• An international group of young Methodists, dubbed Climate Justice for All, or CJ4A, is posting videos and other information on a website to help educate people about the threat of climate change.
• Among their goals is a request that the highest-emitting countries be the most ambitious in reducing carbon to net-zero.
• The United Nation’s 26th Climate Change Conference, scheduled for Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, is approaching.
Camila Ferreiro had an environmental awakening when she spent a year in Germany. Irene Abra became passionate about climate justice while participating in a scouting program. Mollie Pugmire considers social justice central to her faith.
They and other young Methodists are part of Climate Justice for All, or CJ4A, an international project to promote awareness in the run-up to the United Nations’ 26th Climate Change Conference, scheduled for Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Our aim is first of all to bring about long-term change in churches and society, through raising awareness and seeking, above all, to engage Methodist churches around the world to commit to justice and to make it an integral part of the lives of churches,” said Abra, a native of Italy with Ghanaian origins.
CJ4A was born out of a 2019 meeting of the concordat group of The United Methodist Church and the British Methodist Church. The concordat, a cooperative relationship between the two denominations, was affirmed in 1968, the same year as the founding of The United Methodist Church. Many Methodist churches in Europe are not governed by The United Methodist Church, but the denominations do cooperate with each other in various ways.
A question was posed at the 2019 meeting: “What if every member of the Methodist family woke up tomorrow, determined to do something about the climate crisis?” This inspired a youth-led climate justice campaign to bring awareness to the issue.
CJ4A has two specific suggestions for delegates to the U.N. conference: that the highest-emitting countries be the most ambitious in reducing carbon to net-zero, and that communities on the front lines of the climate crisis be equipped for the changes that they are experiencing.
“Jesus had a lot to say about care for creation,” said Bishop Sally Dyck, former bishop of the Chicago area and now ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
“You might not immediately think so, but when he said that we are to love our neighbors, we are challenged to truly care for people near and far, and I would add, now and in the future, in regards to our impact on the earth. … May these Methodist young people lead us all to be good neighbors. This is truly an ecumenical and inter-religious calling.”
To be heard, the young Methodists have set up a website to feature their work.
“CJ4A is a global, youth-led campaign which seeks to mobilize the Methodist family on issues of climate justice,” said Ferreiro, who was born and raised in Uruguay. “We are producing a short film each month, where we show the different climate change realities of different countries.”
The group is also releasing worship resources to help Methodists to better engage with climate issues as part of their faith, and building a social media and blogging presence.
“I think plenty of young people are concerned about the climate crisis, but what I’m concerned about is how we make sure that we don’t just think of this as a crisis of tomorrow, but a crisis of today,” said Pugmire, of the United Kingdom. “We know communities all over the world are feeling the impacts of our changing climate today, and so we must be concerned for them right now and work to alleviate their suffering.”
It’s appropriate that younger people lead on climate issues, since it is their future that is at stake, Abra of Italy said.
“This shows how being an activist is not a matter of age but passion, determination and willingness to make a difference,” she said.
Like everybody else, young Methodists cope with naysayers who deny that climate change is real.
“Sometimes it can be sad and outrageous that people don’t take it as seriously as they should, but I believe that it is always a matter of respect and being willing to learn from each other,” Ferreiro said.
Some folks believe in climate change but don’t understand the urgency of the situation, she added.
“They don’t understand that if we don’t act now, it is going to be too late,” Ferreiro said. “I always try to be patient and give my perspective on this topic, although sometimes it is not so easy.”
Several of the young activists plan to incorporate climate change issues in their career goals.
Jessica Bwali, a journalist in Zambia, plans to “reach out to the people and share accurate information on climate change.”
“The main reason I started getting involved in climate change issues was because I wanted to share … why my country was experiencing massive load shedding at the time, which was being caused by climate change as we entirely depend on hydropower as our main source of energy.”
Ferreiro is studying atmospheric sciences, but is also interested in early childhood education, environmental education and sustainability.
“I think that activism is something that I will continue doing. … Although this campaign will finish in December this year, I would love to continue on this path of climate justice, whether in the Methodist Church in Uruguay, in schools or in some future campaign.”
Methodists everywhere are being asked by CJ4A to listen to the climate change experiences from other countries, call for loftier goals at home and commit to transformational changes in their own lives and churches.
The coronavirus pandemic has kept CJ4A from making concrete plans to lobby personally at the Scotland conference in the fall. Failing that, a livestreamed event is being considered.
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