Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | July 17, 2015

Environmental & Social Justice across Faiths is shown through the new Islamic declaration that adds to growing pressure religious leaders are exerting on richer nations to reduce the burden they are putting on the Earth’s climate.

Environmental & Social Justice across Faiths is shown through the new Islamic declaration on the Environment that adds to growing pressure religious leaders are exerting on richer nations to reduce the burden they are putting on the Earth’s climate.

From Native People’s Shamans, to the Tibetan Dalai Lama, to the ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams who offered the Homily on the Environmental Parliament, to Pope Francis today and his forceful Climate Encyclical, to the progressive Friends of our Ecosystem the Jewish Rabbis, and on to the Green Muslims of America — it appears that faith groups steadfastly push for clean energy, clean air, clean water and Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability.

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِى الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِى النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِى عَمِلُوا۟ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

“”Corruption has appeared in land and sea caused by the hands of people so that they may taste the consequences of their actions and turn back””

Qur’an, The Romans (Ar Rum) – 30:41

This quote from the holy Book of the Muslim Peoples clearly lays down the rules for today’s Declaration of the Islamic Communities of the United States of America in favour of limiting our Anthropogenic Emissions and changing our Carbon burning addiction in producing our energy.

The current Declaration by Islamic Religious Leaders is a call to action for Muslims to live up to their responsibilities as guardians (Khalifa – Qur’an 6:167) of Allah’s creation and work towards leaving a livable earth for future generations.

Recently we featured the Pope who joined a long line of religious leaders, including the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and the Orthodox Patriarch, and many others, who have been talking about climate change for some time. And although so many speak to the faithful — yet, national and international progress on the issue has been non existent, or at best slow and plagued with political gridlock.

Of course statements from high-profile individuals are more often symbolic than they are pragmatic, because I’m not sure how much they filter down, to the lay people, the Society and to government actions, or even to the beliefs of ordinary people. Remember the official Catholic Church position is that birth control is impermissible, yet contraception is widely used by Catholics. So you could easily dismiss this as another one of those homilies…

Who listens to the Pope after all?

But Islam is different. The Umma is far more powerful and observant of the edicts of Faith as are articulated by the Religious Leaders. So now that they have started to speak out against Global Warming and against Climate Change based on Science — we should all listen.

During the Ramadan, Muslim leaders in the United States focus on educating their base of the Faithful — the Umma — about sustainability and clean energy. But this has been a slow process, in part because they are working with immigrant communities from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and even more specific from poor places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma and Somalia who are dealing with other socioeconomic issues as priorities and they can’t quite focus on this abstract issue right now.

Then again making people aware, takes time, and it’s a work in process — but once people see a clear benefit, they go for it.

As a scholar there is not a lot of data that points to there being any past real trends” where religious leadership influenced environmental policy or distinct behavioral shifts — but there have been real deals made by the influence of the Peoples of the Church, the Mosque, the Synagogue, and the Temple…

As a Scientist I hope that we get it right this time because TIme is SImply Running Out.

As a father I have hope we can get past all the differences and come to an empathetic, ethical “understanding” of how to live sustainably.

And as a Leader I hope to have the capacity and the wherewithal to make this happen on behalf of all the People’s of this Earth

Muslim scholars now say climate change poses dire threat — Islamic declaration adds to growing pressure religious leaders are exerting on richer nations to reduce the burden they are putting on the Earth’s climate.

Human beings could cause the ending of life on the planet, says a group of Islamic scholars − and countries round the world, particularly the rich ones, must face up to their responsibilities.

Climate change, they say, is induced by human beings: “As we are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour – but we have abused these gifts to the extent that climate change is upon us.”

The views of the scholars – some of the strongest yet expressed on climate from within the Muslim community – are contained in a draft declaration on climate change to be launched officially at a major Islamic symposium in Istanbul in mid-August.

Allah, says the declaration, created the world in mizan (balance), but through fasad (corruption), human beings have caused climate change, together with a range of negative effects on the environment that include deforestation, the destruction of biodiversity, and pollution of the oceans and of water systems.

The draft declaration has been compiled by the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), a UK-based charity focused on environmental protection and the management of natural resources. The declaration mirrors many of the themes contained in a recent encyclical issued by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic church.

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The Islamic declaration makes particularly strong criticism of the world’s richer and more powerful countries, which, it says, have delayed through their selfishness the implementation of a comprehensive climate change agreement.

“Their reluctance to share in the burden they have imposed on the rest of the human community by their own profligacy is noted with great concern,” the declaration says.

“Wealthy oil-producing countries must “refocus their concerns from profit to the environment and to the poor of the world”

Interestingly, the draft declaration – which is still being worked on by various Muslim academics around the world – says that, in particular, wealthy oil-producing countries must “refocus their concerns from profit to the environment and to the poor of the world”. Saudi Arabia, where Mecca is located, is one of the world’s leading oil-producing countries and clearly opposed to any tax on carbon and fossil fuels or any other method of limiting the use of their OIl & Gas Exports.

The declaration says a new economic growth model should be found that recognises that the planet’s resources are finite.

It also calls on big business to face up to its social responsibilities and not exploit scarce resources in poor countries, and says that businesses should also take a more active role in reducing their carbon footprint.

The declaration says Muslims everywhere in their particular spheres of influence should seek to play a role in tackling climate change – and that other faith and religious groups should also join in realising the aims of the Islamic scholars “to compete with us in this endeavour so we can all be winners in this race”.

