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Jefferson Knight, who attended the Paris climate summit, addresses United Methodist young people in Liberia about setting up a climate change task force to monitor multilateral companies.

Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Jefferson Knight, who attended the Paris climate summit, addresses United Methodist young people in Liberia about setting up a climate change task force to monitor multilateral companies.

Liberian church sets up climate task force

By Julu Swen
Jan. 4, 2016 | BUCHANAN, Liberia (UMNS)

The United Methodist Church in Liberia has set up a climate change task force to monitor the environmental activities involving the work of international companies operating in Liberia.

That action occurred soon after 195 countries signed the historic accord at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris.

Jefferson Knight, director of the UMC Liberia Human Rights Monitor, was present in Paris for the Nov. 30-Dec. 12 climate summit as a team member of teams with the United Methodist boards of Church and Society and Global Ministries. Faith groups were among the civil society representatives advocating for an agreement that benefited all countries.

He believes the involvement of the church in climate change is crucial at this stage of Liberia’s national life. “We will not sit and allow this country go to waste as it is already doing because of climate change, which is caused by these big companies,” Knight said.

A director of the denomination’s Board of Church and Society, Knight spoke Dec. 18 with more than 200 young people gathered in the port city of Buchanan in southeastern Liberia. The role of the task force, he explained, is to engage the Liberian government and their business partners about activities that will or have already impacted the country’s environment.

“Already, the only seasons we know in Liberia, which is rainy and dried seasons, have long been distorted by the unusual conditions of the earth atmosphere,” he said.

Another concern in Liberia is deforestation and the damaging of major rivers as a result of corporate business activities. “There are rivers in this country that don't have fish in them anymore,” one participant said.

Serving as ‘watchdogs’

The UMC Liberia Climate Change Task Force will included the 21 districts superintendents, along with young people in every part of Liberia where the church is actively located, he added.

Those gathered for the Dec. 18 meeting committed themselves to helping to protect their environment by serving as “climate change watchdogs,” but failed to reach a major decision on how to deal with individual or family activities that impact climate.

In a country where 95 percent of the population is dependent upon charcoal and wood for cooking and other domestic activities, it is not likely that the task force will succeed in limiting the use of such materials. But, Knight said, the church will encourage Liberians to start engaging in eco-friendly activities that will improve their environment and contribute to a healthy earth atmosphere.

The Rev. George Wilson, director of the Liberian church’s Connectional Table, said the church is heading in the right direction if it must help the government in shaping the lives of the Liberian people. “Our lives are impacted by the activities of these corporate entities and to sit, watch and do nothing especially after this historic Paris conference will render us useless as a church,” he pointed out.

The UMC Liberia Climate Change Task Force is not just a short-term project, Wilson said, but will become an additional department within the church at the 183rd Annual Session of the Liberia Annual Conference scheduled in February.

*Swen is editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa and assists the denomination in Liberia with coverage for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469.