LWFyouth Feature Story: Youth Participation from Theory to Practice

A young woman gets off the train, somewhere in a big city in India. She is welcomed by a large crowd

Be conscious about the future and act now: Africa Youth Message 2014

  Africa Youth Message 2014 « Be conscious about the future and act now » Biblical background: I

Nigeria: Climate change is not the problem of the poor alone…

Reflection to #fastfortheclimate on August 1, 2014 Fasting: Climate Change is a Global Threat From t

 

LWFyouth Feature Story: Youth Participation from Theory to Practice

August 6, 2014 in Church, Climate Justice, Eco Justice, Fast for the Climate, LWF, Pre-Assembly, Tools, Youth, Youth Ministry, Youth participation

A young woman gets off the train, somewhere in a big city in India. She is welcomed by a large crowd of people and media teams. People greet her and surround her. Some offer her flowers and sing cheerful songs. They want to know everything…everything about what happened during her long travel abroad. Everything on how she made her people and her church known in such a big conference, among politicians and faith leaders of the world.

How did this all happen?

When I met this young woman two months earlier in a small town in the state Orissa, she was helping to organise a youth conference on Ecological and Social Justice. More than 500 young people, Lutherans and youth from other faith background had arrived. She spoke to the workshop groups and moderated sessions in her very calm and humble, but determined way. Already this surprised me as I had not seen many young Indian women leading, yet.

The young people met and celebrated, worshiped and sang together and they seriously engaged in many discussions about Climate Change and how it can be handled. They negotiated a statement to deliver to their church leaders. They talked about action points and how to engage as a church for more climate justice.

Then super Typhoon Phaillin arrived.

And changed theory to practice in one day. Storm and rain, fear of losing the houses and belongings, anxiousness to not reach home safely suddenly mixed up the gathering.

The organisers decided to stop the youth conference and send everyone home quickly to be with their families. Climate Change had changed the Climate Change conference… One million people lost everything and became homeless because of Phaillin.

Only a month later this young woman travelled to Europe. She was invited to attend the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Warsaw. LWF had decided to send an entirely young delegation to negotiate, advocate and liaise with other faith organizations for together demanding more climate justice.

The visibility of LWF became enormous as the young delegation had decided to „Fast for the Climate“ during the Conference. They inspired other faith representatives to join into an „Interfaith call to Fast for Climate Justice“. They organized two press conferences at this UN Climate summit to speak about the effects of extreme water to people of their churches and their communities. The young women spoke about Super Thypoon Phaillin that had just hit her people so hard.

She got in contact with the official Indian delegation to speak with them about Climate politics, she contacted local media in India to report about the conference and LWFs engagement, and she met with LWF partners who supported this program.

Youth participation means to take decision making positions

All in all she made visible what effective youth participation means for the LWF:

“Youth participation is allowing young people to take leading and decision making positions and let their voices be heard. Young people show interest in programs and activities when their fellow youths are leading or if they took part in the planning and preparation of the program” (Respondent from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi)

Youth Participation means active sharing of ideas, resources, participation and time, so that participants feel that they belong to the community of the congregation and the church. A chance to feel that one is a valued member and a person who has a chance to do something at the community.” (Respondent from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland)

 

This is not always the case as we have heard from others in the „Mapping of Youth participation“ that the LWF Youth Desk carried out in 2013 and where more than 60% of the LWF member churches respondent to the questionnaire.

Some also described the challenges of being a young church member:

 “I feel that youth are always provided a “token” role in leadership and very seldom are actually valued for their opinions and abilities. Overall, with my experiences I have had within the ELCIC and the LWF, I find that people take me seriously for what I have to say as a delegate, and not a “youth delegate”. Making this distinction is important as I think that many youth get discouraged when the Church says “we value youth and your ideas” but then don’t give us full clout when we provide it. In my case, people take me seriously because I have had a large number of opportunities with the LWF, but I would say I am an exception, not the rule.”  (Respondent from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)

Where is the current engagement on Youth Participation grounded?

It comes from the youth delegates themselves, expressing their wishes and vision in the Pre-Assembly Youth Message from 2010. They expressed 3 priorities that were presented to the 11th Assembly in Stuttgart and that lead our work in DMD:

  1. Ecological Sustainability
  2. Gender Justice
  3. Visibility of the LWF and Role of the Youth

LWF has then committed to the goal that

“Young people have a place and a voice in all aspects of church and communion life, including decision making and leadership.”

The LWF Delegations to UN Climate conferences is one example on how to empower, enrich and benefit from the manifold gifts of our young communion members.

It shows that by seriously engaging young leaders of the LWF in topics that are challenging the entire LWF communion much progress can be taken.

