June 13, 2011

FAITH LEADERS ISSUE STRONG STATEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND COP 17 IN DURBAN

‘‘Earth is God’s handiwork-a sacred gift, a seamless cloth, woven from many connecting threads.’’ Eco-Congregation Programme of SAFCEI (www.safcei.org.za)

In an unprecedented occurrence, 132 faith leaders from over 32 African countries representing Muslim, Christian, Hindu, African traditional, Bahá'í and Buddhist communities gathered on Kenyan soil to talk about Climate Justice and Sustainable peace in Africa for two whole days. The Venue was UNEP, Nairobi perhaps in a symbolic show of the gravity of the situation and in recognition of the transboundary nature of the issue at hand., UNEP Director, Achim Steiner in his opening remarks said that, ''The Faith Community has a duty, legitimacy and the power to bring back a sense of responsibility to the Climate talks'' .

We (Africa) are part of the solution (to the climate change crisis) echoed Rev. Dr André  Karamaga, General Secretary, All Africa Council of churches(AACC).According to Sheikh Ibrahim Asmani Lethome, ‘ Religious teaching is well placed to address climate change quoting Chapter 6 verse 38 of the Quran’.

‘We’ve sold our souls to acquiring wealth’, said Bishop Geoff Davies in reference to humanity’s uncaring attitude for our planet. Speaker after speaker talked of the need to take bold steps as a faith community, because Africa is a continent full of people of faith, faiths wherein lie messages of care, nurture and protection not destruction and overexploitation.

At the end of the forum was a strong statement making demands of world leaders, calling on them to take steps to finding a solution to the climate crisis,

''We have no doubt that the Durban COP must decide on a treaty – and second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol – that is fair, ambitious and legally binding, to ensure the survival of coming generations '.

But they didn’t stop there, they went further to commit to walking the talk themselves observing the need to be examples to those they lead and to the whole world,

‘As African faith leaders, our responsibilities will be to: Set a good example for our faith communities by examining our personal needs and reducing unsustainable consumption’.

The climate change campaign may just have gotten a shot in the arm because of this, never before have faith leaders been so emphatic about climate change and environmental issues.

And there are lessons to learn from this, the gathering of faiths, that there exist points of convergence regardless of our individual beliefs, economic wealth and political status. That oneness in our diversity is where the answer to most of our problems lies.

Faith leaders have spoken, what remains to be seen is how well their message will be received and how their role and influence over the current climate scenarios takes shape and hopefully leads to a much desired positive outcome from the Durban negotiations.

We are after all children of the earth, ‎''The earth is but one country, humanity its citizen'' as aptly put by a leader of the Baha’i faith in the opening reflections.

By: Winnie Asiti

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