By Klaus Rieth
“Taking the environment seriously is part of our faith,” says Peter Pavlovic, CEC Study Secretary and secretary of the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN). Pavlovic is responsible for the eco-management of the Conference of European Churches, especially during the Novi Sad General Assembly. Together, CEC and ECEN developed a plan for the events in Serbia, and for Member Churches as a whole. “We do not want only talking,” notes Pavlovic “but also practical activities for the sake of an ecologically friendly life.”
He was surprised by how committed the local planning committee, hotels, organisations, and authorities were in terms of ecological issues. “It was easy to talk to them and we found open doors for our ideas.” There were some issues that did not work, including the hope to distribute only fair trade food and coffee. Water distribution, however, worked very well with big tanks all around the assembly site and each participant receiving a reusable water bottle.
Going paperless is another important issue for saving the environment. All participants were encouraged to avoid printing documents and invited to get information on their computer or mobile device.
CEC also invites each participant to pay a CO2 compensation of 20 euros, dedicated to church environmental projects. All those who enter the main hall of the Master Center, where all meetings and plenaries take place, they will see big baskets for recycling paper, plastic, and glass in every corner. Pavlovic is ultimately very satisfied about the progress in reducing environmental impact. “We have reached much more than we could expect.”
Youth at the assembly were especially keen for eco-management measures. Maria Nitu from the Orthodox Church of Finland and ECEN youth advisor says, “My vision is reflected in the themes of witness to climate change, justice to God’s creation, and hospitality for all creatures. I think that it is crucial that young people are part of this conversation, because they are the people who will be living on this planet in the future and I believe young people are the ones who will be driving these changes.”
When it comes to climate issues, this change is already underway. The big ocean clean-up and increased use of renewable energy, for example, point to new futures for the Earth—but it is not enough. People must be active and understand that this is the only planet we have. “Everybody, by their way of living,” Pavlovic concludes, “must be involved in taking care of creation!”