The UN Environment Programme’s Faith for Earth Initiative, with its slogan “One earth, many religions, one goal”, aims to tap into, and harness, the enormous goodwill and power of the world’s religious authorities and believers to make a positive difference to our global environment.
July 2019 is the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si’, the second encyclical of Pope Francis, specifically on the environment. In it, the Pope calls on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action” against unsustainable practices.
To celebrate the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si’, UN Environment’s Faith for Earth Initiative—along with partners including the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development—is organizing a conference on 15-16 July 2019 at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, Kenya.
Pope Francis has already warned about the dangers of global heating. The conference will focus on the climate emergency and ecosystems restoration to spur governments and young people to heed the calls of many indigenous peoples for better global stewardship of the environment.
The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative is one leading example of this commitment in action.
“We are finding real cooperation and shared purpose across the world’s religions to make protecting forests and the rights of indigenous peoples a top ethical priority,” says Charles McNeill, Senior Policy Advisor on Forests and Climate, UN Environment. “Youth will be the foundation of any faith-based movement to end tropical deforestation, and we welcome this conference as an opportunity to deepen and expand commitment across faiths and sectors.”
The Faith for Earth Initiative is also working with faith-based investment institutions to help them make the switch from carbon-based investments towards more sustainable energy and other investments.
Conference speakers, led by Cardinal Peter Turkson, will provide a scientific perspective on the current state of the world and stress the importance of youth engagement. The conference will address urgent needs and opportunities in Africa and showcase best practices across the continent and the role of youth leadership and innovation. “Africa’s youth feel the urgent responsibility to ensure their communities, countries and the continent act as frontrunners for a safe, sustainable and productive future for them and for future generations,” says Allen Ottaro, Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa.
The conference will be a forum for deeper reflection on Catholic and other faiths’ social teachings on care for the creation from an African perspective, enriched by global views.
“This conference is about creating hope and provides a platform for faith organizations, youth and indigenous peoples to share their views and speak with one voice,” says Iyad Abumoghli, UN Environment’s Faith for Earth Coordinator.
“By providing a forum for faith leaders to discuss the relationship between science and faith teachings as related to environmental sustainability, the Faith for Earth Initiative is bringing together faith-based leaders and representatives of indigenous peoples to inspire action among policymakers and faith followers,” he adds.
The just-ended Bonn Climate Change Conference in June 2019 saw agreement on a new work programme that integrates indigenous knowledge for climate mitigation and adaptation and addresses the specific vulnerability of indigenous peoples. The conference also saw the inaugural meeting of the
Facilitative Working Group of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform and agreement on a related work programme.