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With pointed urgency, faiths rise for climate justice

Under the aegis of the GreenFaith International, more than 400 grassroots religious actions in 43 countries and thousands of people of faith on Thursday, March 11, 2021 called on political and financial leaders to meet a series of ambitious climate demands, amid support from over 200 high-level faith leaders. This supposedly 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

Sounding the GreenFaith alarm for climate justice in Nigeria

Byazhin Interfaith Community Abuja (FCT), Salvation Mandate Ministry Ilesa (Osun State) and Irepodun Farmers’ Market Muslim Community Oyo (Oyo State) in Nigeria joined hundreds of other places of worship and people of faith and spirit from Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Baha’i, Indigenous, and Christian traditions all over the world on Thursday, March 11, 2021 to sound the alarm for climate justice.

Alarmed by the considerable gap between what is required to limit global temperature rise and actual climate change commitments by governments and financial institutions, grassroots religious activists took actions in their communities and released a set of demands for world leaders to address the injustice and impacts that the climate crisis is inflicting worldwide.

In Abuja, Ilesa and Oyo people of faith and spirit spoke on climate smart agriculture, avoidance of plastic waste and sounded an alarm. Around the world, other communities of faith and places of worship also took action, most of them at 11am local time to symbolise the “11th hour” urgency of the moment.

From major cities to remote rural areas, Rabbis sounded the shofar and Muslims sounded the azzan, the Islamic call to prayer, while churches rang their bells, and Hindu and Buddhist communities meditated silently to protest climate injustice. The day is said to be the largest distributed, multi-faith day ever of climate action.

By doing these, members of Byazhin Interfaith Community, Salvation Mandate Ministry and Irepodun Farmers’ Market Muslim Community drew attention to a major new multi-faith statement with a list of bold demands from some of the world’s best-known faith leaders as well as tens of thousands of everyday people of faith.

The statement bluntly called on governments and financial institutions 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 – the first time that a global, religious coalition had issued such a direct and specific call for action.

“Faith communities are more serious about intensified and escalated religious action than they’ve ever been and are unwilling to accept half measures. We’re demanding that our leaders respond. Decisions made today must not perpetuate an outdated economic system that relies on fossil fuels and the destruction of the very forests, waters, oceans and soils that make life possible,” said Al-Mahroof Muhammad, Spokesperson, GreenFaith International Network Nigeria.

He added: “We are calling for bold action now, which is why we’re joining this worldwide call for 100% renewable energy, an end to finance and subsidies for coal, oil, gas, and deforestation. We’re calling for immediate increases in investments in renewable energy and for policies that will create millions of good-paying green jobs – which the world desperately needs as we begin to recover from the pandemic.

“At the same time, we know that generous assistance is needed for workers and communities impacted by these changes so that they can make the transition to the jobs of the future and no one is left behind in the process. This is a profoundly moral set of issues. It’s a moral challenge for all of us, and our highest and best values must be the guide for what we do.”

Over 240 religious leaders publicly supported the demands upon their release, include Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, Buddhist author Joanna Macy, the Muslim-American scholar Imam Zaid Shakir, Secretary General of the African Council of Religious Leaders Dr. Francis Kuria, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Rabbi David Rosen, Co-President of Religions for Peace, and Swami Chidanad Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan. The demands and actions were coordinated by GreenFaith International.

“The only way we build a compassionate, loving and just future is by doing it together. That’s what we began yesterday. And we’re just getting started,” Nana Firman of GreenFaith said after the worldwide activities on the day of action.

Some of the calls made were summarised into the 10 listed below:

1. 100 per cent renewable energy for all: Sustainable, affordable power for everyone – especially the 800 million people without access to electricity

2. Global finance aligned with compassionate values: Increased financing – in Covid recovery and beyond – for renewable energy and sustainable food systems

3. Jobs and healthcare for all: A just transition for workers, migrants, and communities impacted by climate change and the energy transition through healthcare, job training and placement, and other necessary support

4. Respect of indigenous people’s rights: A strong defence for the legal rights of indigenous communities and environmental protectors

5. Welcome for migrants: Generous hospitality and opportunities for climate and environmental refugees to migrate and establish new homes

6. No more climate pollution: Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in wealthy countries by 2030; accelerated finance/technology transfers for global net zero before 2050

7. End the planet’s desecration: No new fossil fuel exploration or infrastructure, industrial agriculture, or deforestation; no more habitat or biodiversity loss

8. Eliminate immoral finance: No further financing or Covid-19 bailouts for all fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, or deforestation

9. Just contributions from wealthy countries: Leadership by wealthy countries in climate financing and technology transfer, in recognition of these countries’ colonialist and environmental debt

10. Bold faith community leadership: Sustained, united action guided by the teachings of our diverse religions, ushering in an equitable, peaceful life for all.

Speaking in Kenya after an interreligious walk and demonstration to mark the day of Action on March 11, Sheikh Ibrahim Lithome said congregants must be taught the truth, “to make the world a better place before they can think of going to heaven,” he said.

Several other people who could not be involved in the actions physically joined the campaign online, with the hash tags #Faiths4Climate and #SacredPeopleSacredEarth. These reportedly had overwhelming clicks as well as reactions, which the promoters say will help continue the push treatment of the earth and its contents as sacred.

“What a powerful day of action! In 45 countries, with over 420 events, we sounded the alarm for climate justice together as one global, grassroots multi-faith community,” said The Reverend Rev Fletcher Harper, a lead in the GreenFaith International community.

According to the GreenFaith team, a huge sample of high-level religious and spiritual leaders also signed onto the Sacred People Sacred Earth Statement, which mainly made 10-point demands, calling for tangible climate action from relevant authorities within and outside governments.

“We are united by a fundamental belief that all people, all living things, and the Earth are sacred. As we consider the state of the world today, our hearts overflow with concern,” GreenFaith International said in its website.

“We are frightened and frustrated by the damage that Covid-19 is inflicting on our communities. The pandemic has revealed cruel injustices. The vulnerable suffer the most severe impacts, the statement read further.”

It added that they were aware of the injustice, as those same communities were “disproportionately and catastrophically affected by the accelerating climate emergency”. The team has pledged to continue engaging different religious groups and still work with other stakeholders, including governments, media and policy makers to continue the climate action from the grassroots upwards.

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