World Religious Leaders Appeal for Action on Climate Change

With less than one month to go until the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, world religious leaders are calling for strong action to protect the environment. The leaders gathered at a meeting hosted by the Vatican this week.

Religious leaders attending the one-day meeting “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” Monday made a powerful appeal ahead of the U.N. Climate Change conference which opens October 31 in Glasgow, Scotland, and which Pope Francis is also planning to attend.

For two weeks at this year’s COP-26 summit in Britain, participants will discuss the measures that are needed to avoid what some are calling an “unprecedented ecological crisis.”

The appeal said, “We plead with the international community, gathered at COP26, to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.” 

It was handed to Alok Sharma, president of COP26 in Glasgow and to the Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio. Sharma spoke with reporters in Rome after the meeting.

“We are at a very dangerous point. The window is closing on tackling climate change and keeping that 1.5-degree critical temperature limit within reach. But the door is still open, we still have time to act,” he said.

Forty faith leaders from about 20 countries attended the Vatican gathering. 

They included the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar mosque, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, the Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Representatives of several other religions including Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism were also present.

Missing from those invited to the conference was the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet’s Buddhists, who China does not recognize.

The decision to not invite the Dalai Lama reflects the pope’s efforts to improve relations with China. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, told the Reuters news agency that the Vatican’s relations with Beijing now are difficult but he noted that the Dalai Lama is well-respected by the pope.

Sharna said the Pope and religious representatives who took part in the Vatican meeting cover about 75 percent of the world’s population.

“That is by any measure a significant percentage of people across the globe and that’s why their voice matters so much,” he said.

Pope Francis has made concern for Earth, which he has described as “our common home,” a hallmark of his papacy.

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