1-hour audio recording: Faiths for climate justice gathering in Geelong | Podcast notes
Scripture and prayers from different traditions were read at the Christ Church Anglican Church in Geelong in the early, rainful morning of 13 October 2022. The night vigil for climate, which had been planned as a lead-up to the morning service, had to be cancelled due to… climate change: flood alerts because of wild winds and heavy rain lashing south-eastern Australia, cutting off power from thousands of homes across Victoria.
“There must be no more time wasted, no more wasted opportunities to act, no more new coal, oil and gas projects, and finance for them,” said one of the speakers at the multi-faith gathering:
“We rise together today, along with fellow people of faith around the world. There must be no more time wasted, no more wasted opportunities to act, no more new coal, oil and gas projects, and finance for them. There must be no more trashing our life-giving planet for death-dealing profit, for mere money.
ARRCC in Australia – and GreenFaith International globally – strongly advocate for government policies and corporate cultures which will build a better future for all, especially those who are suffering most from climate change – the already poor and marginalised.”
~ Noreen Nicholson, a member of St Bernard’s Parish in Belmont, and of the ARRCC
Similar multi-faith services were being held in cathedrals and churches around Australia, and also in Fiji and Kiribati, praying for and showing support for an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister, which was published in the Australian Financial Review the same morning, signed by First Nations and very senior faith leaders across Australia and the Pacific.
“We call on the Albanese Government to stop new coal and gas mining or expansions of existing projects, end public subsidies for fossil fuel projects, fully respect the rights of First Nations peoples to protect their Country, restart Australia’s contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund, assist extractive industry workers to prosper through jobs in sustainable industries and help create and endorse a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
~ Hannah Mayer, Drolkar Buddhist Centre in Torquay
“In this Faiths 4 Climate Justice we, gathered here, are especially mindful of the peoples of the Pacific. Ocean acidification, overfishing, droughts and super storms are devastating their food sources. Sea level rise is threatening their homes and, with them, their belonging to the land, their cultures, indeed their very survival as nations. The peoples of the Pacific are among those hit the hardest and earliest by the climate emergency.
First Nations peoples like the Gomeroi, the Wangan and Jagalingou and the Gudanji nations valiantly strive to protect their Country from fracking or coal mining, only for their spiritual connections to Country and their human rights to be trampled.”
~ Adrian Evans, All Saints Parish Newtown, member of ARRCC
Senior faith leaders call on Albanese to increase ambition on climate
One hundred religious and First Nations leaders from across Australia and the Pacific are urging Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to take decisive action to combat climate change by stopping all new coal and gas projects and ending public subsidies to the fossil fuel sector.
Signatories to an open letter to Mr Albanese include the most senior leaders of the Anglican Church in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, the President of the National Council of Churches, the Grand Mufti of Australia, the President of the Uniting Church as well as First Nations leaders and senior leaders of the Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu and Brahma Kumaris religions.
Their letter states: “Australia is a wealthy country that profits from exports that are causing the crisis. We hear the cries of anguish from those most vulnerable in the human family who are losing their lives, livelihoods and homes through climate-fuelled disasters.
“The current level of warming is not safe. This moment in history calls for an urgent, courageous, visionary response, especially from those in power. Australia’s leadership in this response, as part of its First Nations Foreign Policy, is vital for the vulnerable communities and ecosystems who depend on it.”
Rev. James Bhagwan, the General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, said, “We in the Pacific have welcomed the willingness of the new Australian Government to listen to the peoples of the Pacific.”
“However, coal and gas from Australia are a threat to our survival – and it doesn’t matter where they’re burned. Whether Australian coal and gas is burned overseas or on Australian soil, our homes and cultures are threatened either way. New coal and gas projects are a death sentence to the Pacific way of life and life in the Pacific,” he said.
Today in major cities across Australia, everyday people of faith are showing support for their message by attending multi-faith services for climate justice at cathedrals and other well-known places of worship. The cathedrals include St Paul’s in Melbourne, St Patrick’s in Parramatta, St Mary’s in Perth and St John’s in Brisbane.
