While today is Earth Day, yesterday – Easter – was the most important day of the year for Christians. It was a day to celebrate new life and the unstoppable power of compassion. The lead-in to Easter, however, is much harsher. Good Friday serves as a reminder about the danger of indifference in the face of suffering.
For me, the Shine campaign embodies this transition from death to life that is central to my faith. When I first became involved with Shine during its launch two years ago, I was stunned to learn that more than a billion people – nearly one sixth of the world’s population – live without access to electricity, and that 2.8 billion more people still rely on kerosene, wood, crop waste, dung, and other heavily polluting forms of biomass to cook and heat their homes.
I was saddened to discover that the fossil fuel industry has these energy-poor households in their sights as their next frontier for growth, and that the nascent renewable energy sector is not yet receiving adequate funding and investment to compete on an even playing field.
But thanks to Shine partners devoted to ensuring universal energy access, I also found out that access to safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy can break the devastating cycle of poverty and offer enormous benefits for education, health, development, human rights, and gender equity.
These are all issues that Christians – and all people of faith – care about. For thousands of years, faith communities have been committed to addressing poverty. In recent years, climate change has climbed steadily up our list of priorities. But to this day, I believe that most of my faith colleagues share my former blind spot around the vital importance of energy access, and the way in which it reflects this intersection between the dignity of all people and the protection of our precious planet. We just haven’t been well-enough educated about how important universal energy access truly is. That has to change, and that’s why I’m involved in Shine.
Easter is a reminder about the power of goodness and of compassion. I truly believe that Shine, represents that spirit. When the poorest among us finally get access to clean, modern forms of energy, lives will be saved and communities will be reborn.
That’s why I’m looking forward to working with the other faith partners to date who are involved in Shine – American Jewish World Services, the World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches, CAFOD, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Bhumi Project (Hindu), and others.
Together, we can ensure that this message about the vital importance of energy access gets to more and more faith groups around the world, and that religious investors and funders lean into this issue, which can and must be solved.
The Rev. Fletcher Harper is Executive Director of GreenFaith and a co-founder of Shine.