At the opening of an international workshop on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Longgena Ginting, climate consultant with the United Evangelical Mission (UEM), has criticised the race to grab the last available pieces of land. "Even binding agreements cannot prevent the sell-off," the Indonesian said. "All too often, financial interests and corruption have the upper hand." Only a few weeks ago, the Indonesian government granted a license for a palm oil plantation in the Tripa rainforest, home to 250 of the last orangutans. This violates a bilateral agreement within the UN Climate Change Programme REDD+, through which Norway paid the South-east Asian country a billion US-dollars in return for the commitment to protect the rain forest. Andrea Pfeiffer, who as director of Bread for the World's Indonesia programme is taking part in the workshop, spoke of a "David versus Goliath" conflict.
Until Sunday 13th May, 35 delegates from German, Asian and African churches have been invited by the UEM to Indonesia's North Sumatra to look closely at the issues of climate and environmental protection. Through excursions over several days, participants will gain an insight into the key local environmental issues, particularly the clearing of rain forests, the impact of mining and palm oil plantations and environmental problems in the cities.
"We are allowed to live from nature, but we must not consume and destroy it," urged Matias Panji Barus, Pastor of the Batak Karo Protestant Church (GBKP) in Indonesia, with pointed reference to the story of creation. The UEM, a communion of churches in three continents, has been campaigning for climate justice and environmental protection for many years: through lobbying at national and EU level as well as through exhibitions and projects, such as producing solar lamps for indigenous people in Papua. "We hope that this meeting acts as an encouragement to UEM member churches to continue campaigning for fair distribution," said UEM board member Jochen Motte.