Operation Noah, an ecumenical Christian charity focusing on Climate Change, was one of many Christian groups taking part in the 2016 Interfaith Climate Symposium on 21 September in London. Ruth Jarman of Operation Noah's Board reports on the event:
"Nearly everyone working in this area agrees that climate change is a spiritual issue," said Bishop Nicholas Holtam, the lead Anglican bishop on the environment, in the first talk at the Interfaith Climate Symposium. The aim of the event was to enable and encourage faith groups to work together on climate change. The atmosphere in the church was as vibrant as it was friendly, during the talks, discussions and the very tasty kosher, halal and vegan supper. Revd Giles Goddard, who is an Operation Noah board member, hosted and chaired the evening at his beautiful classical church of St John's Waterloo.
The remarkable line-up of Bishop Nicholas, Sir David King, Dr Husna Ahmad, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Rabbi Natan Levy and George Marshall demonstrated the hope surrounding this exciting opportunity for people of faith to work together on something that, according to Bishop Nicholas, "is so huge, it relativises all the differences between us".
George Marshall of Climate Outreach talked about his recent research project looking at how to communicate climate change to faith groups. Words that seem to work across all faiths are 'gift', 'moral challenge', 'care', 'legacy', 'future', 'balance', 'action at all levels' and 'wake up!'. Words to avoid for some or all of the groups were: 'natural world', 'creation', 'planet', 'blame', 'greedy'.
He also said that a personal pledge can be very powerful - which must be shared with others without judging them. He has made a personal pledge to himself to try to start up a conversation about climate change with at least one stranger every day!
Dr Husna Ahmad, CEO of Global One, spoke about how 'khalifa', or stewardship, is required by the Qur'an, quoting: 'Do not cause corruption on the earth.' I was very moved when she invited Rev Giles Goddard and Rabbi Natan Levy to stand on each side of her as she spoke of the rising Islamophobia and racism in the world and, holding their hands aloft, said, "only when we think as one humanity can we save this planet".
Sir David King, the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change, who at the December 2015 Paris climate talks had pushed for the 1.5 degree target as well as the clause allowing the 'ratcheting-up' of carbon cuts in the future, said that he believed that generations ahead of us might well cite 12/12/15 as the most important date for their habitable climate. He gave us several graphs showing the future of the planet, under current carbon commitments, to be pretty uninhabitable. One in particular showed that the world needs to kick the fossil fuel habit by 2035 to secure the 1.5C target.
Faith groups are so important.
Sir David somehow manages to tell the truth about the science and about what we need to do globally, while giving a positive message, highlighting the good things that the UK is doing - the International Climate Fund, for example.
After half a dozen lively workshops, including 'How do I engage my congregation,' with Islamic Relief and the Climate Coalition, and Bright Now James Buchanan's 'Divesting and Investing', Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and Rabbi Natan Levy wrapped up the evening with a 'Where do we go from here?' plenary discussion. Attendees were encouraged to join the Climate Coalition's 'Speak-Up' week of action in October. There is already a follow-on event planned on January 25th and plans for a Facebook group.
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