Youth leaders share their hopes for change during an environmental event hosted by Green Faith. Photo by Alex Price

Youth take action for climate change

By  James Mangaliman, Youth Speak News
  • July 17, 2015

La Terra, Nostra Casa. Climate Action Now,” said a long white banner as two people hoisted it high above their heads. Walking towards St. Peter’s Square in Rome, along with hundreds of individuals of various faiths, they took part in “One Earth, One Human Family,” a march on June 28 that celebrated the release of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.

But for about 100 youth who lead religious and environmental activities within communities across the world, the march was more than a celebration. It marked a beginning for discussion, training and action-planning approaches to religious environmentalism.

In the days following the march, people of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh, Baha’i and indigenous faiths from around the world congregated in Rome for an event called the Multi-Faith Climate Convergence. From June 28 to July 1, they brought to the table their own knowledge and beliefs but also received training in communications skills and the latest information regarding climate change and climate talks.

“The world is religiously diverse, and it is vital that people realize that our diverse faith communities and traditions all share a commitment to the protection of the Earth,” said Fr. Fletcher Harper, one of the organizers with Green Faith, which organized the convergence. “All understand that pollution and climate change hurt the poor more than others and all understand that caring for the environment is a moral responsibility.”

Organizing such workshops is not new to Green Faith, which prides itself on empowering people to take part in environmental initiatives. Started as a local non-profit in the United States, Green Faith has grown into a network with an international presence, with Canadian connections to Greening Sacred Spaces.

Surrounding a table decorated with pine cones, passages and other symbols of the Earth, conference attendants held high their leaf-shaped placards which read, “I pray that together we act to protect ____.”  “I pray that together we act to protect the future of my generation,” wrote one person. Another vouched for “The Mau ecosystem in Kenya.”

With different inspirations and backgrounds, the convergence saw a rich collection of ideas. Yet even with the various faiths gathered, the persistent theme of common stewardship remained.

The convergence utilized a variety of activities to empower an interfaith perspective to an issue that affects all of mankind: climate change. Regardless of faith, attendants reflected on their personal and faith-filled motivations for protecting our one true home.

Participants learned about the effective use of social media to disseminate initiatives and heard talks about recent climate change updates. A representative of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace also spoke about the Pope’s recent encyclical.

Harper and his co-organizer Stacey Kennealy sought to create an international, multi-faith network on environmental and climate concerns that they expect to expand.They hope to continue with international convergences later this year for the upcoming Conference of Paris 21 negotiations with the goal of mobilizing more faith leaders to take on the issue of climate change.

(Mangaliman, 19, is a second-year Humanities student at the University of Toronto.)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.