Churches for a Sustainable Europe

Conference of European Churches – Office of Communications Press Release No. 05-21/e

More than 120 environmental experts from 30 European countries and from all Christian traditions took part in the 5th Assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) in Basel, Switzerland, from 5-8 May 2005. The Assembly, on the theme "The Churches' contribution to a sustainable Europe", was hosted by the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches of Basel-City and Basel-Countryside.

At the end of the Assembly participants approved a paper on the Assembly theme, which is actually a "call", addressed to the member churches of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and to the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE). "We are concerned that the ecological and social situation is deteriorating", ECEN states in the call: "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". The document goes on trying to clearly define the rather loose concept of "sustainability", and indicates a series of challenges to churches and politicians in Europe.

The churches "should give a high priority to disseminating and underlining the importance of sustainability" and ensure that "their personal and communal lives include sustainability as part of their Christian values". 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". As for the European Union (EU), ECEN affirms that "the current EU strategy for sustainable development needs to be strengthened and implemented, equally the commitments undertaken in Johannesburg 2002" as well as the obligations the EU and all European states have towards developing countries.

The city of Basel, venue of the ECEN Assembly, was also the site of the first European Ecumenical Assembly, convened by CEC and CCEE in 1989. A symbolic link between the two events was the candle lit during the opening service in the Titus Church, the same candle which was lit at the beginning of the 1989 Assembly. Also highly significant is the fact that the roof of the Titus Church hosts a photovoltaic installation which produces “clean” energy for the congregation and the city of Basel. The proceeds from this solar installation go to environmental projects in Africa.

The sermon at the opening service was delivered by a Catholic woman theologian, Eva Südbeck-Baur, and an encouraging feature of this Assembly was the large participation of Roman Catholic delegates. The General Secretaries of CEC, Dr Keith Clements, and of CCEE, Mgr Aldo Giordano, addressed the Assembly, presenting the plans for the Third European Ecumenical Assembly to be held in Sibiu, Romania, in 2007. ECEN agreed to support the Assembly process, and to be part of the foreseen "forum" on environmental issues in Sibiu.

The Assembly worked in plenaries as well as in groups on issues such as "Creation Time" (the need to promote a special time devoted to creation in the liturgical calendar of the churches), Creation theology, environmental education, climate change, motorised mobility and air traffic, eco-management of churches and church-related institutions, water.

Several public events were also held: a plenary on the Assembly theme with Margrete Auken, Denmark, member of the European Parliament, who underlined the need for the churches to promote a new identity of Europeans as "world citizens"; a panel discussion on ecological tax reform in the Aula of the Basel University; an evening on the theme "Does Europe live far beyond its means", in a crowded "Open Church St. Elizabeth", which was also the venue for an exhibition on the churches' contribution to a sustainable Europe; and a closing service in the Cathedral (M?nster) of Basel, where ECEN moderator, Dr. Lukas Vischer, encouraged Christians to fight for the integrity of creation and for more justice on earth.

For information:
Office of Communications
Conference of European Churches
Phone +41 22 791 64 85 or 791 63 25
Fax +41 22 791 62 27
e-mail Luca [dot] Negroatcec-kek [dot] org