The World Council of Churches (WCC) has announced it will hold an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change on September 21-22 in New York City. At the summit, organised together with Religions for Peace, more than 30 religious leaders will take a united stand to encourage international and political leaders to address concretely the causes and consequences of climate change.
The interfaith summit is being held immediately before the United Nations (UN) Climate Summit, called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to galvanise and catalyse climate action, bringing bold announcements and actions that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilise political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.
WCC members said they hoped their united voice would be also heard at the upcoming Conferences of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima in December 2014 and in Paris in 2015.
“We will join our voices in the call for human rights and climate change to be addressed systematically,” said Daniel Murphy, campaigns assistant at the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation. Murphy spoke to the WCC Central Committee, the governing body of the WCC which is meeting this week in Geneva.
The WCC has been addressing climate change issues for more than two decades, and now the effects of climate change on human rights has reached an urgent level, said Kirsten Auken, an advocacy advisor at DanChurchAid, a Danish nonprofit with the mission of supporting the world's poorest people. Auken said the main message of the interfaith summit will be that “political leaders need to act to close the gap between what is needed and the lack of action on a political level. We, as church-related and faith-based groups, have an important role to play in pushing our leaders to be brave.”
In this case, “pushing” means capturing the attention of political leaders who are in a position to make a difference within the UN. “This is a big power game and we have to admit that,” said Auken. “We have to be the moral voice in this.” At the same time that WCC members challenge political leaders, they also need to take the initiative in their own lives to care for the earth around them, said Metropolitan Serafim Kykkotis, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. “We must unite through our common action to save the planet and give our children a better future,” he said.
The 30 participants at the summit will represent groups made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Indigenous Peoples, and others, said Dr Guillermo Kerber, coordinator of the WCC programme on Care for Creation and Climate Justice. “The relevance is unprecedented because of the crucial moment we are living today. We have called for years to have a fair, ambitious and binding treaty on climate change.”
Kerber and the other summit organisers agreed that the USA is first among the nations that must lead the effort to take climate action, based on science, that can help protect the basic human rights of individuals in this generation and in future ones. US-based pastors and churches are adding their voices to the calls for action, said the Rev Everdith Landrau, who serves with the Presbyterian Church (USA). “There are conscious programmes that have been trickling down to our local churches,” she said. “Those seeds are being planted.”