By John Brentnall
Berry Uniting Church joined 420 grassroots religious actions in 49 countries, 230 high-ranking religious leaders and 130 religious groups representing over 100 million people. Together this huge range of faith traditions from all over the world sounded the alarm over the climate crisis. In Berry, members of the church were joined by Zen Roshi Susan Murphy and people of other faiths.
Thousands of people of faith worldwide called on political and financial leaders to meet a series of ambitious climate demands at COP26, sending the clear message: world leaders are not doing nearly enough to address the climate crisis. The demands and actions are coordinated by the GreenFaith International Network, a grassroots multi-faith alliance.
Alarmed by the massive gap between what is required and actual climate change commitments by governments and financial institutions, grassroots religious activists released a set of strong demands for world leaders to address the injustice and impacts that the climate crisis inflicts 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, USA, and Vanuatu.
“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 to immediately end support for new fossil fuel infrastructure and tropical deforestation, commit to universal access to clean and affordable energy, enact policies creating green jobs and fund a just transition for impacted workers and communities.
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.
This is the first time grassroots religious organisations have mobilised on this scale with such clear demands.
Across Australia, churches rang their bells and Buddhist temples sounded 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.
The day of action’s organisers 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 mobilisation 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.”
Berry Uniting Church rang its bells at 11 am on Thursday 11th March as part of the global action. All around the world places of worship were taking similar actions at 11 am local time wherever they are. These actions included Rabbis sounding the shofar, the Muslim call to prayer, churches ringing their bells and silent meditation protests among other things.
In holding this action, members of Berry Uniting Church draw attention to the new multi-faith statement and its list of bold demands from some of the world’s best-known faith leaders and everyday people of faith, calling on political and business leaders to take urgent action on the climate crisis.
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.
We are calling for serious action now. That’s why we’re joining this worldwide call for getting net emissions down to zero by 2030 and for an end to finance and subsidies for coal, oil and gas. It means getting serious about investing in renewable energy, which creates many more jobs so badly needed right now. And it means making sure that there is serious assistance for communities that rely on jobs in coal, oil and gas so that they can transition to the jobs of the future and no one is left behind in the process.
This isn’t actually a political issue. It’s a profoundly moral one. It’s a moral challenge for all of us, whatever our beliefs may be.
John Brentnall is secretary of the Berry Uniting Church Council.
Feature image: Berry Uniting Church Climate Action group. Photo supplied.