Christian Students Uniting the Church for Climate Action
The Climate Crisis
When it comes to climate change, the evidence is clear. The average global temperature increased by 0.85°C between 1880 and 2012. The average global sea level rose by 19 cm between 1901 and 2010 as oceans expanded due to warming and melting ice. As a result, one in six Australian species are at risk of extinction. Severe weather events such as droughts and heat waves make farming more difficult and intensify health risks. Increasing temperatures and ocean acidity are destroying coral reefs and rising sea levels threaten island nations. We are facing a global disaster and we need to act now.
Meet Raul & Gabby
My name is Raul and I am one of the lead organisers of the Christian Students Uniting (CSU) action against climate change. I am a member of CSU at the University of Sydney and attend Leichhardt Uniting Church where I help lead musical worship as a saxophone player. I feel personally compelled to fight climate justice because despite the need for rapid action, our leaders are complacent. As a nation and as a planet, we are not responding to our obligations. This is not because of a lack of solutions, rather, it is because of a lack of will.
I was struck by the words of Indigenous elder Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth when he explained that for many First Nation Peoples, we merely borrow the land from our children. We have no right to exploit natural resources unsustainably and have a responsibility to future generations. This is the mindset I support and would like to see echoed in the Uniting Church and the world around me.
My name is Gabby andI’m a student at the University of Sydney and Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where I am also Secretary of Christian Students Uniting on campus, and I attend Leichhardt Uniting Church. As a writer and composer, my discipleship, activism and creativity are inextricably linked. I am passionate about joining the movement for climate action because I care deeply about our environment, God’s intricate creation, and the people who are being impacted by its degradation. As a young person, I fear for a future of rising sea levels, extreme weather events and the loss of unique animal and plant life, all of which will ultimately impact our ability to live on this planet.
Why is Christian Students Uniting (CSU) joining the Global Climate Strike?
The mission of CSU is – Keeping Faith, Doing Justice & Building Community.
Faith is integral to why CSU is joining the Climate Strike. We are called to be stewards of the earth and are responsible for each and every natural gift and resource on earth. In practice, this means we must advocate for the sustainable use of the land, ensuring the flora and fauna around us prosper alongside our children.
Our pursuit of justice further leads us to action. The unfortunate truth is that those who will be worst affected by climate change will be those living in poverty. Wealthier countries are more able to adjust to climate change, whereas, those living in low-income communities struggle when severe weather events mean a year of bad harvest or inescapable destruction of homes due to flooding, which was the case in Kerala, India last year affecting 5.4 million people.
The Climate Strike is of course another way to call on the strength of our community. We have connected young Christians from universities and congregations across Sydney, stretching from Newcastle to the Blue Mountains. We come from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures yet unite as followers of Jesus, acting for the common good.
Why must the Church join this movement?
Christian Students Uniting (CSU) is calling on the whole of the Uniting Church to strike for climate action. In early July, the NSW/ACT Synod met and made some crucial decisions, including to support students who participate in Climate Action, at the urging of delegates from CSU.
It is important to note that the Uniting Church has a strong history of standing up for climate justice, and this Synod has previously decided to divest from supporting fossil fuels.
Taking a stand on climate change situates the Uniting Church within a long Christian tradition of striving for justice: a tradition the Uniting Church has long upheld, as we stand with marginalised refugees and work towards reconciliation with Australia’s First Peoples, as well as embracing LGBTQIA+ members of the church. Genesis tells us that God created the earth and all that lives on it – and so declared it “good”. As custodians of God’s creation, we must fight for its protection. Combine this environmental threat with its human cost, and we find ourselves called to “love our neighbour” in the face of climate change.
The Uniting Church is home to many Pacific Islander congregations, and of course to the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. Pacific and Torres Strait Islanders are already facing the consequences of climate change, as rising sea levels gradually flood the islands. Did you know that the Marshall Islands are expected to be underwater by 2030 according to The Climate Reality Project, making its 55,000 citizens climate refugees? Friends, the climate crisis is at hand. We must stand with our Pacific and Torres Strait Islanders brothers and sisters to take Climate Action as a Church.
And so, dear Uniting Church family – we call on you to stand with us and the millions of others around the world at the Sydney Climate Strike on September 20th. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.
Raul Sugunananthan & Gabby Cadenhead
Christian Students Uniting, USYD
Leichhardt Uniting Church