COP26: Pope calls for urgent action against the 'seeds of conflicts' that harm humanity and the environment

Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, Zoroastrian and Jain religious leaders issued an appeal, calling for behaviour and action based on "interdependence", "co-responsibility" and, above all, mutual "respect".


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met with other religious leaders and scientists from around the world in the Vatican to take a common stand for the protection of the environment, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for 1-12 November in Glasgow, Scotland.

The meeting on “Faith and Science: Towards COP26”, held this morning in the Hall of the Blessing and the Italian Embassy in the afternoon, was promoted by the embassies of the United Kingdom and Italy to the Holy See, as well as the Holy See.

Participants included the highest Sunni religious authority, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyeb, and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, as well as Alok Kumar Sharma, president-designate of COP26, to whom the signed appeal was delivered.

The latter calls for behaviour and actions based on "interdependence", "co-responsibility", and above all on mutual "respect" to counter those "seeds of conflicts" such as greed, indifference, ignorance, fear, violence that harm humanity and the environment.

In “our world, everything is profoundly interrelated,” said Francis in his address. “Science, but also our religious beliefs and spiritual traditions, have stressed this connectedness between ourselves and the rest of creation.”

“Today’s meeting, which brings together many cultures and spiritualities in a spirit of fraternity, can only strengthen our realization that we are members of one human family. Each of us has his or her religious beliefs and spiritual traditions, but no cultural, political or social borders or barriers prevent us from standing together.”

“Recognizing that the world is interconnected means not only realizing the harmful effects of our actions, but also identifying behaviours and solutions to be adopted, in an attitude of openness to interdependence and sharing.

“We cannot act alone, for each of us is fundamentally responsible to care for others and for the environment. This commitment should lead to an urgently needed change of direction, nurtured also by our respective religious beliefs and spirituality. This commitment should lead to an urgently needed change of direction, nurtured also by our respective religious beliefs and spirituality.”

“This commitment must constantly be driven by the dynamism of love, for ‘in the depths of every heart, love creates bonds and expands existence, for it draws people out of themselves and towards others’. Love’s driving force, however, is not set in motion once for all; it needs to be renewed daily. That is one of the great contributions that our religious and spiritual traditions can make to help bring about this much needed change of course.

“Love is the mirror of an intense spiritual life: a love that extends to all, transcending cultural, political and social boundaries; a love that is inclusive, concerned especially for the poor, who so often teach us how to overcome the barriers of selfishness and to break down the walls of our ego.

“This represents a challenge born of our need to counter the ‘throwaway culture’ so prevalent in our society and resting on what our Joint Appeal calls the ‘seeds of conflicts: greed, indifference, ignorance, fear, injustice, insecurity and violence’.

“Those seeds of conflict cause the serious wounds we are inflicting on the environment, such as climate change, desertification, pollution and loss of biodiversity. These in turn are leading to the breaking of “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

“The challenge to work for a culture of care for our common home, but also for ourselves, is one that inspires hope, for surely humanity has never possessed as many means for achieving this goal as it possesses today.

“We can face this challenge on various levels. I would like to emphasize two of them in particular: example and action, and education. Inspired by our religious beliefs and spiritual traditions, we can make important contributions in both these areas. Many opportunities present themselves, as the Joint Appeal clearly notes in pointing to the various educational and training programmes that we can develop to promote care for our common home.

“That care is also a call to respect: respect for creation, respect for our neighbour, respect for ourselves and for the Creator, but also mutual respect between faith and science, in order to enter into a mutual ‘dialogue for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity’.”

The appeal goes on to say that “Now is the time for urgent, radical and responsible action. [. . .] Now it is the time to take transformative action as a common response. As the COVID pandemic rages, 2021 presents a vital challenge to turn this crisis into an opportunity to rethink the world we want for ourselves and for our children. Care must be at the heart of this conversion, at all levels.”

“But we also need to change the narrative of development and to adopt a new kind of economics: one that places human dignity at its center and that is inclusive; one that is ecologically friendly, caring for the environment, and not exploiting it; one based not on endless growth and proliferating desires, but on supporting life; one that promotes the virtue of sufficiency and condemns the wickedness of excess; one that is not only technologically driven, but is moral and ethical.”

Richer nations must take the initiative, stepping up climate action at home and financially supporting "vulnerable" countries to adapt to and address climate change as well as deal with the “loss and damage” resulting from the crisis.

“We appeal to governments to raise their ambitions and their international cooperation to: favor a transition to clean energy; adopt sustainable land use practices including preventing deforestation, restoring forests and conserving biodiversity; transform food systems to become environmentally friendly and respectful of local cultures; end hunger; and to promote sustainable lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production.

For their part, “followers of religious traditions” must first commit to advance “the educational and cultural transformation that is crucial to sustain all other actions” as well as undertake “far-reaching environmental action within our own institutions and communities, informed by science and based on religious wisdom.”

With time to restore the planet running out, religious leaders and scientists are calling on the international community to act quickly.

“We are currently at a moment of opportunity and truth. We pray that our human family may unite to save our common home before it is too late. Future generations will never forgive us if we squander this precious opportunity. We have inherited a garden: we must not leave a desert to our children.”

In addition to Christian religious leaders, the appeal was signed by representatives of Islam (Sunni and Shia), Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism and Jainism.

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