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Young people call for flight-free mission trips

12 year old Jamie Hawker has written a letter to the Global Connections Short-Term Mission Forum to request project organisers provide flight-free options for volunteers wishing to serve on international short-term projects.

His letter, which has been signed by a further 20 people under the age of 30, highlights the impact climate change has on the poor communities that mission trips seek to serve and suggests there are alternative ways to help whilst reducing damage to the environment.

The letter starts: "As young people, we would like an opportunity to participate in gap year or short-term mission experiences, but we do NOT want to fly. We are in an environmental emergency, and flying for short-term trips adds to this. You will be aware of young people participating in school strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests. This is our generation."

Speaking to Premier, Jamie said his passion to fight climate change inspired him to take action: "Ever since I heard about global warming when I was nine, I've been concerned about the planet."

"If we don't reduce and make changes by 2030 then climate change will be non-reversible," he added.

Jamie's letter asks charities to provide short-term mission opportunities "which do not involve damaging the environment through flying," and suggests a number of alternatives including different transport options, more UK based opportunities and 'virtual support' through online projects and digital communication tools.

"For European trips in particular you could take the train, ferry and bus, and it wouldn't take too much longer," Jamie told Premier.

"People could do mission in the UK instead or use Skype".

The letter finishes with a plea to organisers to take their suggestions under consideration:

"PLEASE take us seriously and provided flight-free options. Reduce mission emissions. Stop contributing to climate change through encouraging people to fly on short-term trips," it reads.

The forum's CEO, John Baxter-Brown has welcomed the letter's proposals and praised Jamie for raising this agenda within the missionary industry.

Speaking to Premier, Baxter-Brown said: "It's surprising that we haven't heard more coming from the younger generation about environmental damage and the way mission can sometimes contribute to that. So I found it quite refreshing that somebody was taking the initiative and particularly a young person."

He explained that short-term missions do pose an environmental problem due to the sheer frequency of flights that are needed to facilitate them.

"I like the idea of local projects - we have in the UK and in Europe huge numbers of refugees and asylum seekers that desperately need help," he said.

"We have communities in this country that are multicultural, we have poor people in this country that need our help. So there are opportunities there."

Young people need to be provided with more "meaningful opportunities" locally, he continued, to give them a taste of what it means to "serve Christ working among the poor."

Baxter-Brown says international mission trips are necessary and "perfectly legitimate" but acknowledges there is work to be done to make them "as sustainable as possible."

The Global Connections Short-Term Mission Forum are encouraging mission agencies and members to collaborate and create projects that champion sustainability and work to offset their contributions to climate change.

"As part of seeing our mission in the world, it is more than just saving souls, there are aspects of justice and righteousness that has to be part of the mission of God in the world and we do have a responsibility and obedience to God to do what we can," Baxter-Brown added.

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