Migration and Climate Change
Increasing numbers of people around the world are having to migrate when their land is being destroyed by drought, floods or bad agricultural policies.
Through the Society of Friends in Geneva and the UK, we are working with the UN Commission on refugees, the World Bank, Oxfam, Christian Aid and others on climate change-related migration issues.
Every major faith has a tradition that strangers should be cared for and honoured. Throughout history it has very often been religious organisations that have helped take care of people when they arrive in a new place, and who have provided them with the infrastructure to rebuild. Recognising this, in June 2014 ARC produced Stories of the Stranger, a collection of ancient and modern tales drawn from our partners from different faith traditions around the world, each illustrating the importance of caring for the unknown migrant.
Gross mismanagement of the environment, as well as the pressures of increased population, drives people either to migrate across borders, to other parts of their own countries, or to go higher up into the mountains or into the forests, to cut the trees or to farm. In many countries huge agro-businesses have bought out the lower land, and industrial scale chemical fertilisers have impoverished the soil to such an extent that after a few years it is incapable of continuing to give good yields.
This role of the faiths remains true in the case of migration management today. When massive disasters happen to communities and they have to rebuild, the first thing they rebuild is their homes. The second thing they rebuild is their places of worship; the third is their schools and everything else follows after.
For the faiths, material assistance is one part of helping people settle when their entire worlds have been destroyed; but the other part is to help them come to terms with their spiritual uncertainties and fears when such a thing happens.
If we go with an ethnic notion of homeland then we will resent new people coming into “our” land. If, however, we have an explicit theology which says that the whole world is God’s and that everybody has a spiritual responsibility to care for the stranger, then we will have built the groundwork that will enable faiths to be leaders not only in mitigating the effect of environmental migration, but also in offering compassionate help to those affected.
ARC’s programme, in partnership with The Quakers , has two strands. The first is to try and decrease climate change-related migration by mitigating the impact of desertification, soil erosion, and water issues which often lead to environmental migrants. The second is to prepare the major faiths to play a role in caring for the stranger.
Quakers on Climate Change
"An inequitable global agreement on climate change could lead to forced migrations and serious conflict. Any agreement must put the world’s poorest first; it falls to richer countries to bear the greater burden of responsibility for change. The goal is achievable but priorities will need to change: currently, the majority of states commit more resources to warfare than to tackling climate change," said Susan Seymour, Clerk, during the Britain Yearly Meeting, June 2009.
|"For the faiths, material assistance is one part of helping people settle when their entire worlds have been destroyed; but the other part is to help them come to terms with their spiritual uncertainties and fears when such a thing happens."
"Where we see crisis, we also see opportunity to remake society as a communion of people living sustainably as part of the natural world. By leading the simpler lives of a low-carbon society, we draw nearer to the abundance of peace, freedom and true community. Our faith in common humanity gives hope; love, rather than fear, can still lead us through this crisis.
The Quakers response to climate change and migration
The Equator initiative conference, 2009, on climate change-related migration
ARC's Faith in Food initiative