The Churches' Contribution to a Sustainable Europe

A document produced by the 5th ECEN Assembly in Basel. German version can be downloaded here.

“Believing in the love of the Creator God, we give thanks for the gift of creation and the great value and beauty of nature. However, we are appalled to see natural resources being exploited neither with regard for their intrinsic value nor consideration of their limits, nor concern for the well-being of future generations. Together we want to help create sustainable living conditions for the whole of creation. It is our re-sponsibility before God to put into effect common criteria for distinguishing between what human beings are capable of doing scientifically and technologically and what, in terms of ethics, they should not be doing.” (Charta Oecumenica, Charter of the Churches of Europe)

The Assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network, enlarged by a considerable number of Roman Catholic participants, addresses this call to the member churches of the Conference of European Churches and of the Council of Catholic Bishop’s Conferences in Europe and through them the member states of the EU, other governments in Europe and other relevant bodies. Following the recommendations of the Second Ecumenical Assembly in Graz in 1997, we are committed to continuing the concerns for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. It is hoped that these concerns will be taken up in the European Ecu-menical Assembly in Sibiu 2007. We thus wish to make a further contribution on reflecting and acting for a more sustainable Europe.

1.“Do not be afraid”: Faith, Love and Hope

We are concerned that the ecological and social situation is deteriorating. Despite all scientific and political declarations and warnings, too little is being done and often too late about many of the critical problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, air, water and soil deterioration. As Christians we believe that all our environmental debates and activity should be rooted in our faith that God is love. It was out of love that God created the universe and human beings within it as part of a cosmic covenant with the whole creation. It is out of love that God sustains creation. It is God’s love that gives us hope for the future and strength to change behaviour, even when we fear the results of human sin which lead to environmental damage or disaster.

Our relationship with God is a relationship with a communion of persons. God the Father, the Creator who created the world, through the prophets and the law gave us the commandment to love our neighbour as our-selves. God the Son, the Redeemer, through whose kenotic (self-emptying) incarnation, humanity and the rest of creation are given new life, displayed that love in a sacrificial form on the Cross and in the Resurrec-tion. God the Holy Spirit sustains the church and creation alike, calling us to display an empathy and solidar-ity with the needs of others and to avoid that selfish arrogation of the fruits of creation, which are so neces-sary for all human life.

The Christian tradition is rich in its description of the human role and responsibility in relation to creation. We are called creatures, stewards, servants, prophets, kings, co-workers. We recognise the damage done by some notions of human dominion and domination in the past. We acknowledge God has given all human beings, created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:28), a crucial role and responsibility as priests of creation and partners of God in it. We believe that, through the activity of work, all human beings can poten-tially experience their role as priests of creation and partners of God in it. In the process of handling natural resources and turning them into human goods and services, we are taking of God’s gifts in creation and ac-cepting our responsibility for their transformation. In doing this, we are offering back to God those things we have received by developing their potential and variety. This fully locates us within the created order and confronts us with strategic and practical choices. Making such choices is one expression of our God-given human freedom. Our calling to tend and transform the natural world and built environment, offering it in thanksgiving to God, is modelled on the Eucharist when the Christian community offers the gifts of bread and wine, transformed through human effort from grape and grain.

It is in the light of this promise and calling that we can continue to live our assigned role and responsibility, even in the face of ecological crises and catastrophes, in a spirit of hope. Confident in God’s sustaining love, we can acknowledge and repent the damage inflicted on creation by human kind, especially by wealthier countries, and be inspired to find new remedies and act urgently on them.

2.The sustainability we seek

We seek to be part of a new kind of sustainable community (including human beings in all parts of the world and including also the rest of creation). We face new economic, environmental, social and cultural chal-lenges which demand a commitment to sustainability and justice in all parts of the world. Communities are sustainable and just if

  • they include a longer-term vision of the needs of future as well as present generations

  • they arrange for the replacement of lost non-renewables with renewable resources

  • they respect the integrity of creation, including species other than human beings, and its “carrying capacity”

  • they are founded on equitable relationships within themselves and with other communities outside them

  • they promote peace by preventing or solving conflicts within and among themselves in non-violent ways

  • they are characterised by solidarity within and beyond themselves

  • they achieve the right balance between “cultivating and conserving” (Gen 2:15)

  • they retain the ability to respond to new challenges appropriately.

