And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:20-21
Caring for Creation
Creation care is one of the core tenets of Christian witness. Indeed, scripture is clear. God gave humans dominion over the earth “to work it and take care of it ” (Genesis 2:15). And In 2010, the Christian commitment to creation care was codified in the Lausanne Cape Town Commitment, which stated:
All human beings are to be stewards of the rich abundance of God’s good creation. We are authorized in using it for the sake of human welfare and needs, …[and] also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us.
Creation is both a beautiful gift for our pleasure and joy and an essential part of the very sustainability of our planet. Yet sadly, the incredible biodiversity that is celebrated in Genesis 1 is no longer as visible as it once was.
At World Relief, we have first-hand experience working with communities facing the devastating effects of increased natural disasters due to climate change in places like Turkana, Haiti, Malawi and South Sudan. Even if we don’t feel the effects of climate change as dramatically as our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world, we share one planet and must acknowledge that our actions have a direct effect on their lives.
Earlier this week, the National Association of Evangelicals, in partnership with World Relief, released Loving the Least of These, a report on the effects of climate change and our responsibility as stewards of God’s creation to care for this earth and those who are suffering as a result of our rapidly changing climate.
World Relief’s Environmental Stewardship Policy
Alongside the process of writing this report, we at World Relief entered into a thoughtful process of research, discussion and analysis, which resulted in the creation of an organizational Environmental Stewardship Policy that World Relief will use to translate its commitments into action and impact.
In July of 2022, World Relief put in place a permanent, cross-departmental environmental working group to elevate environmental stewardship principles and drive awareness, innovation and action across all of our programs and operations around the world. This group will create and standardize an annual environmental stewardship plan with short-, medium- and long-term goals that will:
- set up a program to offset carbon/greenhouse emissions caused by air travel
- identify areas where World Relief can conserve energy and water and increase whenever possible
- increase the use of renewable energy within our office buildings with particular emphasis on heating, lighting, ventilation, office equipment and the use of vehicles
- reduce waste by eliminating single-use plastics and polystyrene within programs and offices over time
- promote responsible procurement of goods and equipment that are the most sustainable over their life cycle, including an emphasis on local procurement
- increase recycling and promote the responsible disposal of waste when needed
- develop a set of advocacy actions on policy issues related to the environment, particularly those policy matters that most affect the vulnerable.
- develop a curriculum that will increase awareness and provide ongoing training and education for staff, volunteers and World Relief church partners
- improve and formalize our efforts to assure that all programs engage the communities and partners we work with in preventing damage to the environment while promoting and practicing conservation and sustainable use of resources
Furthering Our Commitment
On August 6, 2022 World Relief also signed The Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations. This charter was developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in 2019 “to support and promote greater climate action within the humanitarian community at large.”
Since that time, some 300 humanitarian organizations have joined the charter. The charter requires that within a year of signing, an organization will “translate the commitments in the Charter into time-bound targets and action plans within a year.”
World Relief will be developing its targets and commitments in a first annual environmental work plan as discussed above and these will be published online on the Charter website.
In signing this charter World Relief joins with other humanitarian organizations including our fellow evangelical humanitarian partner agencies in the Integral Alliance to be able to transform our messaging and commitments into cooperation, action and impact.
Fulfilling Our Call
While matters of the environment have always been a concern and a part of our programs, going forward, environmental stewardship will be an increasingly fundamental part of how World Relief carries out our mission through both policy and action.
We live in an interconnected world — a reality that is continuously becoming more and more clear. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that when one of us suffers, all of us suffer.
None of us is exempt from Jesus’ call to love and serve those in need, and right now, one of the best ways we can do this is by understanding the impact of our choices and caring for creation. Together, we can be both the reactive and the proactive people Jesus calls us to be. We can be people who realize that what we do has ripple effects on the most vulnerable people in our world, and then choose to change how we live.