World religious leaders, meeting at the recent 2010 World Religions Summit in Winnipeg, sent up a big red flag on the issue of climate change. 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.
“We are the biggest parasites on earth,” said Pandit Roopnauth Sharma of the Hindu Federation. “We take and take and give nothing back.” While some urged their own institutions to model the very behaviours they demand politicians adopt as policy, others said the situation is “beyond education” and requires urgent intervention.
In a statement, religious leaders called on governments to take “bold action” to address climate change, calling it “an urgent manifestation of our collective abuse of the very environment that sustains the fullness of life.” Concrete actions must be implemented “to ensure global average temperatures do not exceed a two degree centigrade increase from pre-industrial levels,” the statement said.
Noting that industrialized nations “have caused a disproportionate amount of environmental damage…the strategy of promoting endless development and high consumption lifestyles must be challenged.”
In late July, in what observers said was another example of the impact of climate change, Pakistan was hit by a devastating flood, which the Red Cross said was the worst to hit the country in 80 years. More than 1,500 people were killed and nearly three million displaced.
At press time, The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) had released an initial grant of $15,000 for relief efforts and church agencies were struggling to help victims. The grant was released through Action by Churches Together (ACT), a coalition of church-based groups that responds to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. PWRDF is a member of ACT International.
The poor are the most vulnerable to the drought, flooding and loss of crops that result from climate change, said the Rev. Francois Pihaate, of the Pacific Conference of Churches in his presentation to the world religions summit. In the Pacific Islands of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, for instance, the rise in the sea level has eroded beaches, caused forced migration and affected the livelihood of people, he said.
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.” Ω