C070 Memorializing the Genesis Covenant, 2009-C064 Endorsement of the Earth Charter, 2009-C012 Scientific Integrity and Environmental Policy, 2009-C011 Governmental Policies for Environmental Stewardship, 2009-A155 Alleviation of Domestic Poverty). We especially take heart in the Bishops’ Pastoral Teaching on the Environment, adopted in Quito in September of 2011 (page 52-54 in “the Blue Book”), which calls on the Church “to work toward climate justice”; we submit this resolution in faithfulness to their pastoral leadership.

As indigenous followers of Jesus, we are emboldened by the 76th General Convention’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and regard new and continued fossil fuel exploration and extraction as a contemporary manifestation of that evil Doctrine, abiding by the very same logic of “manifest destiny.” Such practices add insult to injury when they are carried out in proximity to already vulnerable populations, like Shell’s oil exploration in our Chukchi Sea. We recognize that we are but one of the many climate-vulnerable communities around the world.  It is clear to us that the dominant global culture is in need of a dramatic overhaul—the scope of which may be difficult for those who “hold authority” to imagine, let alone enact—yet as Christians we are called not simply to imagine but to make God’s Kingdom incarnate.

We recognize and affirm the urgent aspirations of environmentally vulnerable communities around the world. To such communities the Episcopal Church has a duty of solidarity and Christian love.  We believe that such networks of compassion and support within the Body of Christ may be our last best chance at survival. We call upon the Episcopal Church at every level to live into its prophetic voice for climate justice as part and parcel of our baptismal commitment to “justice and peace among all people” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.”


You may view the Episcopal Digital Network’s coverage of Kivalina HERE.

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Brazil’s Anglican Church works with indigenous people in their fight for land, existence

Reposted from Episcopal News Service

By Lynette Wilson, September 16, 2011

[Episcopal News Service] Guarani Chief Pedro Alves lives with his people in Tekoa Vy’a Renda Poty, a tiny village owned by the city of Santa Helena in the southern Brazil state of Paraná, where the city provides for their basic needs.

During the last 35 years or so, the Guarani, once a self-sustaining nomadic people in what was then their sub-tropical, deeply forested, biodiverse aboriginal lands, have been driven into dependency with the rise of industrial agriculture in Brazil and the accompanying construction of Itaipu, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam.

“At the time when the dam was built, our forests, our natural land, everything was destroyed, so we had nothing at all,” said Alves, in Portuguese, through an interpreter.

Before construction of the dam, the Guarani lived in an area of protection near what is now the lake, or reservoir.

“Itaipu took us away from there and gave us an area of 231 hectare [570 acres], and at that time there were only 19 families. And then more families joined, and there wasn’t enough room to grow crops.”

From occupying more than 500 acres, the tribe today – 25 families numbering 85 people – lives on less than 10 acres in the village, 75 miles from Itaipu. They live in houses made of large sticks, the roofs reinforced with discarded plastic materials. Water drips from a communal spout.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Guarani living near the planned hydroelectric plant were forced to relocate to reservations, sparking problems since studied and documented by academics: a rise in population, conflict over the reservation boundaries, religious conflicts and rejection by other indigenous people who in prior years had settled on reservations.

The Rev. Luiz Carlos Gabas, an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Curitiba, visited Alves’ village three years ago. After that, with the assistance of diocesan Bishop Naudal Gomes, Pastoral Anglicana da Terra, or Earthly Anglican Care, emerged as a way for individuals, parishes and the diocese to work on issues of climate justice and the rights of indigenous people, peasants and the landless.

Earthly Anglican Care also is supported by a companion relationship between the Diocese of Curitiba and theEpiscopal Diocese of California and facilitated by Michael Tedrick, an Episcopal Church-appointed missionary from the California diocese.

“We see the relationship between their struggle and the struggle of the indigenous in North America, the struggle of the small farmers and their families and that of documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States,” Tedrick said. “It is in our struggles that we gain a deeper understanding of our likeness.”

Earthly Anglican Care’s purpose is not to evangelize, said Gabas in Portuguese through an interpreter, but to understand indigenous peoples’ problems and advocate for their rights. Indigenous peoples, specifically the Guarani, have rich spiritual lives and beliefs that have inspired others, including leaders in the liberation theology movement.

