By Sister Ana María Siufi
The Conference of the Parties, COP27, was held in November in Egypt to review and move ahead with agreements on climate change. I was part of the Mercy Global Action (MGA) delegation, along with Sister Angela Reed (MGA director), Cecilie Kern (from the MGA office), and Sister Magdalene Musau from Kenya. The experience was challenging and educational.
We were there as a part of civil society. Each day we experienced the multiculturalism and international nature of the event, shown in the thousands of faces, fashions, languages, messages, resistances, risks, resiliencies and calls for attention expressed by Indigenous groups, farmers, islanders, women, youth, organizations and citizens from everywhere, united by a desire to stop climate devastation.
There was practically no exchange between civil society and government delegations. The difficult negotiations on new agreements and commitments were held in a place inaccessible to us. The original closing date for the conference, November 18, had to be extended by a day and a half in order to reach consensus on a final document. One commitment made was to create a fund to alleviate the damages and losses that many regions are suffering.
There were comments regarding the Egyptian presidency of the conference, which, when it came to the subject of energy, was not helpful in the fight against climate change. The presence of more than a hundred heads of state and the fear of violence led to extreme daily security measures, and the Egyptian dictatorship blocked the massive protest actions typical at these kinds of summits.
The Indigenous of the Amazon, Siberia, the Arctic, Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines, etc. concurred in their demands: an end to the devastating extraction of natural resources in their territories and to the violence that is killing those who defend the Earth; active participation in projects to fight climate change and in the passing of related laws; less bureaucracy and fewer intermediaries, with more direct dialogue with governments; NGO action on the ground rather than from offices; and economic resources reaching those who live and defend life in their territories. Sadly, we heard that only 5% to 8% of the funds necessary to preserve nature are reaching Indigenous communities. The rest evaporates along the way into the hands of governments, NGOs, consultants and businesses.
In short, those who care for 80% of biodiversity called for decolonization of methods, respect for ancestral wisdom, and elimination of illegal economies such as the economy of deforestation, polluting, and land trafficking, as well as an end to threats of judicialization or armed groups.
Empowered women also made their voices heard in various panel discussions, using rituals and emotional words to express their suffering and struggles against being treated as invisible or being excluded because of their gender. They consider themselves daughters of Mother Earth and the moon, caretakers of seeds and food storage, managers of water. They continue to adapt their knowledge to deal with the consequences of climate change, transmitting that knowledge to their children and grandchildren. They demanded a place at the climate negotiating table, with respect for their cultural and gender identity, their methods for reforestation, and an insistence on reparations for the enormous damage that colonization has inflicted on their families by stealing their children, their lands and their culture.
Everything is interrelated: climate, water, and biological and cultural diversity. The alarm has been sounding for decades about the possibility of extinction due to a devastating economic system based on resource extraction, supported by powerful countries and large corporations attending the COP as its sponsors. It’s quite obvious that the advances against climate change are extremely poor and that these actors are interested in continuing their businesses as usual, maintaining a system that enriches them, despite humanity’s present and future being at risk while the planet is destroyed.
I believe that Mercy is calling us to become educated and to educate others about climate change and its systemic causes like resource extraction, while remaining attentive to the false solutions proposed by those provoking it. We must advocate wherever we can at the government level, provide relief for the victims of climate change, pray for those who are persecuted for defending their territory, and encourage citizens to be committed to defending the life that is being threatened.
Lord of all living things, soften the hearts that worship the god of money, grant us all love for life, for diversity, for justice and peace. May we hear the cry of those who are victims of climate change, learn that money cannot repair all damage or losses, and that we should be caretakers and not predators. May we receive the strength to fight, the light to act, and the mercy to heal. Amen.