Eat, Act, Pray - October
There are an estimated 4 million people living in the slums of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The slums are in a part of the city that’s the most flood-prone and, during Typhoon Ketsana, the flood waters in their houses was waist high. Instead of helping them build new, more flood-resistant houses, the government wanted to move people away, splitting families up and sending people out of sight. But UPA taught the communities about a law that protected the rights of the poor. They successfully campaigned to get the government to build them new houses – houses that wouldn’t be as easily damaged by the effects of climate change.
Filomena was a leader in the campaign to the government. She spoke out for their rights and helped win the campaign for new houses.
‘In 2009 there was a fight against an attempt to evict the Manila waterways slums. The Supreme Court decreed all communities along the waterways were to be cleared out. But there was an existing law already protecting poor people. UPA helped us negotiate with the government. They taught us the art of negotiation. But they wouldn’t do it for us, all the decisions were our own – the community’s.’
‘Others in the community thought maybe we should just follow government orders and relocate, but I wanted to defend our rights, I was willing to speak up and say No!’
‘It doesn’t work to relocate us. People will always come back to where the work is, because it’s convenient to live where we work. Relocation splits families up too; husbands and wives get separated. There are many broken families because of it.’
‘We don’t want to be separated. Everyone gets on with each other. The national housing authority separates communities and we are always afraid of that. It’s been a continuous struggle. The government want to force us out, they see us as an eyesore. But we’re part of the city, we’re the urban workforce, we make a big contribution. The government should listen to us and include us in the planning – let’s find a win-win situation, a solution that’s good for the government and for the community.’
‘The community is strong because our relationships are strong. We support each other through hardship. We share what we have. If a family has no rice, we share rice; if a family is struggling to afford medicine, we all contribute.’
‘I’ve lived here for 29 years. My husband was born here.’
‘We were looked down on as an uneducated community but even though we are poor we are human. We have dignity.’
‘We are proud of who we are.’
As you sit down to share food – much like Filomena’s community in Manila – think about what it might mean for us to speak out for communities like Filomena’s whose lives are affected by climate change.
Talk It Over
- Around the world, communities like Filomena’s are starting to think about moving elsewhere - somewhere less at risk of climate change. Imagine if your whole community had to uproot and move because of climate change, where would you go? What might be the challenges?
- What does the word ‘prophetic’ mean to you? What do you think it looks like to ‘speak truth to power’? Who can you think of that holds power that you could influence?
- We have a responsibility to our neighbours around the world to speak out about the dangers of climate change, but sometimes this feels like a massive challenge. Who do you think holds the power to do something about climate change? Politicians? Banks? Companies? And what could you do to influence them?
This month, hundreds of churches are coming together to make some noise about climate change. There’ll be events happening all over the Uk which you can check out on our map here. See if there’s one near you, and if there isn’t – why not hold your own? There’s also loads of resources here to help you and your church get involved.
Speak up to your MP … Tonight, as you share your meal, write a joint letter to your local MP to tell them why climate change matters. If you’re feeling a bit more technical, why not make a short film and send it to them? Or see if they use social media and get in touch.
While you're eating, why not listen to some more stories from people around the world who are living with the reality of climate change.
Thank you that you are above all things. You teach us that even in darkness there is light, that where there is despair there is also hope.
Give us the energy to fight for those who can't fight for themselves, give us the wisdom to choose those fights well and give us the tools that we're up to the task
We pray for Filomena's community in Manila. Thank you for the bravery of organisations like UPA. We pray that they continue to shine a light into darkness.