The faith leaders have furthermore called on the Prime Minister to restart contributions to the UN’s Green Climate Fund. This is widely viewed in low-income countries as a crucial test of how seriously wealthy countries take their responsibilities. Other ‘asks’ are that First Nations peoples’ rights to protect Country are fully respected, that there be an orderly and supported transition for coal and gas dependent communities, and endorsement of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The proposed treaty aims to eventually stop the production and export of fossil fuels by participating nations. Noting that global emissions keep rising, advocates believe the current focus at climate talks on the consumption side of fossil fuels are undermined by the lack of international constraints on production.
As well as attending the public services today, some devotees spent the whole of last night together in meditation, prayer, chanting and in some cases fasting to show their depth of feeling about the issue.
Reverend John Gilmore, the President of the National Council of Churches said “This is about putting loving our neighbours into practice. The government needs to listen to our neighbours in the Pacific. This letter echoes what Pacific leaders said earlier this year at the Pacific Islands Forum: Australia needs to rule out new coal and gas and to stop subsidising those industries.”
The letter and the services were organised by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change as part of a global faith campaign known as “Faiths 4 Climate Justice”. The campaign is taking place in over forty countries during the lead-up to the COP27 global climate summit in early November in Egypt, and advocates for the endorsement of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Climate change is a matter of huge importance in North Queensland. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in particular are suffering from its effects. Action is needed now. So I am delighted that the Archbishop of Canterbury is visiting Far North Queensland over the next few days hearing from people in the Torres Strait and elsewhere about the impacts of climate change. This is a matter of justice, both in ensuring that those who suffer most from climate change are dealt with fairly and also working with those communities involved in coal and gas mining. As the world transitions to a clean energy future, those communities and their families could all too easily also suffer. With the right assistance they could instead prosper from this transition.”
~ Bishop Keith Joseph, Anglican Bishop of North Queensland
“Building a sustainable and prosperous economy for our children starts now, by stopping fossil fuel subsidies and new fossil fuel projects. Australia’s federal and state governments have proposed emissions reductions from domestic energy use, while our deadly coal exports hit record levels. This has to change: emissions reductions must include both domestic use and exports.”
~ The Venerable Bhante Sujato, a leader in the Theravada Buddhist tradition
“Political support for the resource extraction industry is at times brutal, as it exerts corporate dominance over the interests of the Australian people. There is a need for a Commonwealth-led inclusive decision making to leave gas and coal in the ground. We need governance that provides fair and just outcomes for ALL if we are to give the climate a chance.”
~ Professor Anne Poelina (Nyikina Warawa), First Nations Guardian and Custodian Martuwarra Fitzroy River
“For Australia to be serious about climate action we need to rule out new coal and gas projects and stop providing those industries with various forms of public money. We must act now to ensure all of God’s creation can flourish.”
~ Reverend Sharon Hollis, President of the Uniting Church
“This cuts across faith traditions. People of all faiths are coming together today. This is about values that are sacred to us all and the survival of us all. We need the Government to start phasing out the whole business of digging up coal and gas, starting now.”
~ Imam Shadi Alsuleiman, President of the Australian National Imams Council
Open Faith for Climate Justice Letter to the Prime Minister
“Dear Prime Minister Albanese
We are grateful for your Government’s efforts to take the climate crisis seriously.
Yet Australia is a wealthy country that profits from exports that are causing the crisis. We hear the cries of anguish from those most vulnerable in the human family who are losing their lives, livelihoods and homes through climate-fuelled disasters.
We humbly and respectfully request that Australia:
• Stops approving new coal and gas projects
• Ends public subsidies for coal and gas projects
• Fully respects First Nations peoples’ rights to protect Country
• Re-starts contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund
• Assists extractive industry workers to prosper through jobs in sustainable industries
• Actively participates in creating and endorses a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The current level of warming is not safe. This moment in history calls for an urgent, courageous, visionary response, especially from those in power. Australia’s leadership in this response, as part of its First Nations Foreign Policy, is vital for the vulnerable communities and ecosystems who depend on it.”
