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World News

Churches across Europe race to adapt to soaring temperatures

by Donna Birrell

Churches across Europe are looking at how to best support communities struggling in extreme temperatures.

The UN weather agency claims temperatures in parts of Spain and Italy this week may break the 48-point-8 Celsius record set in Sicily two years ago.

Spain, Italy and Greece have already been experiencing scorching temperatures for several days, along with wildfires, caused by the hot and dry conditions.

General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, Rev Alan Donaldson has been speaking to Premier about how churches are responding to the situation : 

“My brothers and sisters in Europe are really facing crazy temperatures and they are having to learn to adapt. We are looking at what it means to do church in high temperatures, when people are being told not to leave their houses and to stay inside. What do you do when you don't have air conditioning in your building? Is your old building naturally cool or does it heat up like an oven?  We're going to be opening church buildings as places to find cool and refreshments. Some of these historical buildings just lend themselves to this as they're 20 degrees cooler, there's nothing we can do to heat them.”

Rev Donaldson says many churches across Europe are also concerned about how to carry out their children’s camps over the Summer:

“How do you bring hundreds of children both from the church and the local communities together safely? If the temperatures are going to hit 48 degrees Celsius, that's a real risk.

“I think we're really in the problem-solving stage. In the coming year, we're going to have to make this an area of study for us, especially for the southern churches, maybe get them together and reflect on what happened this summer and how they responded because there's the response to the churches but there's also the response to the community issues.

“Many people will die this summer because of the heatwave, so there has to be a lot of thought as to the emotional response; the compassionate response; the pastoral response.”

Rev Donaldson says that the poorest and most vulnerable will suffer the greatest effects of the heatwave:

“Most of us can go inside and get some respite from that temperature.  But imagine you're a refugee arriving in Italy today across the sea; imagine you're a victim of the earthquake in Turkey - in the area known in the Bible as Antioch.  It’s 38 degrees Celsius every day and you’re living in a tent or a container. That's a really different story.”

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