At COP21 last week, religious leaders participated in a “Fast for Climate” and delivered petitions with more than 1.7 million signatures to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, demanding immediate climate action.
These leaders, from different faith traditions, also held a press conference at COP21 with the message that they are united in the fight against climate change.
COP21 is not only a gathering of world leaders to achieve an agreement on climate change — it is a gathering for all concerned with the issue. This has included religious leaders from many of the world’s faiths and denominations, who realize a responsibility to speak out on grave societal illnesses and care for the world.
One of the most intriguing and lifegiving events at COP21 was an ecumenical worship service held at the Notre Dame Cathedral on Dec. 3, organized by the Council of Christian Churches in France.
Angelic choruses sang throughout the multilingual service, which focused on the importance of taking care of creation and understanding that those who are the least powerful to affect the climate around the globe are at the greatest at risk from climate change. The plea to save the planet was illustrated through the giving of the gifts and a dramatic procession on the importance of creation.
Representatives from the World Council of Churches were present at the service, including General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, and Archbishop Antje Jackelén, primate of the Church of Sweden.
It is crucial for religious leaders to participate in COP21. Saving the earth is both a political movement and a spiritual movement. When science and conscience join together in a common message, perhaps then changes can be made to inhibit greenhouse gas production and promote fostering renewable resources together.
Religious leaders are speaking out and saying, "This is our only God-given home. We must all work together to save God’s creation. God has entrusted it to us for all generations."
Ilkka Sipiläinen, advisor for Society and Sustainable Development for the ELC in Finland, said, “The presence of the WCC and other faith communities is important for COP12. Churches have been promoting the urgency of action to mitigate climate change, and a fair and differentiated effort-sharing. They have a responsibility to speak for the victims of climate change who often are the world’s poorest people. And I, coming from a rich country in the Global North, also speak for urgent and decisive measures needed to mitigate climate change as well as to offer the needed climate finance. We have to act now!”
As the World Council of Churches has indicated, care for creation is of upmost concern for the church. Spiritual leaders are praying for this planet — and as we pray, we must also act. The time to act is now.