“When I was showering this morning, I realised that all water on Earth recycles constantly through all living beings. Plants, animals and humans are vessels for the planet’s humidity. I realised that my shower water had already been in your bodies and the bodies of all living things throughout time. We are all connected in this world.” Al Hajji Fazlun Khalid, Trustee of IFEES.
CEESP held its first major panel event at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP21 in Paris. The newly minted Specialist Group on Religion, Spirituality, Environmental Conservation and Climate Justice (ReSpECC) hosted a multifaith panel on climate ethics and actions on the opening day at the COP.
The panel was opened by IUCN Director General, Inger Andersen and included distinguished faith leaders and activists from the World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, the Holy See (Vatican), the International Buddhists Confederation, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, the Fellowship of Church Councils of Southern Africa, the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University and OurVoices climate pilgrimage project.
Andersen emphasised the need for IUCN to reach out to a broad spectrum of actors working for the well-being of the planet, social justice and sustainability. Imam Ibrahim Saidy from Norway open with a prayer of peace and unity, paying homage to those who lost their lives in the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris and all of those whose lives are endangered by climate change impacts.
The leaders spoke extensively on the ethics of climate change, the need for human solidarity, courage and good faith. All of them expressed their dismay with the speed and attitude of the negotiations, and called on all humans to work diligently to avert suffering and catastrophes. Much of the frontline climate relief work is provided by religious institutions and they are witness to the famines, diseases, forced migrations and human misery brought about by the current energy and economic models.
A key note speaker on the panel was Monsignor Luís-Miguel Muñoz Cárdaba, Counsellor at the Apostolic Nunciature to France, Holy See Embassy. In June 2015, the Holy Father, Pope Francis released an extraordinary document, the Papal Encyclical , Laudato Si. It is evident at the COP that Laudato Si has resonated around the globe, uniting Christians of all denominations as well as catalysing actions by other religious communities.
Monsignor Cárdaba spoke about the key principles of the Encyclical, resting on the foundational teaching of ‘Ecological Conversion’. This conversion, spoken about by several Popes, calls on humanity to see the connection between caring for creation and biodiversity within a framework of social justice and a new economic paradigm that heals the world rather than poisons it.
Other presentations included the Istanbul Islamic Declaration on Climate Change and the Global Buddhist Climate Change Collective statement, supported by all of the world’s Buddhist lineages.
The African and Asian climate justice networks recounted their massive global mobilisations and pilgrimages. Using the religious institution of the pilgrimage, people of different faiths joined together to walk across Asian countries, to cycle from Mozambique to Nairobi, and a mass walk from the Vatican to Paris.
The Roman Catholic leadership of Paris hosted a major ecumenical service at the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral. The procession included Christian leaders of all denominations in their cassocks, robes and habits. The gospel reading was done by Her Grace, Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Sweden. The congregation rustled with excitement to see a female Archbishop reciting the gospel in the heart of the Catholic world.
ReSpECC helps coordinate the multifaith caucus at the UNFCCC COPs. Nigel Crawhall, the ReSpECC Chair noted that faith based engagement in the COP has been increasing dramatically in the past few years, with major Islamic and Buddhist mobilisation joining the strong Christian presence. The Encyclical’s presence is felt in Paris, with many world leaders talking for the first time about the morality of climate change, duty to coming generous, and one Head of State quoting Laudato Si in his opening speech. “It was a great honour for CEESP to be given the opening slot at the IUCN Pavilion here in Paris. We were particularly humbled by the support of the global leaders and the Director General.”
The event was led in prayer by His Grace, Thabo Makgabo, Anglican Archbishop of Southern African. The panel was closed with a simple ceremony by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Bhikkhu Thầy Pháp Dung, from the famous French Plum Village Sangha. Venerable Thầy rang his meditation bowl and asked people to connect with the living world, to walk gently, value each breath, and find the sacred within our relationship with all living things.