Reporting to G20 Interfaith Forum on COP26
IEF members are contributing to the G20 Interfaith Forum working group on Religion and Environment. As part of this, we have contributed two viewpoints to the G20 Interfaith Forum website blog, building on the experience of the IEF 25th Annual Conference at COP26. The first was on the Interfaith start to COP26:
The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, began with two events on Sunday, 31 October. The opening day of the intergovernmental meeting started with a plenary addressed by the past and future Presidents of the COP and the leaders of the UNFCCC and IPCC, along with an inspiring statement by a young Maori woman representing indigenous peoples, invited specially by the President of COP26 to address its opening.
In the afternoon, people of all faiths gathered in George Square, Glasgow, and online for a COP26 Interfaith Prayer and Meditation Vigil for the success of the climate conference, at the opening of Scottish Interfaith Week.
Maureen Sier, chair of Interfaith Scotland, after remembering the spiritual values of indigenous peoples, emphasised the need to act with one soul, one voice, and one message: that we have only one planet. Pilgrims from afar were welcomed, and a young Ginkgo tree, of a very ancient species and a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, was presented that had been carried by pilgrims for planting in a Glasgow park. The Glasgow Multifaith Declaration for COP26 was read, and then prayers from nine religions were shared.
This was followed by the Talanoa Dialogue Towards COP26 which was hosted by the International Interfaith Liaison Committee to the UNFCCC and was supported by Interfaith Scotland, held in a beautiful 19th-century synagogue and online. Fiji, as president of the UNFCCC, introduced their traditional concept of a Talanoa dialogue, where participants sit in circle telling positive stories to build trust and cooperation in addressing community issues.
The event started with presentations by different faith community leaders emphasising our moral responsibility for all those suffering from climate change and the necessary concern for future generations. A representative of the UN Office for Human Rights described the recent Human Rights Council decisions to adopt a human right to a clean and healthy environment, and to create a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change. A representative of the Pacific Conference of Churches from Fiji explained the cultural significance of a Talanoa dialogue, the deep spiritual relationship of Pacific peoples with the land and sea, and the suffering now faced in the Pacific Islands as storms strengthen and sea levels rise. A member of the Sami indigenous peoples of the Arctic also described how nature and the wilderness is their sacred home, which they have always managed with wisdom that they offered to share.
In the second part of the Talanoa dialogue, small groups were formed (both in Glasgow and online) to discuss issues like climate change and advocacy, finance, young people, the wisdom of indigenous peoples, loss and damage, and human rights. These then reported back to the main group, before a closing segment of interfaith worship.
The second was on Interfaith Action in COP26 Week One:
At the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, engagement by faith-inspired organisations continued through its first week.
The Bahá’í community of Glasgow held an interfaith Earth Reflections online on the evening of Wednesday November 3rd, with music, a Hindu prayer, poets from the Shetlands and Uganda, reflections about the beauty of nature, quotations from the Quran, a Bahá’í prayer in Hawaiian, Sami chanting, and reminders about the prayer and meditation vigil on the Sunday before COP26, for which the video is now online here. They also organised a tree planting on Saturday, November 6th.
The International Environment Forum organised five events during the first week, including one hybrid event in Glasgow and others online, on health equity and climate change, strengthening global climate governance, biodiversity, imagining a positive future for nature and culture, climate change engineering the future, and strategies for climate resilient communities, with many presentations emphasising a spiritual dimension. All the events were well attended, and the videos continue to be available, with a complete report here.
Indigenous peoples have been very active at the COP26, defending their cultures and values, and their responsibility for a major part of the as-yet-undisturbed parts of the planet. Small Island States have also been highlighting their vulnerability and the risks to their culture and spiritual values. Given the importance of action on climate change to our future, we all should be praying for the success of COP26, which has one more week to run.
Last updated 8 November 2021