The event, at the nexus between women, faith and climate change, highlighted the importance of aligning women’s leadership with the ongoing efforts of youth, indigenous people, faith groups and other stakeholder groups.
In this section we highlight some of the contributions faith communities, youth and indigenous communities bring to the table to tackle the planetary crisis:
Faith and indigenous communities: Faith communities create an important space, where climate change can be addressed from a moral perspective and received with compassion and empathy. A number of the participants spoke to the need to recognise and uplift the importance of diverse religious teachings, spiritual and indigenous traditions which frame and share an ethical and moral imperative to people of faith to protect nature and the environment. Indigenous spirituality and faith traditions adopt a similar duty of care to the environment. For example, the Hindu understanding that the Earth is a goddess and the Hindu world view that the masculine and feminine are always considered to be equal and together brings a different perspective to understanding our relationship with the environment and climate action.
The common commitment across all religions to caring for the earth is reflected in the “Joint Appeal” signed by the leaders of all the world’s key faith traditions convened by the Vatican in October 2021, as a message to world leaders at COP 26. The importance of interfaith work in combating climate change was underscored at the event. For example, the chair of DICID, Dr. Ibrahim Al Naimi, believed that interfaith dialogue is crucial to serve humanity and address the most important ongoing human issues.
“There is an ethical and moral imperative to protect the earth. This is ordained by God, to be proliferated by religious leaders. Islam teaches us to protect human beings, and the earth.” – Professor Aisha Yousef Al-Mannai
The role of spirituality and faith in emotional wellbeing and coping with the stress of climate catastrophe has been an anchor for so many and was also highlighted at the event.
The delegates recognised the importance of publicising localised examples of environmental faith-based initiatives because they can inspire people to do more. Examples given included:
- The Blue Mosque project, a collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), exemplifies an innovative environmental faith-based initiative. This initiative focuses on reducing water consumption in the iconic Blue Mosque in Istanbul. By implementing sustainable practices such as rainwater harvesting, efficient irrigation systems, and public awareness campaigns, the project not only demonstrates a commitment to preserving the environment but also aligns with the mosque’s religious and ethical values, emphasising the responsible stewardship of natural resources as an integral part of their faith. This holistic approach showcases how faith-based institutions can lead by example in promoting environmental sustainability and inspire positive change within their communities and beyond.
- The Green Ramadan Initiative in Malaysia is a testament to the power of faith-based initiatives in promoting eco-awareness and inspiring positive change within the community. This project resonates deeply with the country’s Muslim community, emphasising the importance of eco-consciousness during the holy month of Ramadan. By encouraging practices like reducing single-use plastics, conserving water and energy, and promoting sustainable food choices, the initiative beautifully integrates Islamic values with environmental responsibility. It fosters a sense of spiritual connection and ethical obligation, emphasising that the faithful have a duty to protect and preserve the environment as an integral part of their religious devotion.
- Al-Mizan: A Covenant for the Earth UNEP which is being launched at COP28 presents an Islamic outlook of the environment in a bid to strengthen local, regional, and international actions that combat climate change and other threats to the planet. It is a global endeavour to engage Islamic scholars and Muslim institutions in the development and adoption of this Call.
- EcoSikh – Sustainable Amritsar, the Golden Temple, receives a substantial daily influx of visitors, approximately 60,000, which surges to around 100,000 on holidays. Within this vast operation, one of the most extensive facilities caters to the sustenance needs of a significant portion of the populace through langar, communal meals. In addition to the substantial quantities of food cultivated, prepared, and served by Sikhs, the langar serves as a pivotal site for the integration of renewable energy. Amritsar made the strategic decision to install 30 concentrated solar dishes, which harness solar energy to provide heat for cooking, thereby substituting nearly half of the liquid petroleum gas previously used in the langar with a sustainable energy source, thereby promoting improved health, sustainable land use, and support for local farmers. We need to emphasis the role of women within specific faith groups. In the Sikh faith, women are the backbone of society. In the gurdwaras, places of worship, women are sustainably sourcing food and finding sustainable ways to dispose of materials
There is power in Faith Action. We need to engage women’s leadership in finance and in faith institutions for climate solutions. One concrete area of action discussed is the ongoing work to promote the divestment of faith owned assets relating to fossil fuels and carbon emissions, and to support the efforts of faiths to redirect investments towards climate solutions. And here again women’s leadership was mentioned as a catalyst for divestment. The potential of working together to advance climate financing was emphasised, alongside building on women-led local initiatives that could have global impact and speaking out together on phasing out fossil fuels alongside asking faith and religious institutions to lead by example.
“Don’t underestimate how radical the power of women and faith is in bringing about change”
Youth: The younger generation will bear the brunt of the most detrimental consequences in the future, yet they are enthusiastic about acquiring knowledge and desire their voices and contributions to be acknowledged.
Furthermore, the voices of youth have raised awareness about the climate crisis’s potential impact on mental health, giving rise to climate anxiety and climate grief. Climate anxiety is even influencing some young people’s decisions not to have children.
The paralysing nature of climate anxiety underscores the urgent need for increased collective action. It is vital for youth-led movements to have impact in influencing policy.