It has provided them capacity building, capacity for advocacy and brought back to the LWF communion the energy and hope in contemporary challenges, spiritual reflection and powerful advocacy work for the poor and vulnerable.

How can the LWF increase those opportunities and improve its mandate to uplift „Youth participation as a crosscutting priority“ in all its programs and governing bodies as it is stated in the LWF strategy 2012-2017?

Clearly there are three dimensions of participation that need to be considered:

a)    Spiritual participation- Youth are taking part in the spiritual and theological development of the church.

b)    Social participation-  being in relations with others, other generations, other peers, being in and forming the communion

c)    Political participation- being part of decision making bodies and churches governance, having a voice to speak out and being listened to

Only with those three together can we reach better youth participation and making it an aspect of each and every aspect of churches life.

The LWF delegation to the UN Conference on Climate change did not stop there. They gave interviews to 40 different national and international media. They used the chance to meet the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Ms Christina Figueres, to hand over the „Interfaith Call to Fast for the Climate“ they had initiated and to discuss with her the engagement of faith communities for climate justice. This lead into LWFs delegation into the “International faith-based Liaison Committee to the UNFCCC Secretariat“ to represent the LWF and the young generation. The delegates continue their engagement locally and globally by forming the “LWF working group on Climate Justice“ in 2014.

The young woman from India, Ms Pranita Biswasi, 24 years old, has now gone further with her engagement. Her church and their partner church offered her a scholarship to study one more year environmental science in a German Univerity- following the goal to become an excellent leader for a church, that was hit hard by effects of extreme weather events and needs young Lutherans to speak out, be listened to and act.

What does LWFyouth do?

The LWF Youth Desk carries on the responsibility and accountably to more and more involve those young talents in the development and on-going reformation of our churches.

Please join us in supporting; trusting and giving space to those young leaders of our communion that are not only the leaders of tomorrow but already of today.

Download and start using the LWF Mapping of Youth Participation and Leadership.

 

by Caroline Richter, LWF Youth Secretary

Be conscious about the future and act now: Africa Youth Message 2014

August 1, 2014 in Africa, Climate Justice, Eco Justice, Tools, Youth, Youth Ministry, Youth participation

 

Africa Youth Message 2014

« Be conscious about the future and act now »

Biblical background: I Timothy 4:16/ Genesis 1: 26

 

Preamble

We are twelve young participants representing the youth of the Africa Regional Expression of the Lutheran World Federation, attending the LWF Youth Advocacy Training on Ecological and Economic Justice from 13 – 18 May 2014 in Meaglent Hotel, Adenta, Ghana in conjunction with the Africa Regional task Force on Poverty Alleviation. We have had the opportunity to meet and share our experiences on Ecological and Economic justice in our various contexts.  We have also had the chance for a joint session with the Poverty Alleviation Task Force in Africa.

 

The Prophetic voice of the church on economic and ecological justice

We young people believe that God has given us the responsibility to take care of His creation; therefore we have to take action on behalf of future generations. We believe that the Church should be committed to this core responsibility by raising her voice to protect the rights of all people and to safeguard the future for the unborn generations. Poverty in Africa has many reasons: So we should speak out about this from the political, social, economic, gender and generational perspective.

We all have the right to justice.  Speaking for the voiceless and the under-privileged we call on all authorities, stakeholders and concerned parties to significantly help in reducing the problems of poverty and injustices affecting our livelihood. We are all one people. We need peace and not misunderstanding among ourselves.

It is therefore our call on all Christian bodies and the government to ensure that we are able to fulfill our basic necessities adequately through fair sectorial distribution of resources in the best interest of all beneficiaries. Basic needs such as food, shelter and education are still fragile in the lives of many people. Therefore it is paramount to carefully address this and not to lose sight of these basic human rights.

It is our aim to live and serve the Lord in good health and spirit, therefore our welfare should be first on the preferences list to ensure sustainable growth and development for all.

We now live in a world that is experiencing extreme weather events that are increasing in frequency, and we need to speak and act now to save our environment and our people.
We call on all authorities and concerned parties to put effective policies and measures in place. Those measures have to ensure that people’s livelihoods are not damaged as a result of man-made pollution but rather protected from being harmed or endangered. Therefore there should be equity and transparency in setting policies to address climate change that is reason for increasing poverty.

 

We would like to bring the following points to your attention as heads of our churches in Africa.

