In the lead up to the People’s Climate March, happening in Perth this Sunday 29 November, religious leaders from seven different traditions came together at the Wesley Uniting Church in the city this morning to show why they have decided to support the march and speak about how their faith compels them to act on climate change.
Moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia, Rev Steve Francis, reiterated the Uniting Church’s repeated calls for action on climate change, saying, “The Uniting Church views climate change as a most serious threat to humanity that must be tackled urgently.
“The time has come to aim higher on climate change action. The Australian Government, along with global leaders, has a unique opportunity at the upcoming United Nations climate talks in Paris to commit to carbon emission reduction targets that prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”
An insightful discussion ensued among the faith leaders with Rabbi Sheryl Nosan-Lantzke from Jewish Spirituality Australia commenting that, “According to Genesis, the first human is told that we are to tend and till the garden. It’s our responsibility – it’s our home. It’s the garden we all share.”
Dr Rateb Jneid, President of the Islamic Council of WA also provided his endorsement of the combined campaign saying, “We support this march and we support the climate change campaign. We don’t have any problem being involved with every faith – in Australia, Western Australia and around the world – to act on climate change.”
Bishop Tom Wilmot from the Anglican Diocese of Perth reinforced the unity that underlies the faith community’s commitment to the environment, saying, “All the faiths are committed to the sanctity of the planet. The earth is sacred and so is life.”
The international movement for strong action on climate change was given a significant boost this year through the release of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. This has provided great impetus for people of faith to become more engaged in environmental matters, as shown by Yale University study, The Francis Effect.
Sister Janet Palafox, Diocesan Coordinator for Caritas Australia said, “Pope Francis has already said what it is [about] for us… In Laudato Si’ it’s more about kinship now – we are not actually just carers of the earth, we are part of earth. This is family now.
“For Caritas and for all other organisations that are supporting the poorest of the poor, we can see they are already affected by this. This is not a future; this is their present. People are already paying for this.”
Carol Mitchell, Director of the Justice, Ecology and Development Office for the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth said it was also important to remember that Aboriginal people have been sustaining the Australian environment for tens of thousands of years. “Connectedness is also recognizing that we have much to learn from our Indigenous brothers and sisters who have such a deep spirituality and a respect of the land,” Ms Mitchell said, “There’s so much that we need to learn from them on this shared journey.”
In wrapping up the conversation, Rabbi Nosan-Lantzke called on the imagery of the ark to describe the earth as the common home for all of humanity. “It’s one ark that’s carrying the entire living human family and if that boat goes down we are more than all refugees. We must take care of one another and our ship,” reflected Rabbi Nosan-Lantzke, “Either we will sink together or we will be sustained together.”
The group will be joining the People’s Climate March on Sunday as they walk from Wellington Square to Wesley Church from 1pm. Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, Archbishop Roger Herft from the Anglican Diocese of Perth and Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia, have all signed an invitation – sent to leaders of all the major faith traditions – asking that people from all of WA’s diverse faith communities come out to the march on Sunday and show their common desire to preserve our world.
For more information on the Uniting Church’s involvement in the People’s Climate March, please visit www.unitingforclimate.org.au