Statement on the Global Wildfires
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
In recent weeks, our planet has witnessed extreme heatwaves and expansive wildfires throughout the world—from the rain forests of the Amazon and desert regions of Africa, normally snow-covered regions such as the Arctic and Alaska to far away countries from Spain to Siberia. Month after month, we have experienced record temperatures and unprecedented heatwaves, resulting in the destruction of millions of acres and the disruption of millions of people. And the intensity of these fires and storms is progressively increasing and intensifying, mandating critical and commensurate changes on our part.
Scientists warn us about the threat of such fires to the world’s ecosystems, which are becoming increasingly jeopardized and vulnerable. The impact of these fires could reverberate for generations, affecting soil, infrastructure, and human beings. Trees are vital for the soil, for our survival and for our soul. Trees are not simply valuable for their aesthetic beauty or commercial benefit, but essentially for our defense against climate change. Planting more trees is certainly commendable, but cutting down less trees is perhaps the most compelling response to global warming.
While this global wildfire crisis may not entirely or exclusively be a consequence or cause of climate change, the calamitous events that the world is now experiencing undoubtedly and undeniably sound the alarm about the urgent and dire repercussions of a rising level of carbon emissions. Therefore, if nothing else, such extreme phenomena compel us to consider the fundamental fragility of nature, the limited resources of our planet, and the unique sacredness of creation.
In our Encyclical that will appear on September 1st, we outline the diverse initiatives and activities pioneered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the last thirty years, while observing the fundamental principles and precepts proposed by the Orthodox Church over the last twenty centuries with regard to preserving God’s creation.
We pray for all those threatened or afflicted by the fires in all corners of our world. We call all faithful and all people of good will to consider carefully how we live, what we consume, and where our priorities lie, using the words of the Divine Liturgy: “Let us pay attention! Let us stand with awe!”
At the Phanar, Saturday August 24th, 2019
Statement on Water
By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
World Water Day, March 22, 2015
For fifteen years, we raised the awareness of religious and civil leaders, as well as of theologians and politicians, on the plight of our planet’s waters. While our concern and compassion for the natural environment commands protection and preservation of all aspects of God’s creation – land, water, air, and every living creature: human, animal and plant – we find it appropriate on the occasion of World Water Day to address the issue of the human right to water and sanitation.
As we have repeatedly affirmed, we endorse and are committed to the various declarations of human rights and other international agreements, that environmental resources are God’s gift to the world and cannot be either considered or exploited as private property. Moreover, their sustainability and stewardship demand a proportionate legal and canonical obligation, which cannot be undermined or ignored. Any abuse of our earth’s resources – and, above all, of water as the source and symbol of life and renewal – contradicts our sacred and social obligation to other people, and especially those who live in poverty and on the margins of society.
Water is a fundamental human right, which must be accessible to all people regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other aspect of discrimination. It is unfortunate that the global community overlooks these basic principles; and it is tragic that the global community perhaps chooses to disregard these basic truths. How can we – as rational and responsible people – allow over a quarter of the world’s population not to have access to safe drinking water, while almost half of the world’s population faces the indignity of inadequate sanitation? Development at the cost of even a single human life is never development but rather regression. Greed under the disguise of growth insults the image of God in our fellow human beings.
We passionately urge all people of good will to be conscious of their consumption and the needs of other people. Find ways of protecting water – rivers, lakes, and oceans – so that communities and industries no longer pollute without being held accountable. We implore large corporations and businesses to seek alternative means of production, which do not pollute or harm our planet’s resources for the sake of mere profit. And we pray for world peace, particularly in the Middle East, where water is employed as a weapon of persecution and destruction.