When you say climate change, the first thing that most people think of is polar bears. For me, a different image comes to mind -- my family and my flock.
I've not always realized the significance of climate change. It wasn't until the topic was part of a summit in London that I attended where Prince Charles hosted us at his organic farm that I began to recognize how it is affecting populations around the world. Talking with scientists and representatives from all over the world, and particularly the Global South, whose communities are being displaced by climate change, I came to understand the disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations. It was then that I committed to do everything I can to help those most affected.
Together with my wife, Jeanette, I serve a diverse evangelical congregation in Lower Manhattan. When Hurricane Sandy struck our city, causing billions of dollars in damage, we knew we had to act. We launched an inter-denominational relief effort spearheaded by an organization I lead, the National Latino Evangelical Association (NaLEC), which represents over 3,000 congregations across the country. With the help of many different churches, local volunteers and the generosity of thousands, we were able to provide water, food, clothes and other support to people whose homes were lost and lives turned upside down.
Even in one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest country in the world, many victims were the poor and people of color, populations that will increasingly be susceptible to climate change. Imagine how these events affect people in the poorest of countries who feel the greatest consequences of climate change-polluted water, drought and malaria. I have personally heard the stories of immigrants who have had no choice but to abandon their homelands because there was not enough water for their crops, or food to maintain their livestock.
As an evangelical, I believe we are called to protect and serve the poor, that "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." I don't believe we can take this role seriously without leading our congregations and our country towards climate solutions. One of the greatest mistakes we've made is failing to show others how climate change affects people and their daily lives. While I believe we must protect all of Creation, I also recognize that there is a human story with climate that too often goes untold. Telling that story is vital to generating the support we need to meet the realities of changes within our communities and throughout the world.
What I know is that climate change is making my family sick. Like hundreds of thousands of others living in cities, my wife, son, and brother all struggle with asthma, a condition made worse by the poor air quality and higher temperatures many of us are experiencing. These are the faces of climate change.
Finding success will require people of all creeds and colors to come together in shared witness. I recently joined Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant leaders to start a new interfaith coalition called Blessed Tomorrow. People of faith from across the country have an important role to play on climate change and this coalition will allow them to take action in their congregations and connect with a network of other faith leaders.
Climate change has been pushed aside because it has seemed too complicated or difficult to solve, but we have a God-given obligation to protect our brothers and sisters and future generations. All of us can lead on climate if we choose. But we cannot wait any longer -- as people of faith, we must begin today with a message that invites people into a better tomorrow based on their hopes and dreams, not their fears.
Leading on climate is not only a moral imperative. It is how I honor my responsibility as a husband, a father and a Christian. Won't you join me?
Follow Rev. Gabriel Salguero on Twitter: www.twitter.com/salgueros