World religious leaders today grappled with how best to compel governments and citizens to address the issue of climate change.
During the second day of the 2010 World Religions Summit here, some urged their own institutions model the very behaviours they are demanding politicians adopt as policy. Others said their own faith traditions are already doing that. Some urged more education of faith communities while others said the situation is already “beyond education” and requires intervention.
But whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Indigenous or Baha’i, they all agreed that climate change is a “moral, ethical and spiritual” issue that has reached a time of great crisis.
Pandit Roopnauth Sharma of the Hindu Federation said people need to be reminded that “we are the biggest parasites on earth. We take and take and give nothing back.”
His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, said “Human beings have no right to possess and master creation,” and called for “a new economic paradigm…that is compatible with nature’s reproductive abilities.”
The Rev. Francois Pihaate, Pacific Conference of Churches, showed slides that illustrate how, in the Pacific Islands of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, the rise in the sea level has eroded beaches, caused forced migration and affected the livelihood of people. The poor, he said, are the most vulnerable to the drought, flooding and loss of crops that result from climate change.
Pihaate said there is a need “to release the ancient views about the delicate web of life and respect for all creatures.”
Mardi Tindal, moderator of the United Church of Canada, underscored the need to speak about ocean change. “Our oceans have become acidified…We thought oceans would act as a buffer (for carbon dioxide emissions) but…the oceans have turned into carbonic acid,” said Tindal. “We need to raise awareness of this because if you measure the planet, 99 per cent of it is ocean.”
Tindal also spoke about the environmental initiatives undertaken by inter-faith communities in Canada, including the Greening Sacred Spaces program, which ensures that “our buildings are responsible expressions of what we believe in.”
The Rev. Yoshinobu Miyake, Superior General of the Konko Church of Izuo in Osaka, Japan, and director of the International Society of Shinto, said it is time for people to “sacrifice the amenities” of modern life to save the earth. He said the Shinto religion has similar views as native spiritual traditions which emphasize the inter-connectedness of human beings and all creatures of the earth. “All beings have a role,” he said.
Lois Mitchell, of the Canadian Baptist Ministries said people should not look at alternative sources of energy as a fix, saying “they will also have impacts.” Rather, the focus must be “on reducing our use of energy, not just fossil fuels.”
Earlier in the day, religious leaders discussed extreme poverty. The Anglican Bishop of Panama, Julio Murray, said the statement this meeting plans to send to leaders of industrialized nations at the G20 and G8 meetings June 25 to 27 in Huntsville, Ont. and Toronto, should state the root causes of poverty, including the unequal distribution of wealth.
Imam Abdul Hai Patel, of the Canadian Council of Imams, said homelessness and poverty in affluent nations such as Canada should not be forgotten.
Countries represented by the delegates include Canada, India, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Rwanda, Russia, Panama, Rwanda and Zambia.