“The Guarani people have a utopian dream, and that is to walk eastward in search of the ‘promised land,'” said Gomes. “The Indians themselves call it the ‘harmless land.'”

Gabas explained further: “When the Portuguese and Spanish arrived, the Indians started to lose their territories. Before the foreign occupation and the violence, they visualized a harmless land where no harm could exist.”

In fact, this vision of a utopian “promised land” inspired liberation theology, and liberation theologian Pedro Casaldaliga, who worked with indigenous people, created the Missa da Terra sem Males, or Mass of the Land Without Evil, based on this dream, Gabas added.

Largely seen as a construct of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, liberation theology has been used widely as a foundation for social change by religious groups worldwide. With the rise of conservative leadership in the Roman Catholic Church, the church has moved away from liberation theology.

“What I have learned from secular people working with both the landless and the Guarani is that while there is great gratitude for the solidarity the [Roman] Catholic Church has shown to both those groups and the poor in the past, the new advocates standing courageously with the landless and the Guarani are the Episcopal Church and other partners,” said Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus, who visited the Guarani in April 2011.

“I saw it very, very concretely in Cascavel, where the local parish led by Gabas is working in a parallel way with both groups and very powerfully bringing the two disempowered groups together, the Guarani and the landless, to begin to make common cause together … That is a new thing that really is being mediated by the local parish in Cascavel so that’s fantastic.”

Spiritual life

In Alves’ village, as in most Guarani villages, the prayer house is at the center of life.

“They are a very spiritual people,” said Paulo Humberto Porto Borges, a professor at the Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná, speaking in Portuguese through a translator. “They are understood as some of the most spiritual people of the Americas. And the Guarani’s cultural resistance is also due to their spirituality.”

Porto Borges, who introduced Gabas to the Guarani, began working with indigenous people in 1990 alongside Jesuit missionaries. For many years, he worked on land-division issues with Indians in the Amazon, and for the last 11 he has worked with the Guarani.

With a population of more than 200 million people, Brazil is the 10th largest economy in the world, yet more than 26 percent of the population lives in poverty – many in extreme poverty. A wealthy few and multinational corporations own most of the land, which has led to ownership conflicts, violence and death.

Both Brazil’s landless and indigenous people fight for territory and are concerned with the country’s industrial agriculture practices, with the landless training leaders for political life. Gabas also works with the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, the Landless Workers Movement, a large social movement organized by rural workers that fights for land and agrarian reform in Brazil.

“The Guarani want to recover the traditional territories of their ancestors, and their main focus is to keep their culture, their language, their religion,” said Gabas. “They are also worried about agricultural chemicals and pesticides. And they want to be able to provide enough food for their people without any help from the government. The landless, on the other hand, get involved in politics and government.

“Indigenous people never had title to the land because they were indigenous.”

The land where Tekoa Vy’a Renda Poty sits today once belonged to his ancestors, the chief, Alves, said.

The dam

When Itaipu was built, it flooded 800,000 hectares of indigenous land, and Itaipu only compensated them for that loss after lots of pressure. Ultimately, they were given 6,000 hectares spread over three areas, for what they had lost, said Porto Borges.

“Itaipu could only be built during a dictatorship,” he said.

Driven mostly by high demand for electricity in Brazil, the governments of Brazil and neighboring Paraguay began negotiating the hydroelectric dam’s construction in the 1960s, signing the Itaipu Treaty, an agreement necessary to harness the Parana River’s power, in April 1973. In May 1974, Itaipu Binacional was created to build and later manage the power plant, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam in terms of power generation, supplying 20 percent of Brazil’s and 90 percent of Paraguay’s electrical demand.

Phase 1 of the dam’s construction began in 1975 with the Paraná River channel excavation, eventually diverting the river from its natural bed, under the government of Ernesto Beckmann Geisel, a military-elected president.

The hydroelectric dam at Itaipu, with a height of 196 meters, was modeled after the 80-meter-high Iguaçu Falls, a world heritage site; one a natural wonder, the other an engineering marvel.

In 2003, Itaipu Binacional changed its institutional mission to incorporate environmental responsibility and sustainable development into its strategic corporate goals, as noted in its booklet “Cultivating Good Water.” The change has required Itaipu Binacional to open a dialogue and form partnerships with the “numerous players,” including the Guarani, in the 29 cities included in the Parana basin, or set of waterways connected to the dam’s 109-mile watershed.

