Commonwealth faith leaders urge governments to turn climate 'words into action'

17 April 2018

Devastating flooding across South Asia in 2017 displaced 41 million people and resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 people

Devastating flooding across South Asia in 2017 displaced 41 million people and resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 people 

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams and more than 170 faith leaders from across the Commonwealth have issued a call to governments to turn "words into action" on climate change at a summit in London this week.

A letter published in the Daily Telegraph in London and signed by dozens of religious leaders states that "Not even the remotest corner of the Commonwealth remains unaffected" by the changing climate, with the greatest impact felt by the poorest people in the group of nations.

The signatories – including archbishops, church moderators and rabbis from all continents in the Commonwealth – call for politicians attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to pursue "every effort" to keep global temperature rises below the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The meeting will take place at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace and Windsor Castle between Monday 16 and Friday 20 April.

Some of the religious figures to sign the letter include Cardinal Maurice Piat of Mauritius, the President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India Vijayesh Lal and Senior Rabbi of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London Alexandra Wright.

The official website for the summit states that "urgent action" on climate change is needed "to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience" and notes that 39 of the 53 Commonwealth countries are classed as small or vulnerable states.

The faith leaders' statement is the latest in a series of calls by religious figures for action on climate change at international summits. Several heads of government cited Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment as a catalyst for the success of the UN climate talks that resulted in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The letter says:

We, faith leaders from across the Commonwealth, representing peoples of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe and the Americas, come together in friendship and co-operation to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

Not even the remotest corner of the Commonwealth remains unaffected or unthreatened by the impacts of climate change. Commonwealth citizens, especially the poorest, struggle to thrive amidst our changing climate.

Subsistence communities in African countries struggle to grow crops in increasingly arid earth. In the Pacific, rising sea levels threaten the existence of whole countries. In Asia, salination is driving people from their land. Arctic communities’ ways of life are undermined. Ever more violent and unpredictable storms devastate the Caribbean.

At the scale of the Commonwealth we can see that the crisis of poverty and the crisis of ecology are one; each of our faith traditions reminds us of the deep interconnectedness of people and our planet. As a common problem, this crisis requires a common solution. And it is needed now.

The Charter of the Commonwealth affirms the foundations for cooperation between Commonwealth nations. But it is time to turn words into action. We call on the Heads of Government gathering in London to commit to urgent action on climate change adaptation and mitigation in line with the Paris Agreement and to pursue every effort to keep the increase in average global temperature below 1.5 degrees.

Our people call out to you. We stand beside them. Your time to act is now.

Signed by:

