Faith groups are being encouraged to support the Global Climate Strike action in Britain on Friday, 20 September. The movement was inspired by school protests worldwide, initiated by the Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. The aim is to bring centres of commerce to a standstill and demand serious responses from the government on how global warming can be reduced.
Interfaith climate change campaign groups have sprung up throughout the world. The imperative to save the planet springs from sacred texts, with the common theme that creation is a gift from God which people must care for and protect for future generations. They garner support from faith communities and work alongside secular organisations. Many in the UK are members of The Climate Coalition, which unites sport, faith, international development charities and others in climate change campaigns.
Global warming is the steady rise in the average temperature of the world’s climate system. The average global temperature has increased over the past 50 years at the fastest rate in recorded history with experts saying it is extremely likely that human influence is the dominant cause.
Warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally, this radiation would escape into space, but these pollutants trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter – the so-called greenhouse effect. In most cases, this is caused by burning fossil fuels to make electricity.
There are a multitude of climate change faith groups. In the UK Faith for the Climate brings together 170 faith communities working on climate change. In the USA, GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition working with people of all faiths to help them become ‘better environmental stewards’.
Their action includes:
A “Faith Bridge” campaign on 7 October will hold round-the-clock prayer and worship on a bridge near Westminster in London. People of all faiths and none are being encouraged to join.
A coalition of faith institutions – the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Operation Noah, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith – announced on 12 September its intention to get rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds involving fossil fuels. Pressure is being put on HSBC by Christian Aid to lead the way.
In the USA and Canada, Muslim authorities have joined the protest by issuing a fatwa, or religious ruling, calling on Islamic investment managers to develop fossil-free investment policies and on individual Muslims to invest in renewable energy.
Professor Ian Christie, senior lecturer at the University of Surrey, co-investigator for the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity:
“Four in five of us are, to some extent, members of faith communities. If just a fraction of this huge body of believers were to connect their faith to sustainable development and act accordingly, with the support of their institutions, the gain could be world-changing.”
Lizzie Nelson, spokesman for Faith for the Climate:
“Last year’s IPCC report made clear, we only have 12 years left to act on climate and keep climate change to 1.5 degrees. The young people who have been striking for action on climate change are an inspiration, and call on the conscience of adults to stand alongside them and follow their lead. Every faith tradition has care for the Earth, and all the peoples of the Earth, at its core. So as people of faith, we are coming together to support our young people, to pray for the Earth of their future, and that their call to Governments here in the U.K. and worldwide, will be heard and acted on.”
Ruth Jarman, a member of Christian Climate Action, was convicted of a public order offence for refusing to move from the ground at Oxford Circus during the Extinction Rebellion protests in April 2019.
“As a Christian, the most important thing of all is that creation belongs to God. What does it mean to God when we trash it? It is not God’s plan that our children’s future is full of suffering because of climate change and we need to persuade people to act before it is too late. I am not a lawbreaker on anything else, but I have campaigned on climate change for 20 years and I’ve tried everything else. If laws act to destroy God’s creation and make the lives of our children dangerous, we are required to rebel and act against that.”
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, founder of Shema, The Jewish Environmental Network:
“Central to our faith is the unity of all life – energy, the divine – so if we kill nature we are committing suicide. Shema was set up to galvanise Jewish people to be engaged and aware and become involved, not to be bystanders. Throughout history we have had to stand up against injustice, and this is a terrible injustice throughout the world of carbon emissions going up not down. Young people are more clear sighted and vociferous – they are pioneers for us, leading the way. Through their actions older people are waking up and recognising what’s going on. We believe in non-violent protest, coming from a spiritual impulse, from our inner life and understanding. Climate change is by far the biggest issue facing humanity – bigger than Brexit.”
Harun Khan, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain:
“Islamic environmentalism is embedded in Islamic teachings, with The Qur’an providing lessons on how human beings relate to the natural world and how we must protect it. Whatever faith or background, care for our environment and steps to tackle climate change must bring communities together to save our planet.
“Mosques and Islamic centres have recently launched campaigns to encourage environmentalism – from caring for and cleaning up local environments, to introducing green initiatives like the use of reusable crockery.
“The global climate strike on 20th September is an opportunity to reflect on the small steps Muslim communities have been taking to tackle climate change. We must also use this opportunity to plan for the huge leaps that need to be made by all – individuals, communities, businesses and the government – to change our culture to be more conscious of the impact our actions have on our planet, and to foster understanding about what we can do to combat the impact of climate change.
“Governments in particular must show leadership in this area. While the UK has taken some steps to introduce green policies – from levies on plastic bags to meeting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – policy making must be bolder and go further. This is, of course, a global task, and not something that can be solved by individual governments. More leadership is needed from Muslim-majority countries, implementing the environmental practices of The Qur’an, for example by diverting energy production towards more renewable sources and stopping the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles.”
FAITH BASED CLIMATE CHANGE GROUPS – a snapshot
GreenFaith – a global inter-faith group based in New Jersey working with people of all faiths to help them become “better environmental stewards”.
Faith for the Climate based in London, brings together UK faith communities to work ‘alongside and in partnership with secular environmental organisations’, to protect the climate.
Christian Climate Action – supporting each other to take ‘meaningful action in the face of imminent and catastrophic anthropogenic climate change”. Members carry out “acts of non-violent direct action, to urge those in power to make the change needed”.
Operation Noah a Christian charity working within the church to inspire action on climate change. It was launched on Ash Wednesday 2012 with a paper, Climate change and the purposes of God: A call to the church.
IFEES Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, developing an Islamic approach to environment protection through research, training, education and events. Based in UK.
The Global Catholic movement – instigated by Pope Francis, it urges the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics “and all people of good will” to take urgent action against the injustice of climate change and the ecological crisis, to protect the poor and future generations. Catholics are urged to join a climate protest strike, hold public prayer sessions and plants trees.
Green Anglicans comprising Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide, have long been concerned with environmental issues, from extreme weather to food shortages. They are described as “a network for those who care for God’s creation”. Members are encouraged to fast on the first day of every month in support of the movement.
Green Christian formed in 1981 to offer Christian insights to the wider Green movement. Encourages a simpler lifestyle, lessening the impact on the earth’s resources.