'USA Today' reports on the impact religious groups can have at Copenhagen - and beyond
December 7, 2009:
As Copenhagen begins, an article published on USA Today, one of America's most popular news sites, reminds us that not only political leaders will be in attendance, but also many religious figureheads. These will include Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Jim Ball, head of the Evangelical Environmental Network; South African cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, and many, many more.
"Our role is to remind (politicians) that this is a profound moral issue, and that the basic moral teachings of religion apply to these environmental problems"
The article refers to ARC by quoting executive director of GreenFaith, Fletcher Harper, and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Olav Kjørven, both of whom attended the ARC/UNDP Windsor Celebration just over a month ago:
"When religious communities see human beings, particularly poor human beings, getting whacked like that, it's a real wake-up call," Harper says. "People saw the humanitarian side of this issue in a way they'd never seen before.
The debate is playing out worldwide. Last month, Harper attended a summit called "Many Heavens, One Earth" at Britain's Windsor Castle that sought to rally global religious leaders ahead of Copenhagen. The conference brought together leaders from nine major faiths — Bahai Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto and Sikhism.
The power vested in those groups is enormous. Together, the world's churches and other faith groups control 7% to 8% of the world's habitable land, are involved in more than half of all schools, and hold more than 7% of global financial investments, according to the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, the British group that organized the Windsor conference.
'A unique position'
That explains why religious groups are uniquely positioned to not only influence the political debate, but also be an active part of environmental solutions, says Olav Kjorven, an assistant secretary-general at the U.N. who was at Windsor. He says religious institutions can use their influence to promote investment in industries that emit less carbon, support education on environmental issues in schools, and make places of worship more environmentally friendly.
"We hope to spread that message to Copenhagen," Kjorven says. "The faiths are ready to move on these issues.""
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To view the official Copenhagen site click here