Thousands of fires are raging in Brazilian forests. Trees are burning, wildlife is dying, and indigenous people are being driven from the land they have inhabited for centuries. But groups of Christians across Brazil are rising up to demand justice.
Indigenous tribes in Brazil have been peacefully coexisting with nature for hundreds of years, but their way of life is under serious threat. Forests around them are being destroyed to make way for farming or gold mining. Fires are being started to clear space for livestock and agriculture, often spreading into their living areas.
A risk to all life
Laws aimed at protecting natural habitats and indigenous communities are not being enforced. The rights of some of the most vulnerable people are being violated. And, as authorities and societies stay silent, the problem is getting worse.
For Josias, the 39-year-old Brazilian founder of Nós na Creação – which translates as ‘We in the Creation’ – this injustice couldn’t be ignored. He knew that it was the responsibility of Christians to respond.
‘There is a risk of annihilating the entire indigenous population in Brazil, losing the history of our people, destroying an entire biodiversity and ecosystem from soil to air,’ Josias explains. ‘This will bring harm not only to the lives of indigenous people, but to all life in this ecosystem called Latin America.’
The church and God’s creation
As a follower of Jesus, Josias felt called to take action to both love his neighbour and care for creation. The two are inseparable: when we destroy nature, we inevitably harm our neighbour at the same time. Unfortunately, it is often the poorest communities that suffer the most, as they can be left powerless in the face of the destruction of their local environment.
Josias was concerned that many young Christians and churches in Brazil did not see responding to environmental issues as a priority. He realised that this is in part due to an incomplete understanding of the high value God places on creation, and the role we are called to play in it as God’s people. For example, a belief that the Earth is going to be destroyed anyway, or a disconnect between the spiritual and physical, can result in a lack of care for the planet.
Josias started We in the Creation to explain the biblical responsibility we have to care for creation and to help young Christians and churches take practical action to prevent environmental destruction.
‘From the beginning to the end of Scriptures, we see God declaring his love for his creation,’ says Josias. ‘Creation reveals God and he has a direct intention to reconcile all things with himself through Jesus. Our first priority as We in the Creation is to assist the local church to see itself as an integral part of God’s creation.
‘When the church sees itself as part of creation, people will start to think differently. They will understand that creation is not a big storehouse where we can take whatever we want to consume.’
A growing movement
Josias himself was inspired and informed by some of Tearfund’s educational resources on creation care.
‘There is a Tearfund booklet that has inspired me since the beginning of We in the Creation,’ he says. ‘It says: if we say that the Kingdom of God has arrived, it must be followed by the signs of that kingdom… and Isaiah 11 says that the signs of God are harmony in creation. So, Tearfund studies have helped me a lot to make connections between what we read in the Bible, the revelation of God in his creation, and what we see in society today.’
Now, over 100 people have taken part in We in the Creation Bible study groups, and the movement is growing. Christians from all over Brazil are growing in their awareness of the importance of protecting and caring for creation and learning how they can influence local government and campaign on environmental issues.