We are called by God to participate in the on-going task of creation and challenged by Jesus not to bury our talents in the ground (Mt. 25:14-28). In a society increasingly based on knowledge and services, everyone needs to have and take their opportunities to contribute to this.

We seek a new paradigm, based on a rediscovery of early Christian insights. This paradigm affirms the theo-logical value of the economy as part of God’s “oikonomia” (the ongoing management of God’s created household) and not separate from it. To equate this “oikonomia” totally with the economy is unsatisfactory unless we acknowledge that the economy is part of the wider ecological system. This system sets its own limits to the quantitative growth of the economy.

There are many important questions to be asked about what is being produced, what and how it is consumed and what natural and other resources are being affected in the process. As we ask these questions, we be-lieve the following principles about sustainability are important:

  • External costs need to be included in the price of goods and services. Fair prices are a condition for a sustainable economy.

  • The limits of the planet’s capacity for waste absorption have to be recognized and respected.

  • Environmental damage must be compensated financially by those responsible for it according to the polluter pays principle (PPP). This principle should be enforced where appropriate. In some in-stances, responsibility belongs to society as a whole. In such instances environmental taxes repre-sent an appropriate means of addressing the problem.

  • Economic, social and political decision-making should not allow short-term self-interest to under-mine longer-term human wellbeing, common interest and common good.

  • Appropriate social welfare policies and provision should be essential elements in a socially sustainable society.

  • Information and participation on the basis of appropriate subsidiarity is necessary in order to raise the level of environmental responsibility.

  • International, multilateral cooperation, based on longer-term shared interests, is essential for solving environmental challenges.

  • Christians who are active in the world of business and higher education should feel a special responsibility to promote forms of innovation and production which contribute to sustainability.

  • The business and research community across Europe, including networking organisations and unions, need to develop their commitment to a sustainable economy, continuously innovating in the field of new products and processes, in management techniques and in the transfer of environmentally progressive technologies to the developing world.

  • The churches need to ensure that their own investment and pension policies respect the criteria of sustainability.

  • Fragile and finite resources should not be consumed by arms races and military conflicts.

However, there are values and processes which cannot be understood or managed using the terminology and methods of the economy alone. Regulatory controls are needed, for example, in order to safeguard and preserve landscapes and areas of natural significance. These too are part of God's "oikonomia". We recognise the depth and reach of environmentally focused NGOs and volunteers and the contribution of Christians to this crucial work. Despite this, we recognise that irreparable damage has been and is done to certain ecosys-tems. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment study and its integrative approach to social and ecosystems have made a crucial contribution to our appreciation of this.

We do not share those dualistic beliefs that separate spirituality from created matter and see our involvement in the economy and the environment as part of a divine vocation to cooperate with God in the transformation of the world. We understand work, in the broadest sense, paid or unpaid, to be the way by which we participate in this vocation. It is through the production of goods and provision of services that individuals participate in the ongoing work of God in creation.

Production and consumption are both part of human wellbeing and, therefore, can be enjoyed as a blessing from God. However, one of the critical problems in European society is the manipulation of consumption for individual greed and self-interest in ways that threaten the greater common good and, in particular, a just relationship within Europe and between Europe and some regions of the world. Although definitions of enough and human need are culturally conditioned, it is clear that there are and should be limits to our levels of consumption, determined both by ecological factors and social justice.

3. Challenges to churches and politicians in Europe

We understand Europe to include those regions and countries, communities and organisations that are part of the broader geographic area of Europe, not just the present member countries of the EU. The churches are a significant part of society in all these countries alongside other faiths, in NGOs and other organisations in all sectors. We recognise that Christians have much to learn as well as to offer in the construction of a new vision for a sustainable Europe and its effect on other parts of the world.

  • Churches should give a high priority to disseminating and underlining the importance of sustainability, even where other issues such as secularisation or financial problems appear more urgent.

  • For Christians, witness is always personal and communal at the same time. Christians should, there-fore, ensure that their personal and communal lives include sustainability as part of their Christian values. Some European churches have already accepted this challenge, assessing their buildings and activities on the basis of their environmental impact. More churches should take up this challenge.

  • Churches could give greater emphasis to early Christian insights and practices, making more of the liturgical seasons of fasting and feasting and relating abstinence from meat, fish and dairy products to the contemporary ecological agenda.

