Mountain View UMC in Boulder advocates for wildlife through General Conference petition

December 11, 2015
Few people realize that poachers are killing more than 30,000 elephants a year throughout Africa and leading them down the path of extinction. The circumstance for rhinos is even more dire. I would imagine that even fewer people realize wildlife crime is a big business run by dangerous international criminal networks. Some of these organizations are associated with terrorism. Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army in Uganda – which abducted over 440 people in 2013 alone – has been linked to wildlife poaching, as has al-Shabaab, M-23, and the Janjaweed militia in Sudan.

The United Methodist African Bishops recently released a statement identifying global terrorism as one of the most important issues they are facing. During Pope Francis’ recent landmark trip to Africa, he said that ivory trafficking fuels instability and terrorism and called upon us to not be silent on this issue.

My church, Mountain View United Methodist Church in Boulder, Colorado, introduced a petition calling upon The United Methodists Church’s 12 million worldwide members to take a stand against wildlife trafficking and poaching. The petition will be decided upon at The United Methodists Church’s General Conference in Portland, Oregon, in May 2016. As a delegate to the upcoming conference, I introduced a similar petition.

I realize that there are many important issues we will be grappling with at General Conference. Yet, this petition presents us the opportunity to protect these treasured species by generating awareness about consumer choices and supporting local, national and international efforts to curb these practices. The United States is among the world’s top markets for wildlife products including elephant ivory. As a world church, with 50 percent of our membership in Africa, we have a unique duty to address issues with global implications. Yet, as a church based in Boulder, this petition is also a reflection of our values as a community towards the conservation of wildlife.

As Christians, we are called to be stewards of God’s creation. The introduction of this petition coincides with other efforts around the country and world to curb poaching of imperiled species. Save Endangered Animals Oregon, a coalition formed in October 2015, announced the launch of a ballot initiative aiming 2016 elections to prohibit the sale of products and parts from elephants, rhinos, lions, sea turtles, rays and other imperiled species. The measure is designed to help stem poaching by drying up demand for parts of imperiled wildlife. Initiative 1401 was passed by voters this November in Washington to address this problem and California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation to ban any in-state sales of elephant ivory or rhino horn.