Oct. 28, 2022

African church-backed torch marches toward COP27

A church-backed symbolic torch—amplifying calls for climate justice—is moving across African countries, on its way to Sharm El-Sheik, the Egyptian city, hosting the 6-18 November UN CliChurch officials say the torch is a reminder of the Christian or religious vocation and the call for justice for all. Some have joined civil society leaders and government officials in welcoming the torch into their countries.

“The churches are ecumenically involved,” said Rev. Dr Ezekiel Gibson Lesmore, director of programmes at the All Africa Conference of Churches. “…the climate justice torch reminds us of this calling, of this vocation of, this expectation that God requires of us. It is a clarion call and a profound reminder of the just world that God intended for humanity.”

At this time, the human-instigated climate crisis has become a critical concern in Africa, according to church officials, despite the region contributing least to global greenhouse gas emissions.

The negative impacts of the crisis have emerged in form of extreme weather conditions, including persistent and severe droughts, floods, cyclones, and heat waves. The impacts are biting, ending livelihoods, as they leave behind serious food shortages, dried-up water sources, and extinguished pasture for livestock.

“Jesus Christ came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Life in abundance is life in quality and therefore if the ecosystem is raped, is destroyed, how we can achieve this quality of life -the life in abundance?” queried Lesmore.

The climate justice torch is an initiative of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance—a network of more than 1,000 organizations—including faith-based organizations—in 48 African countries. Recently, All Africa Conference of Churches and Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance signed to work together on environmental justice and ecosystem issues.

According to the alliance’s background document, the torch’s objectives are seeking to enhance the visibility of the people affected by climate change, engage youth climate activists and boost their influence in climate justice making decisions. It also seeks to build sufficient momentum within Africa for urgent action, among other objectives.

Philip Kilonzo, the head of policy, advocacy, and communication at Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, said the alliance considered faith communities an important constituency in the climate crisis.

“They are directly in touch with the most vulnerable people at the grassroots. When there is a crisis, the groups are the first respondents and resource mobilisers,” said Kilonzo. “It is important they are well informed about the climate crisis.”

He said as a symbol, the torch was made to shine a spotlight on climate injustices, and illuminate pathways for action.

In Ghana, it will stop at the All Africa Youth Congress in the capital, Accra. The congress, organised by the All Africa Conference of Churches from 31 October-5 November, will assemble over 2,000 young people aged between 15 and 35 years.

“When the torch arrives in Ghana, it will be received by the young people. This is very significant because the young people are saying; you can’t mortgage our future because of the greed of those who want to exploit the earth for wealth accumulation at the expense and detriment of other people,” said Lesmore.

The cleric said the reception of the torch by the young people at the congress demonstrated their commitment to climate justice matters.mate Change Conference (COP27).