(Bonn, November 10, 2017) Scores of religious leaders and people of diverse faiths and spiritualities on bicycles, some wearing traditional religious clothing, delivered a multi-faith statement to the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP23), pledging to adopt sustainable behaviors themselves and calling on their followers and world leaders to do the same. The delivery also marked the launch of a new international, multi-faith sustainable lifestyles initiative.
Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California was among faith leaders carrying the message to the UN meeting on bikes, symbolizing a commitment to sustainable transport. “By changing our own lifestyles, the lifestyles of our congregants, and the consumption habits of our congregations, we can help make good on our commitment to the Paris Agreement,” he says. “For us, it’s a way to state loudly and clearly: We’re still in.”
The COP23 Interfaith Climate Statement on Sustainable Lifestyle, entitled Walk Gently on Earth, represents a shared assertion by religious leaders globally that widespread sustainable behavior change is required if global temperature rise is to meet the targets established by the Paris Climate Agreement.
“Together we are coming to you with an invitation to embark on a journey towards compassionate simplicity for the sake of the climate, the human family and the community of life,” the statement says. The signatories pledged to reduce home energy use, adopt plant-based diets, and use cleaner modes of transportation, behaviors which scientists say make the greatest contribution to household greenhouse gas emissions in many countries.
The November 10th events began at 9:30 with interfaith prayers at St. Cyprian Church, Andauerallee 61, Bonn, afterwhich bikers depart for the three-kilometer route along the Rhine River, arriving at Dahlmannstrasse and corner of WilhelmSpiritus-Ufer, steps away from the World Conference Center where the UN meetings convene.
A UN representative accepted the declaration carried by Gopal Patel, Bhumi Project (Hindu); Saffet Catovic, Islamic Society of North America; Nana Firman, Global Muslim Climate Network (Indonesia); Tomas Insua, Global Catholic Climate Movement; Rev. Henrik Grape, Church of Sweden and World Council of Churches; Sister Jayanti, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, and Bishop Andrus.
The statement marks the launch of a global Multi-Faith Sustainable Living Initiative, a campaign launched at a day-long symposium in Bonn November 9th. The livestreamed conference addressed the challenges and opportunities on how to best foster sustainable lifestyles. Partners in the Initiative include leading Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Interfaith and Unitarian organizations.
Following events in Bonn, a community of multi-faith partners will work with spiritual leaders and people of faith worldwide to secure formal commitments to a sustainable lifestyle. “These commitments will accelerate a growing multi-faith sustainable living movement,” says Imam Saffet Catovic, Senior Advisor for GreenFaith, the organization coordinating the initiative. “The commitments will be announced at a global weekend of commitment in 2018 through thousands of grassroots events at spiritual and religious centers around the world,” he says.
Groups partnering on the Multi-Faith Sustainable Living Initiative include the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, The Bhumi Project, CIDSE, Franciscan Action Network, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Global Muslim Climate Network, GreenFaith, Hazon, Islamic Society of North America, One Earth Sangha, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quaker), Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the World Evangelical Alliance, and the World Council of Churches.
Quotes from religious and spiritual leaders on COP23 Interfaith Climate Statement
Addressing climate change by reducing our carbon footprint is a moral responsibility as Khualfa al-ard – caretakers, stewards, and guardians of the earth. We must care for all of creation. Reshaping our patterns of consumption and conservation not only help preserve the planet for us and our future generations, but also improve overall public health and economic prosperity, particularly for the vulnerable amongst us who are most severely impacted by climate change. Dr. Azhar Azeez, President, Islamic Society of North America
As Muslims we are enjoined to be the custodians of God on this earth. We must walk softly thereupon and do no harm. This ethic is desperately needed if we are to help avert a looming climate disaster. -- Imam Zaid Shakir, Co-founder, Zaytuna College, Berkeley, CA
God the creator has given us this world as our common home, together with all that are created and living here. We have to walk on the land and sail at the sea with care and deep respect for what is given. To love God and to love our neighbor means that we also love the creation of God. -- Rev Dr. Olav Fykse-Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches
Keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius will take people of all faiths and all nations working together as quickly as possible. In Laudato Si' Pope Francis said, "All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation. " That is why Catholics, through the Global Catholic Climate Movement, have signed this interfaith statement committing to adopting a sustainable lifestyle. We stand with our brothers and sisters of all faiths to protect creation the poor and vulnerable. -- Bishop Allwyn D'Silva Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Bombay
Climate change isn't a side issue for Catholics. It’s one of the most important things we can do to live out our faith. It's a way to protect the poor and care for the gifts God has given us. With sisters and brothers from all faith backgrounds standing beside us, we have good cause for hope. Climate solutions are within our grasp. -- Tomas Insua, Executive Director, Global Catholic Climate Movement
Evangelicals responding to the biblical call to care for creation want to know how they can live joyful, faith-consistent lives that care for God’s gift of creation. In addition to advocating for necessary large scale solutions to tackle climate change— which is the greatest creation care challenge of our generation, our individual lifestyle choices, when scaled up can make a big difference. -- Dr. Chris Elisara, Director World Evangelical Creation Care Task Force.
In the Hindu tradition we believe the world is one family. That world includes not only human beings but also all living beings, all of Mother Nature and Mother Earth. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to live in a way that is sustainable for all beings with whom we share this planet, today and for all future generations. To abuse it, neglect it, or destroy it, is sacrilege. -- Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, President Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
We cannot be bystanders when our planet is in such danger; we belong to this living web and are called to consciously engage. While that engagement needs to address the larger political and economic systems that can wreak such havoc, it also needs to include our daily relationships with each other and the earth. Can our daily choices in consuming and sharing our own resources reflect the truth that we are a part of this precious world and it needs our care? -- Tara Brach, Buddhist author, teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC