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Environment and Development A Challenge to Our Lifestyles - Introduction

From June 19-25, 1995 fifty-three representatives of churches and church-related organizations from twenty-two European countries and consultants from Canada, the Philippines and Chile met in the Orthodox Academy of Crete near Chania for an ecumenical consultation on "Environment and development". The meeting was organized by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) in cooperation with the European Ecumenical Organization for Development (EECOD).

The point of departure for the exchange was the European Ecumenical Assembly "Peace with Justice" held in Basel in May 1989. Recently, CEC and CCEE called a second European Ecumenical Assembly under the theme: "Reconciliation A Gift of God and Source of New Life". It is scheduled to take place in Graz (Austria) from June 23-29, 1997. It is our hope that the reflections and conclusions contained in this report will be a useful contribution to the preparations which churches and church-related organisations and movements are making for this assembly.

The churches' awareness of the ecological crisis has grown considerably. At our consultation, we have been impressed by the wide range of responses which churches, recognising the urgency of the issue, are making. Many churches have done important studies and are engaged in stimulating Christians to respond positively to their responsibility towards creation.

The consultation grew out of a three-year process evaluating the churches' activities with regard to 'Sustainability and Development'. Two regional pre-conferences were held with representatives of churches in the countries of the European Union and Switzerland, and of Central- and Eastern Europe. The first of these focused on a report of the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society (EECCS) on sustainable development, which will also be transmitted to the Commission of the European Union.

At our consultation five working-groups dealt with the following themes:

  1. Theological considerations on sustainability
  2. The role of the churches
  3. Economic models and lifestyles
  4. Energy and climate change
  5. Tourism and environment.

The reports of these working-groups, together with the papers presented to the consultation, will be published in the proceedings of the consultation. Among concerns raised in keynote addresses and working group sessions, the theme of "lifestyle" emerged as one of the most crucial issues for the churches. For our common report we therefore decided to focus on the challenge to our lifestyle. The urgent need for reconciliation between industrialised and developing countries, between rich and poor within each country, and also between humankind and God's creation as a whole impels the churches to encourage Christians to rethink their very way of life. A sustainable society requires sustainable lifestyles.

We present this statement to the churches and all who share concern for the future of the planet in the hope that the challenges will be met with practical responses.

We concluded our consultation on June 24, the day when Christian churches commemorate the birth of John the Baptist, the prophet who announced the coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. His testimony of conversion and purification is of particular relevance today because, just as the European Ecumenical Assembly in Basel had already forcefully underlined, it is only through a fundamental change (metanoia) in our lives that any solution can be found.


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