Thirty-five delegates from German, Asian and African churches and non-governmental organisations had been invited by the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) to spend a week examining the issues of climate and environmental protection. They had seen for themselves the impacts of deforestation, monocultures and expulsions on excursions in Sumatra and Papua.
The participants of the "Peace with the Earth" workshop in Sumatra, Indonesia are encouraging churches to assume greater political responsibility. In their closing statement, they appealed to churches throughout the world to stand alongside those threatened by land grabbing and the destruction of their livelihoods. "When our brothers and sisters are suffering because of the unjust economic situation, we are called upon to liberate and strengthen them," declared Bishop Stephen Ismail Munga from Tanzania in his closing sermon. "I have seen and listened to people who are being oppressed by their own government," Bishop Munga said. "Their cries are God's appeal to us to help them recover their property and their dignity."
The UEM will continue to support the churches in their political engagement, promised board member Jochen Motte. Thus, the UEM supports projects for victims, provides legal aid in disputes with companies and supports civil society at regional and international levels through training, educational and networking opportunities.
At a meeting with Indonesian church leaders, the participants delivered a critical message to the churches that in many countries have ties with controversial companies – for example with plantations and paper-mills in Indonesia. "Churches should not accept donations from companies that violate human rights," said Petrus Sugito, General Secretary of the GKJTU Church from the Indonesian island of Java. Together with the other delegates, Sugito called for the introduction of an appropriate code of conduct.
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