Day #4: Copenhagen Delegation De-brief – Thursday, December 10
▲ The public witness at the US Embassy and a passer by. Photo by Pat Watkins.
by Pat Watkins, UMW Green Team Member
United Methodist Women’s involvement in climate change includes not only concern for the planet, God’s creation, but also concern for God’s people. It seems to me, as a Christian, we cannot separate the two. Historically United Methodist Women have been concerned about the health and wellbeing of women and children around the world. Based on our Scriptural and Wesleyan traditions, we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God; God does not love one group of people more or less than any other. Unfortunately in our world today, the ways in which people interact with one another does not always reflect those Biblical and Wesleyan values. To that end United Methodist Women have always campaigned for the rights of those groups of people who are oppressed and discriminated against for one reason or another.
Indigenous people in the US have been denied their God-given human rights for years. They have a different relationship with God’s creation, with the land, than the Europeans who settled in what is now the US. Indigenous folks understand the land as being a part of themselves, that humanity and the land both have rights. The possibility of the denial of those rights simply does not compute for them. European expansion into what is now the US re-defined the understanding of land as being that of a commodity whose sole purpose is to provide a source of money for the so-called land “owner.” Our history of land abuse is inherently related to the abuse of the rights of indigenous people.
Coal mining, oil drilling, uranium mining and radioactive waste storage, as well as toxic wastes of many sorts have all negatively impacted indigenous land that has been considered sacred and to which indigenous people have been in relationship for thousands of years. In other words their relationship with God’s creation has been severed by those who not only have no relationship to the land themselves, but instead see it as one more thing to exploit in the name of the economy.
So, on this International Day of Human Rights, we stood across the street from the US Embassy in Copenhagen in solidarity with indigenous people of the US. They are tired and angry and sad at the continued denial of their rights and the rights of their land. The fossil fuel industry seems to be dictating US energy policy; the recent US announcement of the okay for drilling for oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea ironically comes during Climate Change negotiations here in Copenhagen. My solidarity with God’s people and God’s creation results in my feeling tired and angry and sad as well.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ never ever gives priority to making money over the health and wellbeing of God’s people and God’s creation. The denial of these human rights and the rights of the land is completely antithetical to the morals, values and ethics espoused by Jesus and reflected in the life and ministry of John Wesley.
For these reasons, we the delegates of United Methodist Women could do no other than to stand with God’s children, the indigenous people of our country, our sisters and brothers, and to affirm their God-given rights as together we celebrated God’s creation and our relationship to it. Our work on behalf of God’s people and God’s creation is amazingly inter-related and we thank God for the call upon our lives to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by trying to bring the Kingdom of God to light in a world in which money rules the day.
Keep praying for God’s creation including God’s people, for all those officially involved in the negotiations in Copenhagen and for us that we might be able to appropriately proclaim God’s kingdom in this place.