Climate change affects everyone - but disproportionately. Photo: occupy.com
Religions of the world have a role to play in protecting the earth against the effects of climate change – that was the message as the two-day Interfaith Summit on Climate Change opened on Sept. 21 in New York.
On the same day, more than 300,000 people demonstrated in midtown New York against government inaction on global warming. It was the largest of dozens of protests worldwide, organized by such activist groups as 350.org and Avaaz. Dozens of faith groups marched in the protest.
“One of the objectives of this Interfaith Summit will be to convey the faith communities’ concerns and proposals to the Secretary General’s Climate Summit as part of long term efforts to influence the climate negotiations and the contributions countries bring to the table,” said the summit’s organizers, the World Council of Churches and Religions for Peace.
The march and summit was intended to convey the urgency of action on climate change ahead of the U.N. Climate Summit on Sept. 23, taking place during the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the march on Sept. 21.
The faith leaders and supporters gathered in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for an interfaith service on Sept. 21, concluding the day of action.
According to this story on the WCC website, speakers from several faith traditions “called for humanity to come together, to heal the planet Earth and fight against the common enemy of climate change, and for each person to make a commitment—symbolized by pieces of stone left by each person on a central table—to do something specific to address the ways they contribute to climate change.”
“I was told by my elders to show this gathering there is hope for mankind,” said Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, an Eskimo-Kalaallit elder from Greenland. But hope, he said, can come only from “melting the heart of ice in man. Now is the time for change.”
“This is our moment. This is our time,” said the Rev. Gerald Durley, pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, to a chorus of cheers and a standing ovation. “We will not be silent. We will speak boldly and we will not stand down.”
“We have a duty to be watchful, not just by opening our eyes but by opening our hearts,” former U.S. vice-president and Nobel peace laureate Al Gore said, the WCC story reported.
Signed by 30 religious leaders, the summit’s statement said, in part, that “we recognize that climate change stands today as a major obstacle to the eradication of poverty. Severe weather events exacerbate hunger, cause economic insecurity, force displacement and prevent sustainable development. The climate crisis is about the survival of humanity on planet Earth, and action must reflect these facts with urgency.”
As people of faith, it said, “we call on all governments to express their commitment to limit global warming well below 2° Celsius. We emphasize that all states share the responsibility to formulate and implement low carbon development strategies leading to de-carbonization and the complete phase-out of fossil fuels by mid-century.
“Consequently we encourage world political and economic leaders to exercise their leadership during the Climate Summit by announcing joint actions such as important short-term emission cuts, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, coal caps or coal divestment, forest protection, increased energy efficiency in construction and transportation, and other concrete steps.
“We further call on all governments to identify medium and long-term adaptation needs and to develop strategies to address them based on country-driven, gender-sensitive and participatory approaches to better manage residual loss and damage due to adverse climate impacts,” the leaders said.