Interfaith leaders embody the phrase “action speaks louder than words” – and it could make all the difference in the world. Literally.
Around the world, interfaith climate organizations are uniting to fight climate change. Reverend Fletcher Harper, Episcopalian minister and executive director of the interfaith climate organization GreenFaith, told the Deseret News, “The sad reality is that people don’t change just because you ask nicely. You have to push. »
Interfaith work has been a growing movement since the early 1900s – just after World War I – but really took off as a grassroots movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s as organizations multiplied around the world in a broader effort to bridge the divides between religions and social issues like discrimination.
The first steps were to talk about divisions; now the focus is on using those dialogues and working together to solve problems for the common good.
Many religions believe that the Earth is sacred, created by a divine being. In the world of 2022, a torrent of high temperatures causes flooding from melting ice caps and communities around the world face power outages and deadly droughts, putting the Earth and its people at risk.
Mother Nature’s protection is a force strong enough to bring people of all faiths together in the fight against climate change. Since no small group is able to make things happen, they team up.
Madison Daniels, religious community organizer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, meets with congregations across the state. He said it doesn’t matter how big the community is, “as long as they have a voice” to speak out.
Activists like Daniels believe that uniting different faiths will change the world.
Ellie Thompson, Coordinator of Interfaith Engagement at Utah Valley University, uses the example of the Iberian Peninsula to tell her story of joining interfaith efforts and offer insight into what a cause looks like. common.
Under Islamic rule, the Golden Age of the Iberian Peninsula – now modern Spain and Portugal – ushered in mathematical, philosophical and literary advances. It was here that the Bible was first translated, a mix of Christians and Jews were advisers to the king, and a general sense of connection developed within the wider community of different faiths.
The Great Mosque of Cordoba also served as the capital’s building during this period, until the Christians waged war and reconsecrated it as a Christian cathedral. But today, Christians and Muslims make pilgrimages there.
Even though it’s not taught alongside Europe’s Dark Ages in history classes, Thompson said the history of the Iberian Peninsula is why she chose to engage with the interfaith community.
“It was a great example of interfaith work,” she said, noting that it shows that it is not only possible for religions to work together for a common goal, but that their efforts can prosper.
An interreligious seed is planted
When Thompson visited the former capital of the Iberian Peninsula while working on her degree in 2012, she flew into a rage. She saw security guards preventing Muslims and Jews from kneeling and praying.
“I was very upset, it was such a disgrace to the history of the place and what it stood for,” she said.
This inspired her to start her own interfaith dialogue group upon her return to the United States.
Stories like Thompson’s are familiar around the world. People join organizations to create change on a larger scale.
“More and more people are recognizing that climate change is a really serious threat,” said Reverend Harper. “They are often immobilized by this threat because it seems too overwhelming for them to face or because they are afraid that if they do something it will lead to an uncomfortable lifestyle change or they just don’t know. not what to do.”
An organization allows them to act together.
“We believe history changes when people come together to push,” said Reverend Harper.
The interfaith movement’s first organization, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, focused on connecting religions and reconciling differences. It was created in 1914 by a Christian sect, largely to connect groups and start conversation through chat groups like the one Thompson started. But Rev. Harper of GreenFaith believes the power of interfaith collaboration today is action, not just talk.
“My biggest concern with the interfaith world is that too often it gets stuck at the level of dialogue,” Reverend Harper said. He noted that people of faith have historically joined public protests and been social activists — sometimes bravely — during major social movements like the civil rights movement.
For example, the Fellowship of Reconciliation met in Switzerland to stop a war.
Activism – in all its forms – takes a lot of effort and what he calls “the interfaith movement for climate justice” is no different.
“(Activism) causes people to act in ways that are unnatural for most people; which is to be public, somewhat confrontational, and have the courage to stand side by side with other like-minded people against governments, corporations, or social forces that are far more powerful than any what a motley individual or small group of individuals,” said Reverend Harper.
The environmental issue of climate change is a value common to many types of worldviews. In the interfaith world, “worldview” is used “to be as inclusive as possible.” Thompson said this includes “any religious, spiritual or secular identity or anything on that spectrum.”
Organizations like GreenFaith work with believers and non-believers in an effort to stop climate change.
“While there are a lot of things that divide us (and) we all see the world from very different perspectives, it doesn’t matter,” Daniels said. “I think Earth is the common ground where we can all meet and form a little unity.”
Earth as a shared goal
For many religions, nature and the Earth are sacred.
Reverend Harper told Deseret News that in Genesis the Bible talks about the divinity of the Earth and humanity is meant to take care of it. For him and for others who believe that God created the world, the Earth comes directly from God’s hands and is special, justifying its protection.
“A reconnection to the planet and a re-foundation of our human experience is really the secret sauce that is missing from our religious, civic and emotional experiences,” said Daniels, who grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. .
This view of the importance of the Earth follows the same lines across many Christian denominations and other religions as well. This is also true for many who do not identify with any particular faith.
For example, atheism does not have the same belief in a divine creator. The Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study found that among atheists who tolerate strict laws to protect the environment, 97% did not believe in heaven, which makes the here and now on Earth very important.
Atheists and agnostics have joined forces on the climate front.
“Although we have beautiful differences, there’s a lot we share about how we want the world,” Reverend Harper said.
These “beautiful differences” are what, in fact, keep the world going.
In the work titled “Earth’s Future” which focused on the climate crisis of a melting Arctic region, many different types of engineers and scientists were needed to complete the project.
“Grand societal challenges – such as those posed by the changing Arctic – require broad but systematic approaches that integrate diverse knowledge and perspectives while being highly collaborative,” the article states.
Diverse perspectives and expertise are key to tackling climate change, allowing unique ideas and talents to contribute to a bigger whole – a common cause.
Thompson said that “strengthening respect for different identities and [creating] relationships through these identities [while] working together for the common good”, this is what his school and any organization that wants a pluralistic world is working towards. Daniels agrees.
“I think Earth is the common ground where we can all meet and form some unity,” Daniels said.
With the Earth as the common ground between believers and non-believers, a diverse multi-faith movement was born.
SUWA and GreenFaith teach skills to fight climate change to all types of people, whether they are congregations, students or anywhere else in the world.
While teaching climate conservation classes, Madison has described herself as “on the border” of many religious communities due to her interaction with people of different faiths.
He said his favorite place to teach was not in a church, synagogue or mosque, but outdoors in the southern Utah desert.
“I really think that disconnection is the main problem of human existence. Disconnection from ourselves, from others, from our bodies and from the earth,” he said.
It is outside that his passion for the land resonates the strongest in the open air. And the potential for a unified world seems close.