By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
Unlike the Ten Commandments, which dictate what we should not do, the Beatitudes advise us about what we should do to be in the right relationship with each other. Jesus’ teachings help us to understand the benefit of being righteous by encouraging us to be agents of justice, mercy, and love—not only toward humanity, but to all of creation.
Mathew 5:6 teaches us that it is not enough for us to invite and profess righteousness; we must make actual investments through our actions to demonstrate our commitment to righteousness. In this scripture, the words hunger and thirst remind us of the urgency of addressing the physical weakness that accompanies lack food or water. These same words emphasize the urgency of craving for righteousness, which leads to sustainable spiritual life.
Climate justice is based on a biblical principle of righteousness. It is a movement led by communities that have been disproportionately affected by unjust environmental policies and practices, communities that have been left to hunger and thirst—not only for nutritious food and water, but also for equity and dignity. The environmental justice movement recognizes the humanity and creation of all people.
People from Africa and the African diaspora—In the United States and globally—live with the historic realities of colonialism and structural racism. These systems have directly magnified environmental injustices. And yet, Pan African communities are leading climate justice movements. Bread for the World embraces these and related justice efforts. One of our principles states that communities of color should be engaged in risk reduction planning, guided by their self-determination.
During the second quarter of this year, climate change is a focused educational advocacy issue for Bread for the World. To this end, we are partnering with coalitions like Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD). We affirm the 2021 EAD conference statement that says that systemic and historic issues have “manifested themselves in the disproportionate number of racial and ethnic minorities who became sick with and died of COVID-19, as well as the continued extrajudicial killing of Black men and women.”
The Bread for the World website offers you opportunities to learn more about environmental justice and to join our effort. You can sign Bread for the World’s Care for Creation pledge or download Bread for the World’s 2017 Hunger Report, Fragile Environments, Resilient Communities, in which we explain how climate change is an obstacle to ending hunger and extreme poverty.
You are also invited to meet with us virtually by registering for the EAD conference on climate justice. In addition, you can check out my related message at a recent United Nations working group session on Environmental Justice, the Climate Crisis and People of African Descent.
Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.