The declaration quotes extensively from the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, as the basis of its arguments.

The Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, same as other Green Muslim groups — is known as the Wisconsin Green Muslims, and this month they gathered to break the Ramadan fast together, while also talking about a spiritual obligation to care for the earth, in part by reducing carbon emissions and embracing a more sustainable lifestyle.

Local leaders described how the Islamic Society of Milwaukee –one of nearly 30 mosques enrolled in this year’s national Greening Ramadan campaign – has overhauled its buildings with LED lights, skylights, a green roof, motion sensors and special faucets to conserve energy and water. Energy efficiency is one of the requirements to be recognized as a Greening Ramadan Mosque in the national campaign, in addition to food and water conservation, using green products and reducing waste.

A crowning achievement for the Islamic Society would be installing solar panels on the roofs of the society’s largest mosques and various buildings…

But this will be difficult to do financially given the solar policies instituted today, including increased fixed charges on customers with solar installations and a low rate for solar energy sent back to the grid.

Protecting the environment has long been a tenet of many faiths, from indigenous spiritual practices around the globe to the world’s major organized religions.

Yet today, faith-based action and initiatives on clean energy, divestment, sustainability, and Leadership, has the power to influence individual behavior and also government policy.

These two snapshots show how different faiths are embracing this role, and also how long the road can sometimes be.

Though progress may be slow, it’s clear that faith-based leadership and awareness-raising can impact the views and practices of people from a range of spiritual traditions.

Brian Sauder, executive director of the Chicago-based group Faith in Place, sees the Pope’s encyclical as bolstering and inspiring faith-based movements that are already in action, and helping break through the partisan political divide that has stymied clean energy and environmental policies.

“We see this as a celebratory moment, to have an international popular figure really champion the message is a great joy for us,” Sauder said. “We hope to amplify that message…to overcome these walls that divide us, to let that moral message lead us forward.”

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At the Ramadan’s end of the fast in Milwaukee, people spoke passionately of the commitment to moderation and conservation that is inherent in Islam, and how that can translate to clean energy.

Nabil Salous, an officer of the Islamic Society who oversaw the energy efficiency overhauls says this: “In every aspect of our faith there’s an emphasis on moderation, and there’s a special focus on the environment.” He pointed to the Prophet Muhammad’s message to conserve water in washing for prayer even when one is on the banks of an abundant river. “You are trustees of the environment, it’s at the heart of our faith.”

The Wisconsin Green Muslims’ current campaign focus is water, including conserving water, understanding the area’s watersheds and reducing storm water run-off.

But energy and water are intrinsically connected, Alkaff noted, so through water the group is able to educate members about climate change and energy issues. A Ramadan calendar created by the Wisconsin Green Muslims lists different ecological goals for each day, including moderating your thermostat, supporting renewable energy investments and joining the climate justice movement.

“We know water is sacred and scarce, so from there it’s easy to move into climate issues, and also the issue of climate refugees. It’s important for people to see the whole picture and connect the dots.”

Back in November of 2014, Green Muslims had more than 200 Milwaukee Muslim youth participate in a “Cut Carbon Pollution” photo petition campaign in support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The Islamic Environmental Council of Wisconsin is a member of Interfaith Power and Light, a national group that began in the late 1990s as an Episcopal effort and grew into an interfaith mission to address climate change. Interfaith coalitions and activism have been deeply involved in promoting clean energy across the Midwest.

“It’s a micro-lab of the potential we have to overcome our differences and do things together. We might disagree on 99 percent of the issues from our different faith traditions, but we share our common home and a desire to take care of it on behalf of our children.”

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Many faiths embrace both a commitment to protect the earth and also its most vulnerable residents. These two sentiments increasingly converge as environmental justice movements have grown and evidence accumulates regarding how climate change will disproportionately impact poor and marginalized people around the globe.

Social justice along with environmental stewardship has been a unifying theme of interfaith efforts around clean energy. Pope Francis’ encyclical depicted environmental sustainability and economic justice as intertwined struggles, in keeping with his defining focus on poverty and his identification with the poor.

A recent Pew study showing that in contrast to white Catholics’ skepticism of human-driven climate change, 60% of Latino Catholics in the U.S. do see climate change as a problem caused by man. This could be related to the fact that underdeveloped areas in Latin America, and lower-income, more vulnerable people in the U.S., are likely to be hit harder by the effects of climate change and they innately understand these facts better than Wealthy Whites, as part of their Survival Strategy and a form of Self Protection.

We should point to the fact that in general, Americans have experienced “a growing disaffection with traditional sources of religious authority,” and are increasingly likely to define spirituality on their own terms “and cobble together their own spiritual frameworks.”

“The most important movements toward ecological awareness and political traction that we’re seeing are not coming from the major world religions, but they are coming from the margins, from the periphery, from cultural groups who are manufacturing new and different ways to be.”

Yours,

Dr Kroko

PS:

Climate change and the environmental threat in general pose some of the greatest challenges known to the human race. It is the most dominant and persistent issue of our times. We see our task as motivating the Muslim world to engage positively in redressing these issues and call on Muslims to live up to their responsibilities as guardians (Khalifa – Qur’an 6:167) of Allah’s creation and work towards leaving a liveable earth for future generations.

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Wishing You All: “Eid Mubarak”


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