06/22/2015, 00.00
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Indian Baha'i leader joins Pope Francis in defending the earth’s environment

A.K. Merchant, national trustee at the Lotus Temple in Delhi, spoke to AsiaNews about the “green” encyclical. For him, its “overarching message” is that “the fair management of the global commons is one of the most important tasks of the 21st century.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato si’ “has come at an historic moment for climate change, when wealth concentration and religious and ethnic violence are at a breaking point,” said A.K. Merchant, national trustee at the Lotus Temple and Baha’i Community of India in Delhi.

“Environmental protection and the restoration of the earth’s natural environment are an integral part of the Baha'i community’s belief and spiritual commitment,” he explained. For this reason, the community “supports the Holy Father”.

The Baha'i faith recognises all the founders of the great religions as announcers of the one God. It preaches that humanity is a single race, without ethnic or religious distinctions. It also pays close attention to environmental protection and the defence of creation.

According to Merchant, three aspects are of particular importance in the encyclical, namely,

“it is based unequivocally on the scientific consensus that global warming is taking place and that climate change is man-made;

“it rejects the denial of anthropogenic warming;  it unmasks the political and economic structures of power behind the climate change debate and stresses the importance of non-state actors in achieving change; and

“it defines the atmosphere and the environment as a common good rather than a ‘no man’s land’, available for anyone to pollute.”

For the Baha‘I leader, "Although the encyclical puts a focus on the poor it is not merely a moral scripture. It is also no ordinary appeal to governments to act.”

In fact, the document “explicitly states that international negotiations have so far not made significant progress (169) and accuses international politics of its weak response (54).”

For him, “the Pope does not address governments as main actors, nor does he frame the climate problem only as the responsibility of each individual. Instead, the encyclical underlines the importance of collective actors such as cooperatives, non-governmental organizations and civil society (179).”

Since “Individual actions alone will achieve little, [. . .] together they can make a difference. Perhaps this is the overarching message of the encyclical,” he noted.

 “The fair management of the global commons is one of the most important tasks of the 21st century. This can only be successful if a large number of actors across different levels of governance, ranging from global, to regional and local, link up together.”

“As national trustee of the Baha'i community in India, I am convinced that the Holy Father’s inspiring words will have an impact not only on Catholics worldwide, but also on the whole cross-section of the world’s population." (NC)

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