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A new global coalition of faith groups concerned about climate change and the environment was launched in the Barn room of the Initiatives of Change centre in London on 14 January. Faith Climate Connect is a free global resource and network, bringing together an interactive forum of videos, faith and climate news, scriptural references, video conferencing, instant messaging, photographs and blogs.
It is the brainchild of the Bible Society in association with Odyssey Networks, the New York based non-profit coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith groups.
Live video links to environmental campaigners around the world brought together speakers from Nairobi, Jerusalem, Washington DC and Geneva in the ‘no fly summit’ launch.
Speaking from Jerusalem, Rabbi Michael Kagan, co-founder of the Jewish Climate Initiative, said that despite the disappointing outcomes of the recent Copenhagen summit on climate change, its ‘great success’ was ‘a week of talking and sharing together’ amongst people of different faiths. Globalization was a positive thing in bringing faiths together, he said.
People from 14 countries have already joined Faith Climate Connect, said Mark Dowd, Director of the London-based interfaith climate network Operation Noah, chairing the launch occasion. Research showed that nearly half of all people of faith spend over 16 hours each week online compared with the average for internet users of 13 hours. ‘Geeks and God go together!’ he commented.
Rachel Ward of the Bible Society said the new website aimed to ‘focus on the positive steps people of faith can take towards environmental care. We can each individually contribute to make a much larger difference. It’s about Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religions sharing how our sacred texts guide each of us individually and then finding ways to encourage each other.’ The Bible Society, for instance, was car sharing and had got rid of all its electric kettles.
Tamsin Omond, faith sector representative of The Guardian newspaper’s 10:10 campaign, said their aim is to get everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by 10 per cent during 2010 by simple methods such as switching off unnecessary lights, turning down thermostats and using public transport.
Former BBC broadcaster Alison Hilliard, who now advises Prince Philip’s environmental charity The Alliance of Religions and Conservation, said that ‘caring for the Earth and caring for the poor are two sides of the same coin.’ A recent meeting of faith leaders at Windsor indicated they all wanted to know how to ‘green’ their places of worship, schools and printing processes.
David Shreeve, Environmental Adviser to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, said that the Church of England Synod had voted to reduce the Church’s carbon footprint. The size of the operation in doing so was similar to that of the John Lewis Partnership or Sainsbury’s grocery chain, he said. The Archbishop of Canterbury had told him to ‘just keep nagging’ the politicians to take the actions needed to tackle global warming.
Each of the participants quoted their favourite scriptural reference, several choosing the opening words of Psalm 24: ‘The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.’
Simon Cohen of the PR company Global Tolerance, which organised the launch event, thanked Initiatives of Change for hosting the event. The challenge now, said Mark Dowd afterwards, was to grow the Faith Climate Connect coalition to have the same impact on public policy as the Jubilee 2000 campaign had on reducing international debt.