The first day of COP21 in the Green Zone, the free-wheeling area open to everyone, was full of just what you’d hope – meeting new people concerned about climate change from all over the world, and learning from them.
In the afternoon several of us from The Episcopal Church attended an interfaith panel on faith and climate change. The overarching idea the panelists shared was one that I believe strongly – in addition to being a good partner in advocacy on policy and justice, the faith communities must contribute that which is at our heart, our moral and spiritual values, those principles that guide us.
Some of the spiritual wisdom I gleaned from this global, interfaith panel about how the world’s faith communities might best be part of the conversation and work on climate change include:
- Finding meaning in chaos is building inner resilience
- A diverse ecosystem is echoed in human life – we rebuild our human societies and repair them when we ourselves make a diverse group of friends, and when we cultivate a diverse, comprehensive mindset for ourselves
- Drawing on metaphors that St. Paul used, we might think of ourselves as nurses of a dying system, and simultaneously midwives of an emerging system. If we are aware of these differing roles, it will help us be of the best use in our vocations as faithful people
- Edges within ecosystems – for instance, between a forest and a grassy area – are often very healthy. In our human systems we might maximize the edges; that is, pay attention to and nurture the life that goes on between well-established human institutions
- It is important to take account of the power of our inner lives, of our thoughts, aspirations, and our prayers. If we benefit one person we must have faith that we are indeed benefitting the whole system; similarly if we have a negative thought it does affect the whole. One speaker asserted, as a person of faith, that while we gathered in the Green Zone and all the official UN observers were gathered in the Blue Zone, with hundreds of heads of state, we were affecting the field of the UN’s being by our prayers. One of my teachers calls this subtle activism
Without pride it is nevertheless vital that the faith communities of the world recognize that they carry treasures of spiritual wisdom, cultivated and evolved over millennia. We have these treasures to contribute to climate change work.