A book about the Bible and the climate revolutionized her way of thinking. Since then, Dr. Ruth Valerio has devoted her life to climate change. She says religious leaders must take the lead in creating change.
It was when Dr. Ruth Valerio, global advocacy manager at Tearfund,was studying at the university that she got her hands on a book about what the Bible says about the climate. That book became crucial to her life. It was the first time she understood that the Bible had something to say, “not only about people, but also about the earth, about the oceans, and about everything on earth.”
“It revolutionised the way I thought. The book made me realize how extremely important it is to cherish all of God’s creation, and that that ministry is also an important part of being a Christian.
Faith communities must be involved
This was 25 years ago. Poverty issues and issues of injustice were already close to Ruth Valerio’s heart, now the environmental issue was added. The more she learned about the climate, the more she understood what a huge problem it was that was being unveiled. But also where we can find the solutions.
“We will not succeed if we do not engage faith communities,” she says, referring to the global sustainability goals in Agenda 2030.
She points out that about 80% of the world’s population belongs to one of the five majority religious parties and that about a third of the world’s population claims to be Christian.
“Within these statistics, there is enormous potential to act and to get involved. Above all, I believe that religious leaders must take the lead. Not least because people look up to their religious leaders. Religious leaders are often engaged in the local community and enjoy respect as well as influence.
“Within Tearfund, we have seen that we need to work through faith communities and through community leaders to reach out to people. Religious leaders have the power and the ability to achieve far-reaching changes in influencing people’s attitudes and behaviours.
Her advice to SMC’s member organizations regarding climate work is to integrate a “climate mindset” into all work. According to Ruth Valerio, we are beyond the point where climate can be seen as a separate issue.
The climate problem affects all aspects of poverty. It is important both to understand the impact of climate change on people’s lives, and to ensure that the work we do together with people and for them, that it is climate resilient.
“We’ve been incredibly creative”
Ruth Valerio says that the pandemic has reminded us that we are part of a global community and that we can not only think about ourselves – because then we will never overcome the pandemic, but we must work together all over the world, just as with the climate problem.
“And I think the pandemic has taught us that when we really are facing an emergency, we can act. As we live now, the sacrifices we have made, if you had said – a year ago – that this is how we will live, I would have replied: Never! But because we were faced with an emergency, we changed,” says Ruth Valerio, adding:
“We have been incredibly creative and resilient. We have shown that we can act and we need to have the same determination on the climate issue.
But there are also things we should have learned from the pandemic, but not done; for example, how strongly intertwined we are with nature.
“The pandemic is not a natural disaster, like an earthquake, but the pandemic is a disaster that we have created ourselves. It is our fault because of how we have lived and how we have treated nature,” says Ruth Valerio, adding that the World Bank, for example, has been predicting global pandemics for many years.
The fact that our actions affect our surroundings is something we have not yet been able to take on. Ruth Valerio believes that this is because we have been so focused on fighting the pandemic itself.
“It’s also a very tough message, because it means we have to admit that we’ve done the wrong thing. So I don’t think that’s something our politicians are going to say. Just go to yourself – it’s very hard to admit that you’ve done wrong,” she says with a laugh.
Hear Ruth Valerio at SMC’s membership days
Don’t miss Dr. Ruth Valeri’s participation in SMC Network Inspirational Day on February 3 – part of SMC’s membership days 2021. Then she gives a lecture entitled “The relationship between Holistic Mission and SDGs in an Evangelical perspective. Is there a tension or a happy marriage?”