Communication and youth participation

The LWF Africa Regional Expression is a very strong communion of churches with many different members and a lot of resources.
We observed that some members, especially from poor countries, lack the means for information sharing. We recognize that the internet is the easiest way to communicate on a global level. The majority of young people in Africa is already using social media but due to financial or technological reasons, access is still difficult. That limits our full participation within the communion.
Although youth are actively involved within the communion, we still lack the necessary experience and resources which our generation needs most. Therefore, we call for open help on facilitating that we are not only youth representatives as a quota but can be fully and helpfully involved at all levels of communion life.
According to that, we would like to ask the LWF communion office, as well as each member church, to make an effort to use common ways to communicate. This includes the use of the internet. However it also includes local media like newspaper, radio and mobile phone to share information and good practice. Meeting is the best way of communicating and information sharing, so it is important to use all opportunities to be able to meet regularly.

 

Action plan for the local, national and regional level

In the Bible, Christ taught us to be one as He is with the Father. The church is spiritual but also social: the development of our faith needs an equitable and just social environment.

Departing from this, we young people know that climate change is global and affects not only our church but also other churches and denominations.
It is with this in mind that we should develop concrete actions for more justice.
We know that this is not an easy task but with the commitment of all the young people and also our leaders, we can achieve concrete results.

We are proposing the following action plan for the coming years:

  • Ecumenical Bible studies on ecological and economic injustice;
  • Sunday devotions dedicated to these themes (we suggest the first week of June which is the International Environment Day);
  • During the synods of churches, dedicate one day to the environment and to social welfare (planting trees, a plastic-free day, fast and give the meal budget to people in need) etc.
  • Apply the national State regulations towards protection of nature and environment to our own church levels.
  • Apply laws and regulations of the State for social balance (due to unfair distribution of resources/corruption)
  • Accompany the above mentioned actions with advocacy towards the local, regional and national authorities.
  •  Set up an Youth Network in Africa to work on Climate Justice
  •  Develop further cooperation with the Program on Poverty Alleviation in Africa

Technological advancement is the hope of all, but there is a big question mark when it becomes detrimental to the livelihood.

We strongly believe that our call will be responded to and we pray in the name of God, for it is said that with God all things are possible.

 Submitted by the participants of the LWF Youth Advocacy Training in Accra:

Mr. Philip Owuor Adika,  Evangelical Lutheran Church In Kenya
Ms. Lily Kwao, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana
Mr. Sunday Archibong Mfonobong, The Lutheran Church Of Christ In Nigeria
Rev.Helvi Nasiwa Muremi, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia
Mr. Tuelo Immanuel Shadrack Villander, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana
Mr. A. Elijah Zina, Lutheran Church in Liberia
Ms. Mami Brunah Aro Sandaniaina, Malagasy Lutheran Church
Mr. Pascal Kama, The Lutheran Church Of Senegal
Ms. Rosemary Mushi, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania
Mr. Tsegahun Assefa Adugna, Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church Mekane Yesus
Mr. Kwasi Sapong, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana
Mr. Emmanuel Avor, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana

Nigeria: Climate change is not the problem of the poor alone…

July 31, 2014 in Africa, Climate Justice, Fast for the Climate, Tools, UN

Reflection to #fastfortheclimate on August 1, 2014

Fasting: Climate Change is a Global Threat

From the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN)

God the creator of all humankind is the helper of the poor, helpless, and God can vindicate the innocent. Fasting is an intentional self-denial or abstinence from food, drink of any substances; fast is done for a particular threat being faced by people. Fast is a form of prayer that draws people closer to God, through self-discipline, voluntary suffering of the body, spirit, and soul. People call upon God to intervene, they gather up themselves; cry out religiously to be rescued from crisis and calamity by God (Ps. 18:6; 34:6; 130:2). It is a means of drawing closer and devoting self to God. The poor and the vulnerable call out for justice by intimating humankind with urgent need for care of creation. Climate change is not the problem of the poor alone, therefore, requires a collective response. The effect of the threat cuts across therefore includes those who think they are secured.

Period for fast varies by days, weeks, and months and even for years. Fast could either be absolute or partial whereby a person stops eating, or drinking one particular food or drink. Absolute fast similar to that of (Esther 4:15-5:8), the intention and encouragement is to seek for God’s favorable move in response to one’s petition over calamity, conflict, and crisis. A person cleanses, clears up self for purposeful spiritual-thinking-connection. As we can see how, human beings can also involve in fasting to achieve economic and political objective, (hunger-food strike) a nonviolent complaining and drawing attention to a particular situation.

LWF Council Members from Madagascar join the #Fastfortheclimate

Absolute fast is practiced by both Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. This brings spiritual discipline for people involved in whether (absolute and partial fast). No matter what reasons people have for engaging in fast, their central point is seeking for God’s will, help, guidance, protection, and intervention in their current circumstances. In Nigeria, this is practiced by people, regardless of their diverse religious and cultural differences, when faced with conflict or calamity people engage in fast.

