Wednesday 28 January 2015 at 15:52We Are All in This Together
by Ciara Shannon, OurVoices Asia Coordinator
Hong Kong’s six main religions joined forces to sign a statement (see below) to urge world governments to come to a consensus on tackling climate change.
This marks the first interfaith statement by religious leaders of Asia to do so.
The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong includes: The Most Venerable Chi Wai, President of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association; His Eminence Cardinal John Tong Hon, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong; Master Leung Tak Wah, Chairman of the Hong Kong Daoist Association; Reverend Yuen Tin Yau, Chairperson of the Hong Kong Christian Council; Dr. Tong Yun Kai, President of the Confucian Academy; and Mr. Sat Che Sang Ibrahim, Chairman of the Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association.
“Currently, we are on the trajectory of emissions with potentially catastrophic consequences—threatening all of us and the natural world,” the statement says. The statement supports the scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and puts a focus on those most vulnerable of the world, saying it is our shared responsibility, not our difference, for our planet—to care for Earth as guardians of creation, so it continues to support not just ourselves, but the generations of life on Earth to come.
The statement also calls on governments to come to a global consensus on reducing emissions when United Nations climate talks resume in Paris at the end of the year.
“The religious leaders in Hong Kong are concerned about climate change and environmental protection. That is the spirit of all religions, and we do hope an agreement could be reached in the climate talks in Paris later this year,” said Chan Kim-kwong of the Christian Council.
This multifaith statement by Hong Kong’s faith leaders represents a landmark of Asia. It is important that faith leaders continue to raise awareness on the moral imperative of climate change in their communities and call for governments to act now.
The statement from Hong Kong comes as Pope Francis prepares to publish an encyclical on Human Ecology due out early summer. He’s expected to deliver a strong signal on the moral, ethical, and responsible dimensions of climate action.
Many religious communities have released statements on climate change.
From the Anglicans, Bahai’s, Buddhists, Baptists, Catholics, Episcopal, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, Quakers, Methodists, and Unitarian Universalists—there is also an Islam Faith Statement on Ecology.
Before the December 2009 U.N. Climate Treaty Conference in Copenhagen, several prominent Buddhists drafted a "pan-Buddhist" perspective on climate change, including “The Time to Act is Now” and A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency.
In this Buddhist declaration, “The Time To Act Is Now” stresses the importance of “bringing the resources to bear on behalf of all living being.” The four noble truths provide a framework for diagnosing our current situation and formulating appropriate guidelines—because the threats and disasters we face ultimately stem from the human mind, and therefore require profound changes within our minds,” it says.
The Dalai Lama has also spoken out on climate change saying, “Today more than ever before life must be characterised by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.”
As far as I understand, the Buddhist relationship to the natural world is characterised by respect, humility, care, and compassion.
Human beings are seen as part of nature and our existence is interconnected and interdependent. Buddhists also believe that natural processes are affected by human morals and several suttas from the Pali Canon show that early Buddhism believed in a close relationship between human morality and the natural environment (also defined in the theory of the five natural laws (panca niyamadhamma).
According to the five natural laws, if immorality grips society, humankind and nature deteriorate; if morality holds strong, the quality of human life and nature improves. Greed, hatred and delusion produce pollution within and out—whereas generosity, compassion and wisdom produce purity within and out.
According to Martin Palmer, Secretary General of Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), Daoism and Confucianism—as the two indigenous spiritual and philosophical traditions of China—are at the very essence of the recovery of a specifically Chinese perspective on protecting our planet. Daoists created a statement on the environment over twenty year ago and in 2013, the Confucianists of China issued their first ever statement on the environment that argued that what the world needs is a spiritual humanism founded on Confucian values: “this world is a precious heritage passed on to us from our ancestors, and it is a resource entrusted to us by numerous generations yet to come."
We look forward to hearing more from Buddhists, Daoists and Confucians on climate change in 2015.
Header image via flickr user Jonathan Leung