As I write this, world leaders are getting ready to gather in Egypt for COP27, the next round of international climate talks following the Glasgow Summit last November. Churches across the UK were part of widespread mobilisations at that time. They cried out for action to prevent catastrophic climate change and highlighted the plight of people in poverty around the world who are already facing the worst effects of climate change, which they did so little to cause.
Ambitious promises were made and there was a new energy amongst Christians – especially young people – to get involved in caring for creation and speaking up for its protection.
It feels like a very long time ago.
Today we are surrounded by a worsening cost of living scandal partly fuelled by the ongoing energy crisis. We have also seen increasing evidence this year – such as more extreme weather events like flooding, droughts and wildfires; continuing steep decline in biodiversity; and plastics taking over from fish in our oceans – of the ways in which our planet is being ravaged by human actions. Meanwhile, our own Government seems to be wavering on their environmental commitments, whether in terms of global leadership or domestic measures.
How can we have hope for a fairer, greener world in the face of such huge challenges?
Of course, our hope as Christians is ultimately the hope of the gospel: a hope not just for ourselves as individuals but for the ultimate restoration of all things (Colossians 1:20), for the liberation of creation from its “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21). But that doesn’t let us off the hook. Instead, it means we can say, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). This divine hope can encourage us to stay the course. To seek those glimpses of the kingdom where they can be found, whilst not becoming overwhelmed by the scale of the problems around us.
Such glimpses might include how churches and Christians are responding to one of the most seemingly intractable elements of tackling environmental damage: the role played by banks and global finance. The world’s biggest banks – including Barclays and HSBC – provided the equivalent of $790 million per day in finance to companies involved in the global plastics supply chain between 2015 and 2019. Our Don’t Bank on Plastics campaign calls on banks to limit their financing of the biggest plastic producers and polluters, engage with companies for change, and help end the plastic crisis.
Another sign of hope is the church leaders who are speaking out for measures to address the dire inequality in our society. Our Church Action for Tax Justice campaign is urging the Government to introduce wealth taxes on the very richest in society, to help tackle inequality and help raise revenue to tackle poverty and climate change. We’re seeing growing momentum in support of such ideas across the political spectrum.
We need a renewed movement for change that is rooted in hope, sharing stories to inspire and equip one another to take action for justice. That’s why ECCR is relaunching later this month as the JustMoney Movement, as part of a wider movement for change from across society.
Hopeful action starts with us. It’s how God tends to work – through ordinary people. The kind of people Jesus spent time with when he walked on earth. It begins with each of us, committing to live differently and to speak out for change. Playing our part in a wider movement and seeking glimpses of hope in a broken world. We’d love for you to join us.
If you’d like to find out more and get involved, come along to our JustMoney conference on 19 November. Book a free place.
Sarah Edwards is Executive Director of ECCR, which is relaunching later in November 2022 as the JustMoney Movement. Sarah has worked in advocacy and campaigning on social justice issues for more than two decades, most recently at Tearfund where she led their Global Advocacy Team, focusing on the need to tackle the environmental crisis and global poverty together. She has previously led campaigns and advocacy both in the UK and internationally on a range of human rights and global justice issues, including poor country debt relief, human trafficking, tax justice and access to medicines, and has carried out advocacy capacity building with partners across South Asia and Africa.