Biblical, self-affliction in order to seek for God’s favor, for example, Nineveh fasted and averted God’s immediate punishment (Jonah 3:5-10).

Through fasting a person comes closer to God and does not see worldly things as important again, rather turns absolutely to God.

When the rich, the powerful, and the poor fast together in solidarity, they share with one another common human suffering (the King of Nineveh and his subjects). There are certain things that self-meditation alone cannot change; as a result, people willingly give themselves to God’s guidance and to have intimate relationship with Him. Jesus says in (Mk. 9:28) some of these calamities and diseases cannot be healed without prayers. Self-suffering and prayers enable one to grow spiritually and in the end brings victory.

When people approach a major threat confronting them, they seek for God’s favor in removing such problem. Today, the world is faced with rapid climate change, human life is in danger.

This threat does not discriminate based on religious, racial, social, continental, or political affiliations.

People are being killed in thousands daily through conflict, diseases, natural disasters. But climate change is going to be more destructive than any of these factors in human history.

Nigerians have a powerful concept of causation of problems that affects people. Any wrong-doing to the nature, ancestors, and God, it brings God’s wrath and suffering upon the individual, family and community. Traditionally, there are mediating divinities, as Christians, people contact God directly through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, when they are faced with calamities such shortage of rainfall/draught, floods, locusts, disease outbreak, and other natural disasters. Communities engage in fasting in order to avert such as calamities or sins through confession, repentance practiced as a sign of obedience to the Most High (Neh. 9:1-2; Ezra 8:21-23; Joel 1:13-14). This practice can also happen with individuals facing specific problems in their lives. Suffering or spending time in solitude cleanses and purifies self and enables a person to intentionally name her/his problems before God.

Nigeria faces the threat of desert encroachment, food shortage, rivers and wells that have never dried up for many years past have dried up this year. As Christians, we fast consistently to face our current challenges. Therefore, as God’s people and on behalf of the entire creation, let all humankind make common cause of safeguarding and restoring love for nature, peace, justice, and freedom.

God always listens. Amen.

Rev. Sekenwa Moses Briska PhD

Bronnum Lutheran Seminary Mbamba, Yola

Nigeria

Norway: Fast for Climate Justice should lead to a fossil fuel fast

July 31, 2014 in Climate Justice, Ecumenism, Europe, Fast for the Climate, UN

A reflection to Fast for the Climate Justice on August 1

by Einar Tjelle, Norway

Fasting for Climate Justice -

Spirituality versus Advocacy?

Spiritual fasting versus advocacy fasting? Is it a contradiction? I don`t think so. On the contrary, a spiritual approach could initiate and empower an urgent ethical and political global journey towards climate justice.  Faith without works is dead, according to James ch. 2. Personally, I findprayer and spiritual fasting to be a source for a praxis-oriented commitment for climate justice.

Most of our fellow human beings belong to a faith-tradition. But it`s not obvious that faith and social attitudes and commitments are interlinked. Not in a Lutheran context either.  A possible pitfall for a church is to be only a spiritual or a ritualistic church. Or on the contrary, a church only engaged in activism and political engagement. Both are false representations of who and what we are as a church.  However, I think there is an empowering dynamic between these two. An important bridge has to be established between the spiritual fasting and the advocacy (political) fasting.  For me the prophet Isaiah provides a strong message in chapter 58, on what proper fast is all about:

Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?

2014: LWF Council members from Bangladesh join the #fastfortheclimate

Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord?

6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

The increase of climate change is a direct result of our fossil fuel driven economy, as well as egocentric consumerism.

The negative effects of climate changes are already felt around the world. In Norway and other rich countries as well. But most problems and even deaths are appearing in the most vulnerable societies, countries with a minimum of excessive emissions. This is what the prophet Isaiah named as yokes and bonds of wickedness. An this is what we today call Climate Injustice.

A fasting-praxis, such as not eating or not using fossil fuel for one day, does not make a big difference in and of itself. But it is a kind of bodily language, a symbolic language, with a potential to enable a redirection:

See more clearly. Listen more carefully to the voice of God. And the voices of the most vulnerable.

Maybe they represent the same voice. Take action.

In our Norwegian context, a Fast for Climate Justice, should lead to a fossil fuel fast in the years to come.

We urgently need radical mitigation, a green energy shift, necessary divestment and green investments in our huge national pension fund. This is the urgent political approach.  But also a journey towards a simpler life, and a fair distribution of wealth and resources.

Fasting is about  redirection and justice. On the first of August I will fast for climate justice.

Einar Tjelle

Deputy General Secretary, Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International relations

www.facebook.com/klimarettferdighet