Interfaith dialogue promotes holistic reflection on climate change on eve of COP27 in Egypt

On the day before the official opening of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, representatives from different faiths gathered at Qesm Sharm Ash Sheikh, or The Heavenly Cathedral, home to congregants of the Coptic Orthodox Church, to share their perspectives on the climate crisis.

The dialogue was organized by the Interfaith Liaison Committee, a platform co-chaired by the World Council of Churches (WCC) through which many partners can relate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change during climate change talks.

The pre-COP27 event started with greetings from Fr Andrawes Samir, from the Coptic Orthodox Church. “I wish you with all my heart a successful meeting for the sake of humanity, the sake of the world, and the preservation of treasures of the universe. My peace and blessings be with all of you.”

Rev. Henrik Grape, head of the WCC delegation at COP27, outlined the programme, which followed the Talanoa Dialogue methodology in presenting people’s initiatives, concerns, and hopes. “Afterwards, we go to small groups with people from different faith traditions to reflect on how we can be part of the great transition from the climate crisis,” said Grape.

During a panel discussion, Romario Dohmann, from the Evangelical Church of the Rio de la Plata (Argentina-Paraguay-Uruguay) and an alumnus of the WCC EcoSchool on Water, Food, and Climate Justice, remembered that youth all over the world have been on the frontlines of demonstrations that demand urgent measures to tackle climate change at the local and global level. “Our Christian responsibility calls us to accept our role as part of a divine and perfect creation. It is from this place where churches and people are mobilizing, raising awareness, and putting into practice initiatives to achieve climate justice,” said the young voice.

“We know that God loves his creation,” said Ray Minniecon, representing an Indigenous voice from the Anglican Church in Australia. “But sometimes it seems humankind hates it because of the ways you damage, ruin, and brutalize creation are criminal. And somehow, the church, religions, and governments need to come to a time of repentance and say, no, we have done wrong, not just to the people of the land but also to the Creator who made it. That is your responsibility,”

After listening to different contributions, participants were divided into small groups for dialogue. The event closed with an Interfaith service where people gathered in prayer for the two upcoming weeks of collective work to promote climate justice.

The interfaith gathering, also in the spirit of Talanoa Dialogue, offered an opportunity to create an Interfaith Talanoa Call from the voices at COP27 expressing concerns, demands, and hopes to be delivered to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretariat. 

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