Adelaide’s Anglican Archbishop and Primate of Australia Geoffrey Smith, Catholic Archbishop Patrick O’Regan, chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council John Lochowiak and chair of Religions for Peace Australia Philippa Rowland were among 100 religious and First Nations leaders from Australia and the Pacific that signed an open letter to the Prime Minister.
On Thursday October 13 people of many faiths, including renowned Sufi singer Farhan Shah, gathered in St John’s Anglican Church for a smoking ceremony led by Mr Lochowiak before a service of prayers from Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Sufi faiths. Similar services were held in places of worship across Australia.
Signatories to the open letter to Mr Albanese include the most senior faith leaders of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
Their letter states: “Australia is a wealthy country that profits from exports that are causing the crisis. We hear the cries of anguish from those most vulnerable in the human family who are losing their lives, livelihoods and homes through climate-fuelled disasters.
“The current level of warming is not safe. This moment in history calls for an urgent, courageous, visionary response, especially from those in power. Australia’s leadership in this response, as part of its First Nations Foreign Policy, is vital for the vulnerable communities and ecosystems who depend on it.”
Rev James Bhagwan, the general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, welcomed the willingness of the new Australian Government to listen to the peoples of the Pacific.
“However, coal and gas from Australia are a threat to our survival – and it doesn’t matter where they’re burned,” he said.
“Whether Australian coal and gas is burned overseas or on Australian soil, our homes and cultures are threatened either way. New coal and gas projects are a death sentence to the Pacific way of life and life in the Pacific.”
The faith leaders called on the Prime Minister to restart contributions to the UN’s Green Climate Fund. This is widely viewed in low-income countries as a crucial test of how seriously wealthy countries take their responsibilities.
Other ‘asks’ are that First Nations peoples’ rights to protect Country are fully respected, that there be an orderly and supported transition for coal and gas dependent communities, and endorsement of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The proposed treaty aims to eventually stop the production and export of fossil fuels by participating nations. Noting that global emissions keep rising, advocates believe the current focus at climate talks on the consumption side of fossil fuels are undermined by the lack of international constraints on production.
The Treaty has already been endorsed by Pope Francis, the World Health Organisation, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu, among others.
As well as attending the public services today, some devotees spent the whole of last night together in meditation, prayer, chanting and in some cases fasting to show their depth of feeling about the issue.
The letter and the services were organised by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change as part of a global faith campaign known as “Faiths 4 Climate Justice”. The campaign is taking place in over forty countries during the lead-up to the COP27 global climate summit in early November in Egypt, and advocates for the endorsement of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Archbishop O’Regan said the Archdiocese was committed to responding to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, as evident in the launching of the Laudato Si Action Plan recently.
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