Trócaire and Christian Aid brought together members of different faith groups and green initiatives to talk about the inspiration required for action on climate change.
Top right: Father Sean McDonagh, Middle: Amy Colgan, Left: Natasha Harty. Bottom: representatives from different faith groups
On Monday night (20 April), Trócaire and Christian Aid co-hosted the fourth in a series of ‘Climate Conversations
Held at Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral, the event was titled ‘Prophetic Voices: The Call to Action’ and explored where and how people in modern Ireland might find inspiration to address the mammoth issue of climate change – drawing strength from their faith, spirituality, and personal morality.
Representatives from a number of faith communities in Ireland were present, from Buddhists to Baptists, as well as representatives from various NGOs, academia and sustainability initiatives.
The keynote speech was delivered by Father Sean McDonagh SCC, a leading eco-theologian, author and strong advocate for action on climate change.
Father McDonagh gave a compelling overview of the scale of the problem – extreme weather, food insecurity, rising sea levels and potential mass extinctions of species.
He spoke about how the ethical frameworks we currently have from our religious traditions focus on our relationships with other human beings and with God – and that these are not wide enough for us to start to address climate change.
He called for action on climate change from the grassroots up – starting at parish and Diocesan levels. He also spoke hopefully about the Papal Encyclical on climate change and the environment which is due to be released in the summer and which will reach out to the more than one billion Catholics around the globe.
It is thought that the Encyclical will explain climate change in plain language, and explain why we need to care about it and what we need to do collectively to bring about the changes we need to avert disaster and ensure sustainable life in the future.
Before that event, a landmark summit is being held at the Vatican on 28 April entitled ‘Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development’. The summit hopes to help build a global movement across all religions for action on climate change in 2015 and beyond, bringing together scientists, global faith leaders, UN officials and influential advocates.
At the Christchurch event on Monday, a contribution by video was made by Gunnela Hahn on behalf of the Church of Sweden, which counts two-thirds of the Swedish population (six million people) as members. She shared details of how the Church, which serves as an important model for other large institutions, has actively divested from the fossil fuel industry and adopted policies of responsible investment.
The undisputed star if the evening was Amy Colgan, an inspiring 17-year-old student involved in both ECO-UNESCO initiative for young people
and Trócaire’s Climate Change Challenge. Articulate and committed, Amy told the audience about her family motto that ‘doing something is better than doing nothing’ and how when she learned about climate change she felt she had to do something, no matter how small.
She spoke of her experience taking part in Trócaire’s three-day Climate Change Challenge in November 2014 with 30 other secondary students.
The students took part in a role-play simulation of a climate disaster in which they had to flee a country hit by devastating floods. “It was very much an eye-opener… the most horrifying moment was when we came back to reflect on it and I just had this moment of realisation where I went ‘that was a really interesting game, but somewhere at this very moment, somewhere else in the world it’s not a game. Someone, somewhere else is the world is going through what I went through a hundred-times worse and it’s not a game. They don’t get to say sorry this is too much for me right now, can I take a break…’ And that was my hallelujah moment when I realised I had to take this a lot more seriously.”
Participants in Trócaire’s Climate Change Challenge, November 2014
The event concluded with prayers and comments from representatives of nine different faith groups including the Greek Orthodox Church, the Islamic Cultural Centre, the Methodist and Lutheran Churches, and the Triratna Buddhist Community.
The Climate Conversations event come at a critical time. 2015 is a key year in the fight for climate justice. In December 2015, world leaders will meet at the UN Summit (COP21) in Paris, to agree a global agreement on climate change. In advance of that, Trócaire and partner NGOs are trying to raise the profile of this critical issue and mobilise people to demand action – starting at home with our own long-overdue Climate Bill