  • Christians should recommend that prices for agricultural products include all external ecological and social costs.

  • Christians could encourage governments to actively explore and urgently apply the most effective environmental fiscal policies as a practical and economic way of conserving energy, limiting environmental degradation and increasing renewable resources.

  • Churches in Europe could maintain their commitment to developing countries as in environmental theological education and development cooperation including environmental projects. Many Christians are already involved in fair trade activities and coalitions and this should be encouraged and intensified.

  • Christian witness must be more visible at the personal, congregational and political levels and involved in debates, dialogues, partnerships and initiatives on sustainability with appropriate organisations.

  • The churches could include sustainability issues in their education and training programmes for clergy and lay people.

  • The churches should improve their links to NGOs and other appropriate organisations.

  • Christian leaders could show sustained leadership on these issues.

  • Churches could take every opportunity to promote and support alternative lifestyle choices.

Churches in Europe appreciate the EU’s significant achievements in creating important new legal frameworks, as for example the protection of bird life, flora and fauna in the recent Water Framework Directive for river basins and in playing a major role in relation to the protocols of Kyoto.

  • As the EU, its member states and other countries in Europe have played a significant role in developing policies for sustainability, they should implement them more effectively and consistently in relation to economic and social development. The current EU strategy for sustainable development needs to be strengthened and implemented, as well as the commitments undertaken in Johannesburg 2002.

  • Competition, as well as cooperation, which raise human aspiration and confidence can enable more inclusive social development and encourage technological innovation in the environmental field. This can, therefore, represent a stimulus for effective sustainability. There are also unfair forms of competition to be identified and avoided. As the EU seeks to respond to the Lisbon Agenda, compatibility with the strengthened EU strategy for sustainable development and the Kyoto targets should be ensured. Financial mechanisms should be put in place that would encourage the replacement of non-renewable energy sources and other resources by renewable ones that would encourage energy efficiency and would lead to rapid technological innovation.

  • The EU, its member states and other countries in Europe have the responsibility to fulfil their obligations towards developing countries (0.7% of GDP for Official Development Aid and sufficient means to finance the Millennium Development Goals) as an important condition of sustainability in developing countries.

  • The "right to adequate food" (Human Rights Declaration 1948 and Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966) is a fundamental human right closely linked to the right to life itself.

  • EU member states should work for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in order to limit production subsidies and end export subsidies, thus enabling farmers in developing countries to make fair use of their comparative advantage.

  • Agricultural policy in Europe should respect limitations of soil and water. Farmers in Europe should be encouraged by appropriate policies to reduce the use of non-renewable energy, CO2-emissions and damaging pesticides and other chemicals.

  • In the longer-term, the production and consumption of meat should be gradually reduced in order to enable the provision of adequate food for an increasing global population.

  • National, regional and local ecological footprints (which define the notional environmental space in respect of the per capita consumption of resources) need to be identified so that appropriate actions can be taken.

  • Innovative instruments should be prepared which assist developing countries in defending their natural heritage.

The issues are urgent. This is already now evident for the developing world. If however we delay effective action, the whole of humanity, including the developed world, may well be confronted with a dramatic decline in the earth's ability to sustain us.

4. Specific areas of concern

Seven working groups produced the following reflections and recommendations which were not discussed in the plenary of the Assembly:

4.1 Creation Time

Out of a concern for their responsibility for God’s creation, the churches during the Second Ecumenical Assembly in Graz in 1997 committed themselves to the process of sustainability by fostering care for creation at all levels of church life.

Ever since then, Christians in many places around the world have been observing a "Creation Day" on September 1st and a "Creation Time" from September 1st to the second Sunday in October, which includes October 4th, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. It is a period when one can have a one-day event or a whole series of events about the care of creation. Out of their faith conviction, Christians have developed educational programs that convey a sense of hope and a future worth living and projects of sustainable lifestyles, like for example the "Justice Budgets", "The Three Pillar Model" that combines the Local Agenda 21 Proc-ess with the Conciliar Process for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, and – as a newly developed concept – the "Global Marshall Plan". Such programs and projects are carried out in cooperation with environmental and developmental organisations as well as with dedicated scientists and politicians. The Creation Time, as part of the church liturgical year, has proved to be a valuable opportunity to initiate such projects and programs.

In order to foster a worldwide acceptance of the process of sustainability in the churches, we consider it necessary that church leaders make more effort to introduce a Time of Creation into the church calendar.

