Gathering at the Iglesia de Jesús in central Madrid, representatives of various religious traditions met on 1 December to pray and dialogue together in view of an intense agenda ahead, as the United Nations climate meeting (COP25) runs from 2-13 December. Christian, Muslim, Jew and Bahá’í – many are the people of faith who share a common interest in caring for Creation, as political leaders from around the world now gather for the 25th session of the COP to deliberate and negotiate a way forward through what is becoming an evermore alarming situation of global climate emergency.
Under the theme of ‘Interfaith Dialogue – Hope, Action and Prayer’ some 100 participants took on the challenge of exploring as people of faith ‘where we are,’ ‘where we want to be’, and ‘how we can get there’ in view of a broad spectrum of climate-related challenges and opportunities, following the process of Talanoa dialogue and taking stock of similar dialogues ranging back to COP23.
As one of the hosts of the dialogue, Rev. Alfredo Abad of the Spanish Evangelical Church noted that “it is when we come together, that we can take up that powerful prophetic voice as people of faith.”
And what is more, stressed Marta Matarín, who coordinates Brahma Kumaris in Barcelona, “we know that our actions will be much more powerful, if they come from a spiritual perspective, as a deep expression of who we are.”
“We are gathered here because we all love this planet,” Matarín said.
Running through the first half of December, the UNFCCC’s 25th session marks the last COP before an enhanced set of the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions are to be submitted for the first Paris Agreement implementation cycle.
And indeed, the conference takes place at a pivotal point in time, just as leading researchers report that the world may already have passed a series of irreversible tipping points towards a changing climate.
Joining the interfaith session as representative of UNHCR, expert on climate change and environment Amanda Kron stressed the way that the impact of the climate crisis is already being felt, and particularly so among those in our communities who are already marginalized or being discriminated against.
“We need to ensure now that our responses to the climate emergency fulfil the requirements of human rights, so that they really contribute to a just transition,’” Kron said.
But the challenges of climate justice also transcend intergenerational boundaries, explained Lutheran World Federation delegate and Council member Khulekani Sizwe Magwaza from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa.
“We’ve been saying for 25 years, that we need to do something about climate change, but we have not done enough. But then if you now have young people at the climate talks today, we have all seen the impact of young people speaking the truth, telling it as it is,” said Magwaza.
Muslim participant Hana Elabdallaoui reflected, “this is an opportunity for us to show that yes, we are believers, but even for people who don’t believe in any religion, this is an opportunity to leave a mark in this world.”
“Let’s work together, on behalf of God. We are human beings, this is our planet, and we have to protect it,” Elabdallaoui urged.