Press Communique

A new energy age must begin now

"We ask the churches to commit themselves to promoting future energy scenarios in which the top priority is unambiguously and deliberately given to gaining energy from renewable sources. Although we are well aware that it will be quite impossible to transfer from one day to the next from one set of energy sources to the other, we believe that the present sources - as their effects so clearly demonstrate - belong to the past and must now prepare to give way to the new."

That is one of the key passages in the final report of the third assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) at Raubichi near Minsk in Byelorussia. The core of the meeting was the discussion on ecological energy scenarios for the future to which leading specialists from Eastern and Western Europe contributed with key note speeches.

The representatives of the churches and of church environmental organisations also appealed to the churches to ensure "that the follow-up conference Rio + 10 becomes the opportunity for a thorough re-think of the entire area of energy provision". All available energy and imagination should be concentrated on developing forms of energy and ways of handling them which do justice to the demands of sustainability, justice and the quality of life for all. "An agency of the United Nations devoted to Renewable Energies could greatly encourage at the international level their research and use, and thus remove many of the difficulties ahead", the report continues.

This discussion report, which emphasises further steps towards promoting renewable sources of energy and sheds light on the role of the churches, will now be sent to all the churches in Europe for further debate and consultation.

Belarus and the Aftermath of Chernobyl

The third assembly took place at the invitation of His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret from 26 to 31 May 2001, exactly 15 years and one month after the reactor disaster at Chernobyl in Byelorussia.

Belarus is the country most affected by the reactor catastrophe, as Metropolitan Philaret emphasised in his opening greeting.

"23 per cent of the Byelorussian territory with a population of 2 Million people were affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe. About 115000 people left their homes and moved to more secure regions. Even now, 15 years afterwards, there is not yet a holistic scientific understanding of the consequences of Chernobyl."

In the course of the assembly, the approximately 100 participants from 21 countries in Europe and the USA had the opportunity of learning at first hand about the consequences of the disaster. The programme included a visit to a rehabilitation centre as well as conversations with Byelorussian NGOs.

It became clear in the process that the Byelorussian government is incapable of coping on its own with the effects of Chernobyl on the population. For this reason, the numerous NGO initiatives of Belarussian and Western European partners are of great importance and need support.

Cycling Rally

To mark the assembly, a bicycle rally took place in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

Assembly writes on Climate Change to the EU and to the US Churches

In addition to the report to the European churches, the Network also sent a letter to the churches in the USA and a letter to the forthcoming EU summit meeting in Goteborg. "We are encouraged that the proposed EU Sustainable Development Strategy has acknowledged the need to integrate the economic, environmental and social dimensions"

The Network identified expressly with the open letter from the churches in the USA to President Bush, the Congress and the American people. "Climate change will affect the poorest in the world most of all. Therefore, we in Europe and you in North America, as major perpetrators of the problem, must acknowledge our common responsibility for this injustice."