Grassroots religious activists, high-level faith leaders issue ten demands, condemn inadequate progress by governments and financial institutions
On March 11, at more than 400 grassroots religious actions in 43 countries, thousands of people of faith called on political and financial leaders to meet a series of ambitious climate demands at COP26, with support from over 200 high-level faith leaders. This largest-ever grassroots multi-faith climate day of action, co-sponsored by over 120 religious groups representing more than 100 million members, sent a clear message: world leaders are not doing nearly enough to address the climate crisis.
Alarmed by the massive gap between what is required to limit global temperature rise and actual climate change commitments by governments and financial institutions, grassroots religious activists released a set of powerful demands for world leaders to address the injustice and impacts that the climate crisis is inflicting on communities worldwide.
Actions supporting the demands took place in 43 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, UK, the USA, and Vanuatu.
Over 200 religious leaders publicly supported the demands upon their release, include Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Turkson; Buddhist author Joanna Macy; Muslim-American scholar Imam Zaid Shakir; Secretary General of the African Council of Religious Leaders Dr. Francis Kuria; former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Dr. Azza Karam and Rabbi David Rosen, respectively Secretary General and Co-President of Religions for Peace; and Swami Chidanad Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan. The demands and actions are coordinated by the GreenFaith International Network, a grassroots, multi-faith alliance.
“No religious tradition sanctions the destruction of nature,” said Catholic lay leader Thea Ormerod, founder of the multi-faith Australian Religious Response to Climate Change and a Network founding partner. “Yet this is exactly what governments, financial institutions, and major corporations are doing. Our faiths are compelling us to go out from our churches, mosques, and temples and into the streets to make our voices heard.”
The statement calls on governments and banks immediately to end their support for new fossil fuel infrastructure and tropical deforestation, to commit to universal access to clean and affordable energy, to enact policies creating green jobs and a just transition for impacted workers and communities, to secure policies and funding supporting those forced to migrate due to climate impacts, and more.
“Climate-induced floods, droughts, and wildfires are now a worldwide, everyday apocalypse,” said Nana Firman, an Indonesian Muslim activist with GreenFaith. “It is always those among us who’ve done least to cause the problem who suffer the worst: racial and ethnic minorities, the poor, elders, young children, women. These demands are the moral criteria by which government or financial sector commitments must be measured.”
Members of the Greenfaith International Network noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic has cost millions of people their jobs and their health, the fossil fuel industry has secured billions of dollars of emergency bailout funding while lobbying to weaken climate and environmental protections. In addition, during the past year in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia, home to the world’s largest tropical rainforests, governments have actually made it easier for agribusinesses to accelerate logging.
“After decades of knowing how serious this problem is, this gap between what’s needed and what is happening is morally reprehensible,” said Arianne van Andel, coordinator of Chile’s Alianza Interreligiosa y Espiritual por el Clima. “Fossil fuel development and deforestation continue to grow. Indigenous people and environmental defenders are met with violence when they stand for what is right, while governments and corporations look the other way.”
This is the first time grassroots religious organizations are mobilizing on this scale with such clear demands. Here is a snapshot of some of the planned actions:
- Across Australia, churches will ring their bells and Buddhist temples sound their ceremonial gongs, with a public action in front of Parliament calling on the government to end further coal development and commit to net zero emissions by 2030.
- In Minnesota, the USA, over 200 clergy and people of faith will mobilize at the Mississippi River, calling on President Biden to reject the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and other fossil fuel projects.
- In Nairobi, a multi-faith youth group will plant 1,000 trees while publicly calling on the Kenyan Minister for Energy to end fossil fuel exploration on a national level.
- In Santiago and across Chile, Catholic and Protestant churches, along with Baha’i and Buddhist temples, will ring their bells while calling on their government to end its repression of climate and environmental protests.
“The world needs strong, principled climate action immediately,” said Francesca de Gasparis, Executive Director of Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute, also a GreenFaith International Network Founding Partner. “Faith communities have issued statements, fatwas, encyclicals, and more on climate change. What’s needed now is binding legislation.”
The day of action’s organizers announced their intention to continue building a grassroots, multi-faith movement and pressure governments and financial institutions to deliver at COP26 and beyond. The size of the grassroots mobilization combined with clarity and directness of the political and financial demands, alongside direct challenges to anti-climate religious groups, represents an escalation and intensification of religious action on climate change.
“Religious extremists around the globe are backing the authoritarian governments and extractive industries which are destroying the planet,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith’s Executive Director. “There’s nothing ethical about what these fundamentalist faith groups are doing. Grassroots people of faith are rising everywhere to reclaim our religions.”
Details and contacts for Sacred People, Sacred Earth actions in different regions/countries are available here.
Rev. Fletcher Harper
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.