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Faith communities make a 'unique contribution' towards climate action

Faith for the Climate’s Rosh Lal tells us about the organisation's work to unite faith groups taking action on the climate crisis.

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Faith for the Climate.

The climate is at the top of many agendas, but one part of climate action that doesn’t often get discussed is the role that faith communities play in tackling the crisis. Many faith groups have been working on climate action for years, but they are not always included in wider conversations.

An upcoming Festival of Debate event hosted by Faith of the Climate’s Rosh Lal will spotlight the work of faith communities, with the session hosting speakers from a range of diverse faith backgrounds. Lal told us more ahead of the Faith and Climate Crisis event on 26 May.

Why is it important that we talk about climate change and the crisis from a faith perspective?

People of faith have a unique contribution to make in the climate crisis. In a discourse that can often get bogged down in policy detail and doomer-ism, people of faith can speak with a moral clarity about those who are going to be most adversely affected. They can draw on values universal to all faiths of compassion for the marginalised, and a hope for a more caring civilisation, to cut through all the power and politics.

Not only that, faith communities are global fraternities, with people of faith living, working and feeling the effects of the climate crisis in every nation, but especially in the Global South. That fraternity means people of faith can remind us of the need to stand in solidarity with each other, despite our nationalities, and that there are deeper connections than those to territory that bind us to each other and the natural world.

What can different faith groups bring to the discussions and actions surrounding the climate crisis? And do you think faith communities have been left out of a lot of these discussions?

Different faith communities bring their own particular contexts and histories to the climate discourse, but there is a fundamental universality in terms of principles. All faiths stress the need for care and compassion for the Earth and all that live upon it. But different faith communities are also working within their own specific contexts, with campaigns to make churches, synagogues, mosques, mandirs and gurdwaras carbon neutral.

At Faith for the Climate, I work closely with minority faith groups like Eco Sikh, the Bahu Trust, the Eco Dharma Network and Hindu Climate Action, who work to transform their own communities’ rituals and practices.

There have also been significant wins recently in terms of Christian organisations divesting from fossil fuels, but there are other faith communities taking more direct action, like XR Muslims and XR Buddhists.

Faith communities also have a voice at the UN climate talks, where their contribution is respected as being powerful and influential, but not explicitly ideological. This isn't to say that faith communities don't advocate for political solutions, just that their strength is in always drawing the discussion to the moral urgency of the crisis.

In the UK, the voice of minority faiths has historically not been recognised in discussions on the climate. This is partly a reflection of their experiences of race and class in this country. Established environmental groups often engage in a lot of hand-wringing about being too white and middle class.

Minority faiths are organising around the climate crisis in their own spaces, using their own language based around their communities' priorities. It's important that the contribution of minority faiths is recognised, especially as they have such strong links to their siblings in the Global South.

What are you hoping to achieve from this event?

I hope the event will demonstrate that the work of people of faith, and Faith for the Climate, is a necessary and important element of the wider struggle for climate justice. We need a movement of movements, and we need everyone if we're to have the truly global just transition we desperately need.

I also hope the event demonstrates that faith communities, like all communities, are not monolithic. Faith communities, sometimes rightfully, get a bad reputation for being obstructive to justice. But there is always a plurality of views within communities, and often this isn't recognised due to gatekeeping, patriarchy and other oppressions. There are many people of faith working in a solidaristic way based on a sense of universal love and recognition of the deep interconnectedness of all life. We will need those voices if we want to win climate justice.

Learn more

Sign up for the Festival of Debate event on 26 May via Eventbrite.

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