CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Across the board religious concern for creation

July 2016 was the hottest month since records began in 1880. Jos Lelieveld, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute, has warned that large areas of the planet could become so hot that they would be virtually uninhabitable for humans.

This would trigger an exodus of hundreds of millions of refugees. Lelieveld maintains, “The July temperatures must underline the urgency of the crisis.”

Pope Francis showed deeply concerned about the impact of climate change on the poor in his encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’). Other global religions are also enormously concerned about the impact of climate change.

In the run-up to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim groups highlighted the importance of climate change for their religions.

On 29 October 2015, a document published at the end of a Buddhist conference took note of the shared concern for the environment expressed by various faith traditions and was quite explicit in its endorsements of their resolutions pertinent to the UN conference discourse and agenda.

“We strongly support The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change, which is endorsed by a diverse and global representation of Buddhist leaders and Buddhist sanghas.

“We also welcome and support the climate change statements of other religious traditions. These include Pope Francis’ encyclical earlier this year, Laudato Si’, the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, as well as the upcoming Hindu Declaration on Climate Change.

“We are united by our concern to phase out fossil fuels, to reduce our consumption patterns and the ethical imperative to act against both the causes and the impacts of climate change, especially on the world’s poorest.

“To this end, we urge world leaders to generate the political will to close the emissions gap left by country climate pledges and ensure that the global temperature increase remains below 1.5 degrees Celsius, relative to pre-industrial levels.

“We also ask for a common commitment to scale up climate finance, so as to help developing countries prepare for climate impacts and to help us all transition to a safe, low carbon future,” the Buddhist statement reads. 

The Hindu Declaration of 23 November 2015, reached into Hindu’s own unique references to nature and the call for harmony with all living beings.

The Declaration quotes the Mahabharata (109.10) which states, “Dharma exists for the welfare of all beings. Hence, that by which the welfare of all living beings is sustained, that for sure is dharma.”

It also calls on all Hindus to expand their perception of dharma so as to consider the impact of personal actions on all other beings, considering that life must be treated with respect.

The Declaration asks the world’s 900 million Hindus to make the transition to clean energy, adopt a plant-based diet and lead lives in harmony with the natural environment.

It adds that international and national action must be scientifically credible and historically fair, based on deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through a rapid transition away from polluting technologies, especially away from fossil fuels.

Renewable energies are also the best hope for the billions of people without electricity or clean cooking facilities to live better lives and reduce poverty.

The Islamic Climate Change Declaration affirms the intimacy of God to the creation.

The declaration sees the divinely ordered cosmology of creation as imperiled by human disregard of its designated role in the wider context of things, “We face the distinct possibility that our species, chosen to be God’s caretaker (Khalifa) of the earth, could be responsible for ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine balance (mizan) may soon be lost.”

It stresses the need to limit the current rate of climate change in order to preserve the divinely-inspired balance of creation, saying, “We call on the well-off nations and oil-producing states to stay within the two degree limit, or preferably, within the 1.5 degree limit, bearing in mind that two thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground.”

In its last paragraph, the Islamic declaration called for interfaith competition for the good of the earth, “We call on other faith groups to join us in collaboration, cooperation and friendly competition in this endeavour, as we can all be winners in this race. He (God) wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other.”

Hopefully, Christianity will work with these great faiths to overcome the problems of climate change. Cooperation between religions on crucial issues, such as climate change, is what is needed.

This is the best response to the brutal acts of barbarism perpetrated by Islamic State in the Middle East and in Europe itself. It would help Europe to show that it is not stigmatising all Muslims for these horrible acts caused by the Islamic State, which would spread Islamophobia across Europe.

It would also be honouring the memory of Father Jacques Hamill, who was murdered by terrorists while saying Mass on 16 July 2016. The 84-year-old priest was deeply loved by both Christians and Muslims in Normandy.

He was a man of peace, a disciple of Jesus and we are called to follow in example, especially in difficult times.

 

 

        Father Sean McDonagh