→ Read the open letter and see the many signatories on www.arrcc.org.au
. . .
13 different locations across Australia and the Pacific
|Thea Ormerod, ARRCC chair, summarised the day with these words and photos:|
“Organising groups in 13 different locations across Australia and the Pacific designed beautiful Faiths 4 Climate Justice Multi-faith Services which were attended by many hundreds of people of faith. We were in our element! People from the Pacific shared their experiences and people chanted, prayed, sang and meditated in ways that were always rich and varied, and sometimes really quite moving.
Some supporters showed their deep spiritual commitment to the cause by praying and meditating all through the night before the services in the morning.
As well as being meaningful in their own right, the Services created local interest for a wide range of media outlets leading to much more extensive media coverage than the open letter would have received on its own. Local radio stations took a keen interest. Our passionate and articulate spokespersons shared their wisdom in dozens of radio interviews, many of them on the ABC.
The amazing Fahimah Badrulhisham has quickly put together this draft 2-minute video clip (more photos will be added) summing up some of the achievements of the day.
Please share it and any relevant photos and coverage on Facebook and Twitter, tag Anthony Albanese (write @AnthonyAlbanese and choose the relevant image that pops up) and add #Faiths4Climate.
Thank you also to all the First Nations and faith leader signatories, who have lent the weight of their authority to the open letter itself. We were reliably informed that this sometimes involved careful discussion amongst their community leaders, so support wasn’t given lightly.
Uncle John Lochowiak leads a smoking ceremony in Adelaide. Photo credit: Nadav Kaminsky.
Outdoor service in Bunbury. Photo credit: Charo Chacon.
Participants at Parramatta. Photo credit: Michael O’Farrell.
Participants in Brisbane. Photo credit: Peter Branjerdporn.
Here’s what some have commented:
Adelaide: “Hopefully we’ve moved a few hearts and minds.”
Parramatta: “Congratulations on a very special event at St Patrick’s today. The service was beautifully organised and went flawlessly. It was a joy to have the different faiths represented in prayer and song and also the contribution of the school students.”
Newcastle: “Our Service at the Catholic Church at Tighes hill was a great success today, with more than 50 in attendance.”
Another participant: “Yes, it was great to see people from a range of backgrounds. A Privilege to be involved!”
A Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty activist: “Congratulations on the launch of the letter today – great to see it has so much backing and coverage.”
Here’s how we came across to viewers of ABC Adelaide TV News (click on image):
The summary of media coverage below is not comprehensive. There’ll be more coverage in religious media over the coming days:
The Australian Financial Review
The Australian Associated Press ran the story which then got picked up in the Canberra Times, West Australian, Newcastle Herald, Bendigo Advertiser, Illawarra Mercury and a large number of regional newspapers
The Adelaide Advertiser
The Guardian’s live blog
The Beagle on the south coast of NSW
ABC Radio in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Cairns, Wollongong, Sydney and more
ABC Radio National on AM
TV crews from SBS went to both the Sydney and Perth services
Ten sent a crew to the Sydney service
Seven News sent a crew in Cairns
6PR radio in Perth, syndicated to three other stations elsewhere, including 2GB in Sydney
The National Indigenous Radio Service
The Catholic Leader
Hope 103.2 FM
Channel 31 TV in Melbourne
A Bunbury WA local paper
Anglican Focus in Brisbane
Sight Magazine (Christian online)
Of course, the letter has been sent to Prime Minister Albanese and members of his Cabinet. We pray now that they allow themselves to be moved and motivated by the letter to reconsider the Government’s position on a few of their policy positions. We continue to pray for all those who are paying a high price for Australia’s moral failure around protecting the earth’s climate.
Shalom, Salaam, Om Shanti, Peace, سَلَامٌ, 和平, Paz, शांति, صلح, สันติภาพ