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The nuclear threat is greater than ever

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Peace Park in Hiroshima where a flame will continue to burn until there are no more nuclear weapons in the world.(Photo: Unsplash)

“How is it you cannot interpret this fateful hour?” In Luke 12:56 Jesus gives a glimpse of his frustration with our difficulty seeing, and acting on, the obvious. Two thousand years later, his words make an apt teaser for the recent film “Don’t Look Up”.

At the start of the movie, a young astronomer (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a huge comet which is hurtling towards Planet Earth. She and her colleague (Leonardo DiCaprio) calculate that it will hit in about six months’ time, and they set off to alert humanity (starting, naturally, with the US president, an oddly Trumpesque character played by Meryl Streep) in the hope that the comet can be deflected and life on earth saved. No spoilers here: just watch the film.

The film is a brilliant satire on climate change. Faced with a planet-scale threat, will we take urgent action? Will we dither and cross our fingers? Will we go for full-blown denial? What are the vested interests seeking to influence us? What are our internal conflicts? What, as Christians, do we believe that the Bible and the Holy Spirit have to say about it?

In a sense, this film is too generous to us. The comet is not of our making and although, in the story, we have a good chance of deflecting it, we didn’t start it. Climate change is worse, in the sense that it is a problem of our own making. And we have had decades, not six months, to do something about it.

With noble and notable exceptions, the church’s reaction to climate change could hardly be called prophetic. We are finally, belatedly, throwing our (still considerable) weight behind efforts to address it, but we cannot claim to have led the way. There’s much still to do, and much doublespeak, but addressing the climate crisis is now a mainstream concern, including for Christians.

But what if climate change isn’t the only existential threat facing us? As a part of the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament I could not help feeling like the two astronomers in the film. There is a threat there which is not getting the seriousness, attention, and action which it deserves. Nobody wants a nuclear war, and most people would gladly be rid of the weapons, but our attention is elsewhere.

If climate change is ‘morally worse’ than a comet strike, then nuclear weapons are worse still. The use of fossil fuels was, at least at first, intended to do good and build a better, modern world. Nuclear weapons (like the “thief” in John 10:10) can only kill and destroy.

Jesus offers us “life in all its fulness”. Ninety-five per cent of the world’s countries seem to believe they can have that without possessing nuclear weapons. Those of us in the other five per cent should be looking up, not down: at a world where this threat has been permanently removed – before it’s too late.

The risk’s greater than ever, with the Doomsday Clock set at just 100 seconds to midnight experts judge that humanity has never been closer to catastrophe. We know what to do: will we do it?

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Christians urge PM to take radical action on climate change after IPCC report

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(Photo: Unsplash/Markus Spiske)

Christian groups are urging the Prime Minister to use the UK’s Presidency of COP26 this year to do more to address climate change and support communities already being impacted.

The call follows the release of the latest research from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned of “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity” to avert disaster.

The grim report says that the world is already living with the consequences of climate change, with heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires intensifying across the globe.

The panel says that over 40 per cent of the world’s population are now “highly vulnerable” to climate change and that many consequences cannot be reversed.

Responding to the report, Catholic aid agency CAFOD said it was imperative to keep “1.5 alive” as it called on governments to increase their commitments to net zero.

It is calling on rich countries to make good on their promises at COP26 and double the amount of funding for climate adaptation.

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, said that for some communities, it was too late to adapt.

“How many crystal-clear red alerts on the climate crisis do we need before we take the urgent and meaningful action?” he said.

“Keeping warming below 1.5 degrees is the only way to avoid the huge destruction that failing those entails, especially for those living on the breadline across the world.

“We are also sadly seeing communities in East Africa and small island states where that destruction has gone beyond the ability to adapt, and they now urgently need funds to compensate for the destruction caused by a climate crisis they did not create.”

He added that while some success was being seen in initiatives to restore mangroves, tropical forests and other coastal and land ecosystems, support for these projects needs to be “massively scaled up”.

“Money to fight the climate crisis cannot be a bargaining chip to be played fast and loose with, this is about the survival
of all of us and the planet we love,” he said.

“In the lead up to COP27, it is vital that Loss and Damage and Adaptation are top of the agenda – it’s now or never for planet Earth.”

Peter Kihara Kariuki, Bishop of Marsabit in Kenya, said the region was facing “severe” drought, forcing people to trek up to 17km for water and leaving many dependent on aid from the church, government or NGOs for basic necessities.

“We must raise our voices and call for ambitious action from world leaders to bring about climate justice by enacting the strongest measures to keep the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees or below, commit to binding agreements to cut global carbon emissions, and increase support to communities like mine in Marsabit to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis,” he said.

“Climate change is real for us in Marsabit. As churches, as communities, we must make sure that our voices are heard. We have a saying in Swahili: ‘Kuja pamoja ni mwanzo, kukuwa pamoja ni maendeleo; kufanya kazi pamoja ni mafanikio,’ which translates as ‘coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success’.”

Nushrat Chowdhury, Climate Justice Advisor at Christian Aid, is based in Bangladesh. She said the country was already on “the frontline of climate change” and that those in poverty, women and children were being impacted the most.

“This report is a wake-up call to the world that those on the front lines of this crisis need much greater support if they are going to cope with climate impacts they have not caused,” she said.

She said that more funding was needed to help the vulnerable adapt and to support communities living with permanent damage.

“As COP president throughout 2022 the UK government has a vital role in leading global efforts to tackle climate change,” she said.

“The main thing lacking from the outcome at COP26 was robust financial help for the world’s most vulnerable, despite repeated promises from rich nations that it would be provided.

“It is now vital that the UK Government spearhead efforts to mobilise much greater funding to help the climate vulnerable adapt and to set up a fund to deal with the permanent loss and damage which cannot be adapted to.

“Only then will they have a legacy as COP26 president to be proud of.”

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Several Coptic Monasteries Left to Crumble in Egypt

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03/01/2022 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Several Coptic monasteries in Egypt are facing renovation and reopening issues, including Saint Paul’s monastery near Egypt’s Red Sea. The 4th-century monastery suffered serious flood damage earlier this month, resulting in collapsed walls and access roads flooded and closed off. In January another Coptic Orthodox 5th-century monastery also experienced crumbling walls. The monastery of Anba Samuel has been closed since a terrorist attack in May 2017 for security and renovation, but now monks are struggling to find a concession with authorities to open the building again.

Saint Paul’s monastery was closed off from access roads for some time as a result of the flooding and is built around the cave that its namesake lived in. Both Saint Paul’s and the 5th-century monastery reportedly were left crumbling by the Egyptian authorities. Under Egypt’s non-Muslim worship laws, pre-existing churches and monasteries are allowed but require special permission for rebuilding, repairing, or refurbishment.

In the past several years, security and renovation have been the primary focus at Abna Samuel Monastery, where authorities allowed the renovations after terrorist incidents that resulted in the martyrdom of 35 Copts. However, monastery and local officials struggle now to agree on the reopening of the monastery to the public.

For interviews, please contact [email protected].

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