Global faith leaders hope to give push to climate change action

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Melbourne, Australia
As the world prepares for the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, on the other side of the globe people gathered to pray for the delegates who are to meet in the Danish capital.  Many of those who attended the “pray for climate change” service in Melbourne, Australia, on Nov. 29 are also members of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, an interfaith event that opens there on 3 December and that will be addressing climate change from a spiritual perspective.  “Religions aren’t going to determine the fate of emissions or create the technology for cleaner cars, but the role of religion is to muster political will to address the difficult decisions that need to be made,” Rev. Dirk Ficca, a Presbyterian from the United States, and the parliament’s executive director, was quoted as saying by The Age newspaper.The Parliament of the World Religions is one of the world’s biggest gatherings of inter-faith religious leaders, and faith and the environment will feature heavily on the agenda under the conference theme of “Healing the Earth with Care and Concern.”Organizers said people from 29 different faith and spiritual traditions have registered, including Buddhists, Christians, Daoists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, pagans and Zoroastrians. A member of the local organizing committee, Maureen Postma, said the conference will face contentious issues, such as the environment, head on. “We expect tension, because we are facing very difficult issues, often seemingly intractable issues, from a faith perspective,” she told Ecumenical News International.”But with good heartfelt searching and dialogue conducted with respect, we can sometimes see a different perspective other than just our own,” she noted.Postma said the connection between climate change and faith was so strong that some delegates were leaving the gathering early so they can be in Copenhagen to advocate for a strong climate change agenda. The U.N. meeting in the Danish capital runs from 7 to 18 December.Other topics to be covered in Melbourne include a “conflict resolution” program, which will touch on conflicts such as the Middle East, Afghanistan, and those involving indigenous peoples and “invading” cultures.  Women within religions –  including the question of patriarchy – indigenous spirituality and the search for inner peace will also be covered under seven subthemes.Participants at the conference include the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama; Swiss-born theologian Hans Kung; the Rev. Jim Wallis, a U.S.-based Evangelical commentator on social justice; and Justice Michael Kirby, a former member of the Australian High Court, who is also a gay activist and member of the Anglican Church in Australia.Other participants include, Siti Musda Mulia the first Indonesian woman to receive a doctorate in Islamic thought from a state university; and Rabbi David Rosen, an international Jewish leader in interreligious dialogue.

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Kim Cain, Ecumenical News International

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