The Council of Christian Churches in the Barents region held its annual meeting from 9 to10 October, raising concerns about clean energy, sustainable lifestyles and indigenous peoples.
The meeting was hosted by the Orthodox diocese of Oulu at Sajos, the seat of the Sami Parliament of Finland, in the village of Anar in Lapland.
Founded in 1996, the Council is formed by the dioceses of the Lutheran and Orthodox churches in the northernmost part of Europe (Nord-Hålogaland and Sor-Hålogaland dioceses of the Church of Norway, Luleå diocese of the Church of Sweden, Oulu diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Oulu diocese of the Orthodox Church of Finland, Murmansk and Archagelsk dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church). These are CEC Member Churches.
The annual meeting discussed current challenges faced by the indigenous peoples of the region, the Sami. The participants discussed truth and reconciliation processes in various countries as well as the need for apology for past injustices to the Sami, perpetrated by the established historical churches. The CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen spoke about the concerns of the indigenous peoples and the ecumenical movement. He also delivered a meditation on the theme of hope in the evening worship.
The Council issued a statement on climate change and urgent concerns of the Sami. The statement was particularly addressed to the ministers of environment of the Arctic Council meeting at the same time in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland.
The statement titled “It is time to act now!” underlines that “Sami and other indigenous peoples living in the Arctic already suffer from the effects of climate change. (…) it destroys the indigenous peoples’ possibility to continue with their traditional livelihoods and the living conditions for those who are already living in poverty in the global south, amid drought, floods and rising sea levels; in short, those who have contributed least to the problem.”
“For us it is a matter of spiritual effort to avoid the temptation of individual, corporate, national or continental selfishness,” read the statement.