4.2 Creation Theology

Christ and the Eucharist

First and foremost, we are creatures and we must acknowledge that we are fallen and the condition of eco-logical crisis reflects the sin of humanity and our failure to have reverence and respect for the Creator and the original goodness of the creation. In our creeds and liturgies, and especially liturgies of the Eucharist, we have many reminders that God is the Creator and that we are intimately part of creation along with all God’s creatures. The liturgy also reminds us that Christ, though he is the light of the world and redeemer of all that is, comes to the creation not only as Lord but servant of all. His priestly role is manifest in his service to the creation as well as of humanity. Christ, in his healing miracles and his priestly redemptive work, brings the whole of creation back to God and, in his resurrected body, the original ordering of the creation is restored and the effects of sin throughout creation are already being healed. He is, thus, the paradigm and pioneer of the present role of humanity in creation, which is to serve creation on behalf of the Creator and not to possess it, to join creation in its praise of the Creator alongside the trees that clap their hands and the hills which already declare the glory of God, and to offer the fruits of creation and of human work in the bread and wine, to be caught up in the feast of life which is the Eucharist. It is only through his redemptive work as Creator who becomes creature, who overcomes sin and disorder through the way of the cross and the resurrection, that we know now what our role is as creatures who are privileged and burdened with great responsibility, above all other creatures, for the ecology of creation.

The language of gift, mobilised in the memorandum, can only be understood in relation to this central role of Christ in the renewal of creation, and in relation to the adoption of the created elements into the Eucharist. We do not know what is gift, except through Christ’s blessing and offering of bread and wine in the last sup-per to his disciples as the foretaste of the Kingdom, the new creation, which is his risen body and into which we are caught up in the gift of the Spirit who is invoked in the Eucharistic anaphora over the elements. We confess that our different communions have, however, neglected the ecological significance of the Eucharist itself, and the elements of bread and wine, and we call upon the Churches to recover this emphasis in their teaching and proclamation in the context of the liturgy, and even to address this in their formulation of litur-gical prayers. The shift in the nouvelle liturgie in the last thirty years has been from a transcendent to an im-manent dimension, which has primarily as its focus a new emphasis on human communion, peace and recon-ciliation within the liturgy. But this new orientation toward koinonia needs revision so that it more clearly includes and refers to communion, peace and reconciliation with all species in the ecology of creation and not just among persons.

Nature and Revelation

For some time in the history of the church, the traditional emphasis, at least until Aquinas, on nature as the book of God alongside the book of God’s word, has been lost or diminished. Theologians traditionally un-derstood nature as an analogy, or parable, for the hidden nature of God, the Holy Trinity. This is reflected in the spiritual traditions which developed around the desert and the wilderness, which are manifest in the life of Christ, as well as in the spirituality of the desert and creation spirituality, such as that of St Francis. This is also demonstrated in the role of all the five senses in certain approaches to spirituality, including the Ig-natian tradition. We propose that contemplation of creation, using all the five senses, of the visible nature of the things of God through encounters with the natural world, be given more priority in the Christian forma-tion of our young people. One way in which this is achieved is through camps and other kinds of visitation of forests and wild places. The crucial thing here is the engagement with the heart. Modern people have lost the heart connection to creation which was common among pre-urbanised peoples. They have consequently been desensitised to the suffering of imprisoned animals in the modern food industry and to the suffering of their fellow humans from poverty and injustice associated with certain kinds of modern economic develop-ment. Pastoral theology needs a new eco-psychological emphasis, which is inspired by the tenderness and compassion of God for creation, manifest in the love of Christ for the suffering of the poor and excluded, and in his compassion for all creation.

4.3 Education

Education and learning are at the heart of the endeavour to move towards ways of living that honour and to sustain the integrity of creation. In the context of - and in resistance to - an individualistic and consumer culture, profound changes of heart and mind are needed which lead people to respond to God’s gift of life, in all its variety and interdependence, with repentance, reverence, care and restraint.

The churches' contribution is to offer learning experiences that inspire this ecological conversion. These will ideally involve direct experience of nature. They will bring together scientific-based knowledge of environ-mental crises with an understanding that is rooted in our faith in the God of love revealed in Jesus Christ. Most effective is contact with models of simple, but deeply satisfying, lifestyles which demonstrate ecologi-cal sensitivity and sustainability and also integrate work and worship, creative ritual, prayer and action. Ex-amples of such models are monastic communities that are integrating sustainable farming practices, provi-sion of nutritious food, worship and hospitality in ways that encourage and motivate, turning tourists into pilgrims, and consumers into those who live by an ethic of sufficiency.