Africa : Frank Nubuasah, Bishop of Francistown, Botswana,  Jan Ozga, Président, Caritas Cameroon, Ludovic Lado SJ, Former Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Management Catholic University of Central Africa, Yaoundé, Cameroon, Francis Dominic Mendy, Secretary General, Caritas Gambia, Samuel Zan Akologo, Executive Secretary, Caritas Ghana, Gabriel Dolan, Director Haki Yetu, Kenya, Susan Nagele, Maryknoll Lay Missioner , Kenya, Michael Kiburi, Deputy Director, Caritas Nairobi, Kenya, Benson Kibiti, National Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, Caritas Kenya, Angela Hartigan RSM, Mercy Congregation, Kenya, Adam Taaso, Bishop of Lesotho, Relebohile Mabote, National Director, Caritas Lesotho, Henry Harry Saindi, Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Victor Mnelemba, Projects Officer, Diocese of Upper Shire, Malawi, Timothy P K Nyasulu, Moderator, CCAP General Assembly (Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa), George Buleya, Vice Chancellor, Catholic University of Malawi, Felix Chingota, Chairperson, Public Affairs Committee, Malawi, Charles Peter Chinula, Parish Priest and Diocesan Communication Secretary, Malawi, Matilda Tumalike Matabwa, Malawi, John A Ryan, Bishop of the Diocese of Mzuzu, Malawi, Patrick Jambo, Priest and Pastoral Coordinator of Nkhathe, Malawi, Maurice E. Piat, Cardinal Bishop of Port-Louis, Mauritius, Brigitte Koenig, President of Caritas Ile Maurice, Mauritius, Jacques Dinan OSK, Former Executive Secretary, Caritas Africa, Mauritius, Vicente Msosa, Diocese of Niassa, in Mozambique, Alberto Vera Aréjula, Presidente Caritas Mozambique, Manuel Ernesto, Bishop Suffragan of Niassa, Mozambique, Abel Gabuza, Bishop of Kimberley, South Africa and Chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission of SACBC (South Africa, Swaziland and Namibia), Mrudula Smithson, Director, South Africa, Kgomotso Direro, Administrator, South Africa, Geraldine Hedley, Finance Manager, South Africa, Bishop Jan De Groef, Bishop of Bethlehem, South Africa, Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator Anglican Church of Southern Africa, South Africa, Samuel Sifelani, South Africa, Noeleen Mullett, Green Parish Co-ordinator, Johannesburg Anglican Environmental Initiative, South Africa, Joao Noe Rodrigues, Bishop of the Diocese of Tzaneen, South Africa, Geoffrey Francis Davies, Bishop, Founder and Patron of the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI), South Africa, Thabo Cecil Makgoba, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, South Africa, Martin Breytenbach, Bishop of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, South Africa, Saydz Sayed , Secretary, Interfaith Commission, South Africa, David Mark Franklin, Chairman of St Francis Parkview Eco group, South Africa, Steve Moreo, Bishop of Bishop of Johannesburg, South Africa, Anne Gaisford, Diocesan Administrator, South Africa, Michael Murphy, District Leader for St. Patrick’s Missionary Society in South Africa, Anne Patricia Flynn, Congregational Leader Of Missionary Sisters of the Assumption, South Africa, Michael Bennett, Justice and Peace Chaplain, Diocese of Tzaneen, South Africa, Giovanna Pesenti, Salesian Sister and Pre-School Principal , South Africa, Lidia Castro, Principal,  Primary School, South Africa, Annie Elizabeth Foy, Salesian Sister, South Africa, Joseph Dube, Head of Department, Archdiocese of Johannesburg, South Africa, Pearl N Tsemane, Laity Council, Diocese of Aliwal, South Africa, Anne Gaisford, Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Zululand, South Africa, Stephany C Thiel, Religious sister, South Africa, Okafor Chioma Immaculate, National Coordinator, A Rocha, Nigeria, Jwan Zhumbes, Bishop of Bukuru Diocese, Church of Nigeria, Robert Abuul , Head of Programs , Nigeria, Jean Marie Vianney Twagirayezu, Secrétaire Général, Caritas Rwanda, Denis Wiehe CSSp, Bishop of Port-Victoria, Seychelles, Edward Tamba Charles, Archbishop of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Christiana Eyatunde Sutton-Koroma, National Coordinator, Foundation for Rural and Urban Transformation, Sierra Leone, Ellinah Wamukoya, Bishop and Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, Swaziland, William Nathan Mwaisumo, Program Officer, CEELS, Tanzania, Niyongere Pierre Celestin, Anglican Priest, Uganda, Bishop William Mchombo, Bishop of Eastern Zambia, Emmanuel Yona Chikoya, General Secretary, The Council of Churches, Zambia.

Americas: Gabriel Malzaire, Bishop of Roseau, Dominica and President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago), Frank Power SVD, Priest and Administrator, Holy Family Cathedral, Antigua and Barbuda, Sarita Vasquez RSM, Coordinator of the Mercy Community, Belize, Nigel J. Karam, Dean of Roseau Cathedral, Dominica, Julie Matthews, President, Sisters of Mercy, Caribbean, Central America, South America Community, Guyana, Susan Frazer, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Jamaica, Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of The United Church of Canada, Ron Cutler, Anglican Archbishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada, Muaz Nasir, Editor – Khaleafa.com, Canada, Brian Dunn, Bishop of Antigonish, Canada, Marian Lucas-Jefferies, Coordinator, Environment Network, Diocese of Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island, Canada, Jim Hodgson, Justice Activist, Canada, Michelle Schofield Bull, Rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Spryfield, Nova Scotia, Canada, Matthew Sponagle, Priest and Regional Dean, Canada, Reid Moore, Layreader, Canada, Charles Edgar Bull, Rector, Anglican Parish of St. Margaret of Scotland, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Marg Murray, Retired Minister, Social Justice Division of London Conference, United Church of Canada, Jane Alexander, Bishop of Edmonton, Canada, Lucy Cummings, Executive Director, Faith and the Common Good, Canada, Jack Panozzo, Social Justice and Advocacy Program Manager, Canada, Margaret Newall, Unitarian Minister, Canada, Larry Dobson, United Church of Canada, Ian Dewar McPherson, Earthkeepers: Christians for Climate Justice, Canada, Douglas Buck, Canada, Jason Wood, Community Organizer, Earthkeepers: Christians for Climate Justice, Canada, Joe Gunn, Executive Director, Citizens for Public Justice, Canada, Karen Boivin, Minister and Senior Pastor, City View United Church, United Church of Canada, Mary Anne Byrne, Poet, Canada, Tim Kuepfer, English Pastor of Chinatown Peace Church, Canada, Arleen Brawleu, Treasurer, Sisters of Charity, Canada, Bernice Steele, Leadership Team, Sisters of Charity, Canada, Maureen Wild, Sisters of Charity, Canada, Sabrina Malach, Director of Community Engagement, Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs, Canada, Helen Wallace, Sister of Charity, Canada, Sheila E. Moore, Canada, Sheilagh Martin, Teacher, Canada, Anne Harvey , Sisters of Charity, Canada, Susanne Lachapelle, Coordinator, Justice and Peace Commission, Canada, 

