By Patrick Nicholson, Addis Ababa
“Ethiopia is experiencing increasing hardships due to climate change,” said Bishop Abrham Desta of Meki. “The Catholic Church has a moral obligation to be engaged in the issue.”
Currently 60 percent of Ethiopians live in drought affected areas, the temperature is rising 0.37 centigrade a decade, and the country lacks any adaptive capacity for the impact of climate change.
“Environment and humanity are inseparable”, said Bishop Desta. “The beauty of creation is under threat. We have a shared responsibility to act.”
Against this backdrop, the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat (ECS), the national Caritas member, is hosting ‘Ethiopian Catholic Church International Conference on Climate Change and the Integrity of Creation’ from 2-4 June.
The meeting brings together bishops, ECS national and diocesan staff, Caritas members from the UK and Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the USA, and Holland, sister Catholic development networks, religious orders, other Christian, interfaith and Muslim groups and government ministers.
“The aim of the conference is to increase our understanding of climate change, to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies, and to participate in national and international advocacy,” said Abba Hagos Hayish, Secretary General of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat.
As well as Bishop Desta of Meki, speakers included Sr Aine Hughes of Caritas Africa and Dr Abera Deressa, Minister of Agriculture and Rural development.
“Climate change is a matter of survival,” said Dr Deressa, however he added that it could be managed with the support of the international community and by working together at a national level. He stressed the role of developing countries at climate talks in Copenhagen last December.
The keynote address was by Sr Aine Hughes. She spoke about the teaching of the Catholic Church on climate justice. Sr Hughes said that climate justice was not about changing energy or economic policy, but about changing our hearts.
“Creation is a gift from God for the common good,” said Sr Hughes. “Today 80 percent of today’s population is living in poverty. This reflects the imbalance that we have created. Technology and economics cannot address this.
“We need a transformation of the heart. How can everyone enjoy the same quality of life. We have a finite amount or resources. We need to use them for the common good. To do this we need to regain our understanding of the sacred.”
Delegates heard technical information on the impact of climate change on food security, women and the role the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat can play in adaptation and mitigation.