World Council of Churches delegates to the seventh United Nations climate conference here last fall explored Christian and Muslim perspectives on the issue during a day-long colloquium.
Underscoring the importance of the issue to both faith communities, David Hallman, WCC coordinator of the climate change program, said that the involvement of the churches stems from “our belief that God created and loves this world. We believe that God intends that humans, as an integral part of creation, should live in a wholesome relationship to the rest of creation so as not to cause such destruction that species, ecosystems and indeed large numbers of people are threatened.”
Prof. Ahmed Khamlichi described Islam’s position on climate change. “The Koran states that God allows human beings to enjoy everything necessary to satisfy their desires, such as food, clothing, housing, transport and every other ornament or means of enjoyment – but with balance and moderation and no excess or overuse.”
He said that maintaining that balance is important because the earth was created as a balance system and every individual must contribute to this balance. “The environment is not something that can be owned by anyone here and now,” he said. “The environment and the climate belong to coming generations.”
Speaking from the Christian perspective, Father Henri Madelin, a Jesuit professor from Paris, said that in the past Christian churches had concentrated too much on the role of human beings in history and the ecological context had been disregarded.
“It is time to return to a concept which inserts humanity within the biosphere, going from the anthropocentrism of modern culture to the biblical, cosmological theocentrism.” That kind of theology, he argued, must inevitably lead to an ethic of responsibility that has implications for both individual action and collective political decisions.
Lucy Mulnkei from Kenya offered a perspective of an indigenous culture. “The land and our environment are the very basis of our existence and our culture, they are our pride and joy, our life. But our living space is being altered by climate change. Our sacred places of worship are disappearing. The religions must help us to understand that is happening – and what we can do in our local communities.”
Participants in the conference expressed skepticism that things would change any time soon, however. “The rich countries which are already doing too little to combat climate change want to do even less,” said Elias Crisostomo Abramides of Argentina, head of the WCC delegation.