Asia : Shourabh Pholia, Bishop of Barisal Diocese, Church of Bangladesh, Julian Leow, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Joseph Hii Teck Kwong, Bishop of Sibu, Malaysia and President of the Episcopal Commission for Creation Justice for Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, Geraldine Clare Westwood, Head of the Creation Justice Commission of the Diocese of Penang, Malaysia, Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Allwyn D'Silva, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Bombay, India, Patrick Hansda, Caritas India, Charles Irudayam, Priest and Secretary of the Justice, Peace and Development Office, Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Liam O'Callaghan, Coordinator for the Ecology Commission of Hyderabad Diocese, Pakistan, Robert Younas, Regional President, World Apostolate of Fatima, Pakistan, Mahendra Gunatilleke, National Director, SEDEC/ Caritas Sri Lanka

Oceania : John Ribat, Cardinal Archbishop of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania (Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu), Eveline Crotty, Leader of the Sisters of Mercy (Australia and Papua New Guinea), Laiseni Fanon Charisma Liava'a, Priest, Anglican Diocese of Polynesia, Tonga, Tuvalu, Andrew Shepherd, National Co-Director, A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand, Julianne Hickey, Director, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Richard Milne, Associate Professor, University of Auckland, New Zealand, John Atcherley Dew, Cardinal Archbishop of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland, President, New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, David McDonald, Leader of the Marist District of the Pacific (Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Aotearoa New Zealand), Bridget Crisp, Coordinator, Mercy Global Action, Aotearoa New Zealand, Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, Vice-President Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on behalf of the Australian bishops, Jeremy Greaves, Bishop, Northern Region of Southern Queensland, Australia, Peter Albert Moore, Chair, Angligreen, Anglican Church Southern Queensland, Australia, Duncan Reid, Adjunct Lecturer, Trinity College Theological School Melbourne, Australia, Veronica Lawson, Sisters of Mercy, Australia, Judith Glaister, Sisters of Mercy, Australia, Theresa Ann Foley, Sisters of Mercy, Australia, Carol Mitchell, Director, Justice, Ecology & Development Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, Australia, Katie Hunt, Australia, Roger Jaensch, President and Chair of the Board of Directors, A Rocha Australia, George Browning, Past Chair, Anglican Communion Environment Network, Australia 

Europe : Charles J Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta, Bishop Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, Malta, Melissa Chedid, Executive Manager, Caritas Cyprus, Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, United Kingdom, Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom, David Pickering, Moderator of the United Reformed Church National Synod of Scotland, United Kingdom, John Davies, Anglican Archbishop of Wales, United Kingdom, Loraine Mellor, President of the Methodist Church in Britain, United Kingdom, Alexandra Wright, Senior Rabbi, The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London, United Kingdom, Jeffrey Newman, Emeritus Rabbi Finchley Reform Synagogue, United Kingdom, John Kafwanka, Director for Mission, Anglican Communion, United Kingdom, David Atkinson, Emeritus Bishop of Thetford, United Kingdom, Alan Yates, General Assembly Moderator, United Reformed Church in Great Britain, United Kingdom, Kevin Watson, General Assembly Moderator, United Reformed Church, United Kingdom, Philip Mounstephen, Executive Leader, Church Mission Society, United Kingdom, John Battle, Former MP and Minister, Chair, Diocese of Leeds Justice & Peace Commission, United Kingdom, Barbara Kentish, Coordinator of Westminster Justice and Peace, United Kingdom, Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph, United Kingdom, Andrew John, Bishop of Bangor, United Kingdom, Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids , United Kingdom, June Osborne, Bishop of Llandaff, United Kingdom, Richard Pain, Bishop of Monmouth, United Kingdom, Denise Boyle, Coordinator Global Justice Programme, United Kingdom, Monica Killeen, Sisters of Mercy, United Kingdom, Mary Judge RSC, United Kingdom, Chris Naylor, Executive Director A Rocha International, United Kingdom, Catherine Gibbons, United Kingdom, Peter Zabala, United Kingdom, John Keenan , Bishop of Paisley, United Kingdom, Michael Pryke, Youth President, Methodist Church, United Kingdom, Elisabeth Jill Baker, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference 2017-18, United Kingdom, Andy Atkins CEO, A Rocha UK and Chair, CTBI Environmental Issues Network, United Kingdom, Arthur Champion, Diocesan Environmental Adviser, United Kingdom, Geoff Foster, Environmentalist, United Kingdom, David James Goss, Parish Priest, United Kingdom, Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, United Kingdom

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