Action - 9 July 2019

en - Faith leaders and climate change

Have faith leaders a special part to play as we face climate and environmental chaos ? It seems so. At the recent Climate Coalition lobby of Parliament in the UK which attracted over 12.000 people, there was a workshop given by a Muslim from Islamic Relief telling how he got a group of Imams together to educate them in the realities of climate change. They needed it, and apparently it was effective as a start. Why specially work on faith leaders ?

Apparently 50% of schools world wide belong to one or other of the major faiths ; 80% of the peoples of the world identify with one or other of the faiths. In the case of all the major faiths they say clearly we need to take care of the planet, our common home. Catholics have Pope Francis’s ground breaking encyclical `Laudato Si’, may it continue to permeate further and further into the global Catholic community : Muslims can refer back to the concept of `Mizaan’ , harmony, wholeness, balance, the equilibrium that we need to maintain (see Islamic declaration on Global Climate Change) : Buddhist have the noble truths, simplicity of lifestyle and compassion for all creation. And so on.

Faith leaders are inevitably very busy people and certainly not experts in climate change. But they work with the next generation in educational institutions and can make important links between faith and the environment caring for creation ; they can localise issues and encourage and give space to those working more closely with the issues. There are also many international connections.

But perhaps most importantly at the root of the environmental disasters beginning to take place, is the need for a cultural and spiritual transformation. There are already changes in technology scientific understandings and at least partial solutions available to the manifold environmental problems we are facing, political will is what is missing ; and underlying this are the cultural and ethical presuppositions that continue to fuel climate and environmental chaos. How are we to manage our anger and acquisitiveness ? How can we develop integrity, mindfulness, truth and wisdom and a vision of a life well lived ? Faiths will help us. Beyond that we can and must unite around this threat in a universal solidarity. This is the opportunity hidden in the crisis ; there are already interfaith initiatives, maybe there are some near you ?

Jessica Gatty, ra