“The Triple Frontier, the location of the Itaipu Dam, has a history that is inseparable from the indigenous presence, especially the Guarani people, which exerted great cultural influence in the region,” the booklet says. “Today, these communities are populations at social risks, and therefore Itaipu [Binacional] is trying to develop actions that will enable them to have better living conditions, with new opportunities for income generation, technical assistance and food production for their own consumption, rescuing their culture and self-esteem, and the encouragement of crafts, among others.”

Itaipu Binacional acknowledges that historically unequal relationships subordinated the Indians to the whites, a relationship driven by barter for small requests in the short-term. A new approach requires “establishing a decision-making process with the participation of indigenous people, where they are, in practice the main players,” which will require patience, the booklet says.

Indigenous people

Brazil’s indigenous population numbers half a million people, divided into 400 tribes, speaking 170 different languages, said Porto Borges.

“They are all very distinct,” he said, adding that three individual tribes live in Paraná.

The Guarani were hunters and farmers, but very little land remains for them in Paraná after the building of the dam and the rise of agribusiness, which has increased the demand and competition for land.

“In old times, they used to have wide, wide extensions of land, and now they are supposed to adapt to small land,” Porto Borges said. “Their holy men say the world is out of balance and that the white man commits a huge sin when the white man states that the lands have an owner. Because the only owner of the lands is God; God is called ‘nhanderu,’ ‘father of all.’  And Jesus Christ ‘nandejara,’ that means ‘our owner.’ There is a big difference between God and Jesus Christ.”

One of the great challenges for the indigenous people is self-sustainability; they are aware that their dependency on government to supply their basic needs harms their political struggle.

“There are some indigenous communities – like in Amazon – where you can find reserved areas that are very extensive, large tracts of land where they can still be autonomous,” Porto Borges said. “But for the rest of Brazil, south and southwest, and northeast, these areas are too small for the needs of the Guarani or other indigenous [people]. Only in the Amazon do some of them have enough land to exist.”

“In our region, for example, the indigenous people are supposed to adapt themselves to another logic of living [involving economics and different ways of organizing], and that is their great challenge,” Porto Borges said.

Without sufficient land, indigenous people become dependent on help from others. Moreover, the indigenous leadership is beginning to understand their continued native existence depends on the political projects of the state.

“A Brazilian project that praises and gives advantages to agribusiness will always be harmful to native people,” Porto Borges said. “A Brazilian project that gives advantage to Brazilian families and small farmers is likely to be more favorable to indigenous people, and that is why nowadays the indigenous people in Paraná are now joining the landless movement and La Via Campesina.”

Still, he said, cooperative indigenous involvement in national politics is greater in other South American countries, such as Peru and in Bolivia, where people elected an indigenous president, Evo Morales.

“In Brazil, there are conflicts among the Indians: Some are for joining the movement, and some are not,” Porto Borges said.

“There are some Indians in Brazil who have no contact with civilization as we know it, and there are others who are in full contact with civilization. Some of them have lots of land, some have no land at all, or a small or little bit of land. Because of this, conflicts of interest have arisen.”

The government doesn’t have written policies favoring one tribe over another, but there are cases in which it has gone further to address the needs of some over others. In Paraná, for instance, the Kaingang have received the most attention, Porto Borges explained.

“There are fewer policies for the Guaraní, and the Kaingang people are strung together with FUNAI, but the Guaraní are not and have less strength,” he said. “So, depending on the fight strategy, the results are different.”

The National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, is the government agency that establishes and carries out policies related to indigenous peoples.

A great national debate exists concerning indigenous matters, and Brazil’s modern-day progressive constitution defends the rights of indigenous people, Porto Borges said. For instance, mining is prohibited on land belonging to indigenous people, he said, adding that business interests also exert great pressure to modify the laws.

“Eleven percent of the national territory belongs to the indigenous [tribes], but in the constitution the ‘union’ can only explore them if the Indians permit it,” he said. “In government, laws are now being made so that the indigenous, mining and farming monoculture interests can all exist, with the Indians favored.”

In early September, the Guarani Indians demanded that Shell, a global oil company, stop using their ancestral lands for ethanol production.

Indians’ understanding that they have interests in common and their increased connectedness through knowing each other’s demands are recent phenomena, he noted.