There needs to be a strengthening of the place given to eco-theology and eco-practices in all programmes of theological education at all levels and in the training of teachers of religious education.

There is also a role for the churches in working with national Education and Environment Ministries to implement the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) Strategy for Education for Sustain-able Development (ESD) that was adopted in March 2005 for the European region. This Strategy includes the non-formal education sector. The churches could make an important contribution in ensuring that the values base and spiritual dimensions of ESD are adequately included.

4.4 Climate change

Climate change is a core issue of sustainability. It is perhaps the most far reaching environmental issue now faced by humanity. We are changing the very physical systems of the planet. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unchecked, scientists now warn that a number of major planetary balances could tip. Tropical forests and Arctic tundra may switch from absorbing greenhouse gases to releasing them; various ice caps may melt relatively rapidly. In an extreme situation, the Gulf Stream might stop. Based on the Bible and our traditions, we are deeply concerned by the growing impact of human-induced climate change on our planet, its inhabitants and eco-systems, and by the need for justice for those people and environments most vulnerable to these impacts.

The emissions which cause climate change are tied into our economic and energy structures and consumer lifestyles. While we support the EU in its positive role in climate negotiations, climate impacts are so serious that more radical changes in energy policy and infrastructure are called for. Priority must be put on energy saving and on a low carbon economy which phases out our reliance on oil, coal and gas, and promotes new renewable technologies. Parallel mitigation measures such as reforestation can also play a key role. Fiscal measures and economic instruments are needed to create the financial climate for such changes. These in-clude phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and tax mechanisms to discourage fossil (and especially aviation) fuel and promotion of renewable energy technologies and energy saving, and taxes on car and air travelling distances.

As Christians from Europe, we acknowledge the injustice of our ecological debt towards the South. We in the North bear the main responsibility for causing global warming, yet the worst impacts are in the South, among communities with few or no means to adapt. The adverse impact of climate change is also compromising the Millennium Development Goals. We support the Contraction and Convergence mechanism to reduce Northern greenhouse gas emissions, while letting countries of the south increase theirs to the same agreed per capita common goal.

Central to addressing climate change is the priority of reducing our energy consumption, as individuals, churches and communities. We need to return to regarding energy as something precious and scarce. When electricity was available in Armenia only for one hour per day, people planned exactly what they would use it for and what they would not. Years afterwards, the instinct was always to switch off the light in an empty room.

Our churches are places where we can show a different path from the current EU emphasis on consumer choice and competition, showing that life in all its fullness can be less consumptive. We can show this in practical energy saving. We also have a vital role to educate and raise awareness amongst our churches using our unique worldwide networks, including in projects to promote good energy practices in the South. We saw at the Titus Church in Basel the use of solar energy panels to heat the church, the profits from which are used to finance solar energy schemes in rural medical clinics in Africa. By these and many other examples, all our churches should be encouraged to find schemes appropriate to their own local situation.

4.5 Motorised mobility/Air traffic

Our vision is for people to have a quality of community life which minimizes the need for unnecessary travel and therefore reduces the damage our current transport system inflicts on ourselves, the non-human world and the ecological processes, which sustain Europe and the whole world. The current transport system is also an indicator of an unequal Europe, as well as an unequal world. Therefore we propose to the churches:

  1. Churches must confront the true impact of motorised mobility on creation, including climate change. This impact is tremendous: 30% of the CO2 emissions are caused by motorised traffic; nearly 120.000 people in Europe lose their lives annually through motorised transport. Biodiversity is de-stroyed and lost.

  2. Churches in Europe should ask their respective national governments and the EU for implementation of the internalisation of the true costs of motorised transport including aviation, particularly asking for the introduction of a kerosene tax.

  3. In the field of their own responsibilities churches should encourage, develop and promote good practice and examples of a sustainable mobility culture by

  • avoiding motorised mobility: organizing a European-wide car fasting campaign before Easter 2006; promoting regional buying of goods, especially food, to avoid food miles; no domestic flights (less than 800 kilometres) within European countries.

