Religions meet in Riyadh as faith groups step up on climate

17 Mei 2022

Faith-based groups are becoming more visible in their concern over the climate, and last week’s Muslim World League conference in Saudi Arabia provides the latest example of how leaders from various traditions are working together to call for action.

The Muslim World League, the largest Islamic NGO, hosted the event in Riyadh. More than 100 faith leaders attended, including the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the chairman of the Hindu Dharam Acharya Sabha in India, the head of the World Evangelical Alliance based in Germany, and the Chief Rabbi of Rome — one of more than 15 rabbis from various nations.

“As the world’s largest Islamic NGO, headquartered in the birthplace of Islam in Saudi Arabia, we have a special responsibility to do this work,” said Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League. It counts 1,200 Islamic scholars from 139 countries among its membership

“Whether it is to tackle climate change, to support refugees and vulnerable communities around the world, or simply to spread messages of peace and co-existence,” he said, “the kind of interfaith trust and cooperation this event is fostering is desperately needed to support those real-world goals.”

The primary goal of the conference was to communicate the shared values among faith traditions, whether it was the 300 million Orthodox Christians represented by His Holiness Bartholomew I or more than 500 million Buddhists represented by Banagala Upatissa Thero of Sri Lanka.

“Many people would be shocked to think of Islam and Buddhism being comparable in anyway and yet if you look closely at their teachings, and their efforts towards peace, they are more similar than one may suspect,” said Thero during his address.

The Riyadh meeting followed a joint appeal on climate-responsible financing, also issued last week, by the World Council of Churches (WCC), Muslim Council of Elders, and New York Board of Rabbis in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program.

“Let us come together and influence how money is invested in response to the existential threat of climate change,” said Rev. Dr. Ioan Sauca, acting head of the WCC. “Family money, church money, a company’s money, a nation’s money. We need everyone to take this step for a sustainable future for our children.”

The appeal commits these faith groups to review their relationships with banking and other financial institutions, and insists that financial service providers require oil and gas companies to stop all new development or expansion projects.

It also invites their millions of members to do the same “so that together we may move beyond words to effective action, and be the change for which we call,” in keeping with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

The Climate-Responsible Finance appeal was welcomed by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.

“The scientific and moral imperative is clear: there must be no new investment in fossil fuel expansion, including production, infrastructure and exploration,” Guterres said. “This year, all private financiers need to stop funding the entire coal sector, from mining to power generation, and actively shift finance to renewables.

“People, communities and organizations of faith have the influence needed to effect this transition.”

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