Throughout history and up to 100 years ago, Porto Borges said, some or all of the indigenous people were enemies. The Kaingang came into contact with modern people in the 1930s, but the Guarani have been in contact with modern people for 500 years. (According to FUNAI, some 67 tribes in Brazil don’t have sustained contact with people outside their tribes. In January 2011, FUNAI released photos of an “un-contacted” tribe along the border with Peru.)

Despite language, cultural and religious differences, Porto Borges said, most indigenous tribes share or have lived a form of “primitive communism,” sharing housing, food and work.

“For example, the Guarani have a word to describe their economy: ‘Jopoi.’ It means ‘open hand,'” Porto Borges said. “That describes their economy. They are generous … Because they are not people who accumulate, they don’t close their hands.”

The Guarani people see the people of European descent, in both North and South America, as closed handed, said Andrus, explaining his encounter with the Guarani’s “open hand,” society.

“When they receive something they are already asking themselves how do I pass it on, so not to necessarily pass it on unchanged, but how can the pass it on enhanced to the right person who is right to receive it,” he said. “It’s a dynamic that is open so that if they receive money, or wisdom, or emotional understanding, or possessions of any kind, they are asking themselves how can that pass from the one hand that receives it and the other that gives it away.”

Applying an “open hand” to an economy – looking at how to enhance and pass on what is received – could be transformative in an economy, he added.

“For me there are other ways of life and organization than capitalism,” said Porto Borges. “There are other ways of culture than the white, Western Christian culture. And there are cultures that have rich responses to reality… and these cultures compound humanity … they are part of it.”

In September 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which contains 46 Articles aimed at protecting their rights, and thereby their existence.

“When any given human culture disappears, humanity becomes more fragile and poorer,” Porto Borges said. “They teach us that it is possible to resist and to maintain their integrity and culture even though they are fighting a globalized culture like ours.

“And besides all that, we owe a historical debt to these people. What we call the discovery of America was actually a true holocaust for these people.”

For more information on Pastoral Anglicana da Terra, or Earthly Anglican Care, contact Diocese of California missionary Michael Tedrick at

 — Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service. In May, she traveled to Brazil to report on issues indigenous peoples face.  Reposted from Episcopal News Service

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In Dominican Republic, gathering explores climate justice perspectives

Reposted from Episcopal Church News:
By Lynette Wilson, December 08, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] What started in 2004 as a 2,000-square-foot organic garden behind La Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen in Itabo, Cuba, grew to a community-wide project that empowered people and spread to vacant lots, yards and other dioceses.

“A small group of people, in small places, doing small things, can change the face of the earth,” is a popular saying in Cuba, said Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio of the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

Delgado, formerly the rector of Santa Maria Virgen, shared the story of her parish’s garden during a presentation here Dec. 7, the first day of the inaugural Episcopal Climate Justice Gathering.

More than 30 people — mostly Anglicans and Episcopalians and a few ecumenical seminarians — from Cuba, the United States, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic are meeting Dec. 7-10 at the Bishop Kellogg Center here for the gathering, convened by Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California, and Bishop Naudal Gomes, Diocese of Curitiba, Brazil.

Three important things began to happen as the garden grew, Delgado explained to ENS through a translator following the day’s formal discussion: the people discovered they could make money by cultivating and preserving food; people learned how to work as a team and discovered they had previously undiscovered talents and the potential to create a new life; and, most importantly, the people grew spiritually, found faith and discovered God in life, she said.

Delgado was one of four presenters, including the Rev. Christopher Morck, environmental program officer for the Latin America Council of Churches; the Rev. Pedro Ivo Batista of the Episcopal Anglican Province of Brazil; and the Rev. Diego Fernando Sabogal, of Colombia, who each spoke during the session aimed at framing the gathering’s conversation on climate justice.

The purpose of the meeting is to explore the intersection between poverty and climate change, and perhaps begin to change the conversation in the church from one of “climate change” to “climate justice.”

The gathering convened as world leaders met for a second week of climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, to attempt to hammer out the details of an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions that would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

At the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, negotiators failed to reach a binding deal to replace the protocol. Developing nations are pushing for a second phase of Kyoto, including deeper emissions cuts.

The Episcopal gathering’s presence “signifies the desire to envision together what justice means in the face of climate-induced suffering and continued environmental destruction,” Morck said during his presentation, which focused on the general themes of the climate justice movement.