  • shifting to environmental and socially-friendly transport means: community cars, car sharing, promoting bicycle use and public transport with appropriate incentives and instruments, etc.

  • optimizing the purchase and the use of means of transport: efficient driving (saves up to 30% fuel), using purchasing-power to demand “better” (downsized) cars from the car-industry; promotion of green fuel; coordination of road freight traffic.

  • developing a new spirituality and culture of living and moving with care within given time and space.

This should be initiated and supported by the offer of official frameworks and instruments and in-clude the planning of the church infrastructure, worship and events to minimize and reduce traffic.
  • Churches should support and organise the exchange of good practice and examples, including car clubs, walking to church/school, supporting local business.

  • 4.6 Eco-Management

    Ecological caution, economic vision and social consideration determine the challenge of Sustainable Development. The Church practice itself must answer to the appeal of Churches for a sustainable, environmentally friendly future. The challenge can be translated and implemented in church life through management systems.

    Management of the environment starts with a review of the situation, puts in place a continuous improve-ment process and provides inward and outward transparency. The process takes place as a closed management cycle. It helps with organisational development and with saving resources, most of all energy. The Churches appeal can thus be implemented step by step in reality and this calls for the credibility of a Church community or Church organisation.

    The Dossier "Environmental Management in European Churches" presented at this ECEN assembly lists the variety of practice in European churches. Some Churches work with the “Environmental Management Audit Scheme” (EMAS) from EU and recommend it as a helpful instrument. We renew the call to consider eco-management as an integral element in the ministry of churches. The potential is far from being met.

    Attention must be given to various motivational approaches to eco-management, for example, financial, socio-cultural, witness/model and ethical. The financial theme might be the best starting point for some persons while others may be more atune to issues of justice or enthused by the opportunity for personal com-mitment. Energy management and saving in church properties (up to 30 %) has been perhaps the most fruit-ful introduction to sustainability. Church bookkeepers and maintenance personnel can be effectively re-cruited in this area as key persons. A concrete, practical approach is essential. Another possible focus could be that of forest/land management, which has a heritage (typical monastic industry) and also the intrinsic value of sustainability in the long term of human generations. Agriculture could well be still another en-trance window to commitment.

    We propose that the preparations for the Third Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu 2007 be taken as an opportunity for a commitment to and application of churches in eco-management. Specifically we propose that a) the planning group be seriously dedicated to the many questions of mobility; b) particular attention be given to utilising proven resources (such as the German Kirchentag experiences); c) efforts be made to deal with material usage, trash and recycling; d) documentation be done on the effort of eco-management for a major event. Some of the individuals in this temporary work group expressed a willingness to assist with this project.

    4.7 Water

    Freshwater resources are decreasing in all regions of the world, also in Europe. Waste and pollution of water caused by unsustainable agriculture, mining, industry, military operations and war, tourism and other activi-ties, which do not take into account the fragility of the global water cycle and local water systems, are threat-ening water supply even in supposedly water-rich countries. Deforestation and the alarming impact of global warming with melting polar ice-caps and glaciers and changing rainfall patterns are further aggravating the situation.

    Churches, church-related development agencies and groups make water concerns more and more a priority of their work. ECEN is fostering co-operation among these actors in an emerging water network facilitated by the World Council of Churches and is building linkages with environmental organisations, NGOs and scientists relevant for this work through the ECEN water group.

    Questioning the trend to privatisation of water resources and services, promoted especially by Western European-based transnational corporations active in the water sector together with International Financial Institutions, the ECEN water group advocates public control and participation of people and communities in water management at all levels. Examples of river conservation in India, small sand-dams in Africa, as well as sustainable use of micro-hydro systems in communal or private ownership in Europe, show that there are many ways to care for the preservation and sustainable use of water resources. Supporting campaigns for water as a human right enshrined in international and national law and considering advocacy for the intro-duction of a voluntary water-cent to support community based projects, ECEN underlines the Biblical affir-mation that water is a gift of God and basic condition for all life that must be preserved and shared for the benefit of all creatures, and not just for human needs.

    ECEN, founded in 1998, is a network of environmental specialised ministries of Churches in all parts of Europe. It is closely linked to the Conference of European Churches. The document was received at the ECEN General Assembly in Basel on May 8, 2005 where 120 delegates from 30 countries in Europe, representing all main Christian confessions, participated.