Climate justice needs to be considered in context of broader questions, he said, including how people relate to each other and the earth and what Christian witness and practice mean in an “unprecedented crisis caused by specific human groups, ideologies and actions.”

“The intimate connection between wealth and economic growth to poverty and environmental crisis is both our past and our present, and many of the ‘solutions’ to the climate crisis threaten to repeat once more the way the overdeveloped have impoverished others as their enslaved labor pool, their amoral superstore of raw materials, their waste dump, their theater of war,” said Morck.

Early on in the gathering, particular themes began to emerge, including the consensus that now is the time for the church to reclaim and fortify its prophetic voice.

Solidarity is the thing that makes the prophetic voice strong, said Andrus during the discussion.

“In our [church] language, we think of the prophetic voice as one,” he said. “People need to speak in solidarity with one another.”

Andrus used the example of abolishing apartheid in South Africa. It wasn’t until South Africa’s problem became the world’s problem, he said, that the country was able to rid itself of its racial-social ideology of separation.

During his talk about social movements and climate change, Batista, who has for more than 20 years been involved in social justice movements, talked about the threat of disappearance now affecting island nations and other vulnerable populations.

“People who live on the river banks, coasts, mountains are already being affected by climate change and all governments of the world know that this is happening,” said Batista, as translated from Portuguese. “There has never been so much talk about climate change as there has been in the last 20 years … Why are they speaking so much about it and still some haven’t signed on to Kyoto? … Not because of lack of technology or science or spiritual contentions, it’s because of a lack of political will.”

In addition to the church finding its prophetic voice once again, other themes that began to emerge from the gathering included the need to translate theology into action, developing a catechism of redemption based on peoples’ relationship to nature, engaging children and youth and creating community awareness.

In regard to the latter, Delgado said, Santa Maria Virgen’s garden said it all.

“Once they started doing the work, we didn’t have to tell anybody — people caught on to what was happening, the university came, the media came, the minister of agriculture came because it was something that was happening and people could see it,” she said.

— Lynette Wilson is an ENS staff writer.



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Budapest Call for Climate Justice

An interesting statement coming out of the WCC Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology consultation…

Reposted from the Conference of European Churches Website:

Press release no. 10/49e

15.11.10 11:52

Call for Climate Justice
Addressing Poverty, Wealth and Ecology

A consultation on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology in Europe organised by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in cooperation with churches in Hungary ended on Friday 12 November by adopting a final statement, Budapest Call for Climate Justice.

The document underlines that the methods of wealth creation and the pursuit of unlimited wealth in rich industrialised countries of Europe often impoverish communities and harm creation as a whole. Challenges of injustice and climate change are interlinked. Social and climate justice belong together. The document indicates that: “Climate justice and therefore both social and ecological values should be a central goal of policy-making. In industrialised countries economic growth should no longer be seen as an aim in itself.”

The statement calls for “The redistribution of wealth and sharing of technology between rich countries and poor countries affected by climate change…” as crucial elements of climate justice. This has to go along with “additional support for climate change mitigation and adaptation.” The EU should stick to its ambitions with regard to greenhouse gas emission limitations independent of policies of other large economies and put additional efforts for tackling poverty and social exclusion also among marginalised migrant communities.

In addressing poverty, wealth and ecology, the statement underlines that: “we should build on the Church’s mission in society and in harmony with creation.” Churches in their different contexts have common but differentiated responsibilities. They need global ecumenical dialogue in order to define these responsibilities and to strengthen each other in living it out.

The document calls for strengthening of the churches’ work on climate justice and closer cooperation and coordination of this work in the World Council of Churches and Regional Ecumenical Organisations. Direct links between churches from different continents and regional ecumenical organisations have to be strengthened and more structured, concludes the document.

Following the outcomes of the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches’ (WCRC), participants in the consultation call for a joint preparation of a global ecumenical conference to propose framework and criteria for a new international financial and economic architecture that is based on the principles of economic, social and climate justice.

They invite the World Council of Churches to put climate justice and poverty eradication as well as the relationship between the two as a priority on the agenda of its 10th General Assembly in South Korea in 2013.

Complete texts of the Final Statement and the Youth Statement.


For more information contact:
Rev. Dr Peter Pavlovic
Church and Society Commission of CEC
Office: +32 2 230 68 33
Mobile: + 32 498 08 18 01

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