African Faith Leaders have committed to taking proactive roles by helping educate members on the critical task and responsibilities all must play to safeguard the environment.
The Faith Leaders made this commitment at the end of a two-day inter faith forum in Abuja, Nigeria on climate change for sub-Saharan Africa organized by the British Council and First City Monument Bank Plc (FCMB) to advance the awareness on climate change issues.
A declaration on Climate Change at the end of the forum said "As leaders of faith communities in Africa, we commit to highlighting the very real threat to the world's people and to our fragile creation, from the threat of catastrophic climate change. In all our religious teachings and Holy Scriptures, it is clearly stated that protecting and taking care of nature and human life is one of the main instructions of our Creator, and human beings are guardians of this earth.
Climate Change threatens to greatly increase poverty, disease and conflict in Africa. Africa has already been impacted by climate change through more floods, droughts and extreme weather conditions – but it is least equipped technically and financially to deal with climate-related risks. Subsistence farming, the main source of Africa’s food, is being threatened by climate change because it mainly relies on rainfall that is becoming increasingly erratic. Climate change may increase competition for diminishing water resources that will force people to become 'climate change refugees', posing challenges to peace and security in the region".
Noting that faith leaders have a crucial role to play in pressing for changes in behaviour at every level of society; and that all have a responsibility to learn and teach how to live and develop sustainably in a world of finite resources, they stressed the following as action points going forward:
- Capacity building for faith leaders. Where possible, we will endeavour to undertake training in climate change issues.
- We commit to raising awareness of environmental ethics in our religious activities and dedicate at least one sermon at least once a month for issues related to climate change and environmental degradation.
- We commit to emphasising relevant verses in their Holy Books related to the environment. It is the responsibility of every believer to keep the earth clean and healthy for human life.
- We commit to sharing best practices and strengthen existing structures and practices to implement agreed positive actions for adapting to climate change and preventing environmental degradation. They commit to advising their communities how to behave in their daily activities.
- We commit to working together with leaders of different faiths and engage with government, private sector, educational institutions, youth and civil society organisations in Africa and the region. We should also involve and work with policy-makers and, where possible, hold them accountable.
- We commit to ensuring that they are a part of regional and national talks and (legal) agreements
- We commit to working together to hold developed countries to account for a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases so that global warming does not exceed 2 C Degree and advocate for an Adaptation or Global Climate Fund.
To help to achieve these ends, the Faith Leaders agreed to use the Abuja meeting as the first step in an ongoing process of collaboration. "We believe our communities can be key agents of change and urge the Government and the international community, wherever possible, to support our efforts to build capacity, raise awareness and promote sustainable practice", they declared.
The Abuja forum was the first of its kind in Africa coming few months after the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a meeting of faith leaders and faith-based and community organizations at Lambeth Palace, UK to discuss the response of faith communities to environmental crisis and; the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit.
The Climate and Faith Seminar brought together over 100 participants from Nigeria, the UK and several other Sub-Saharan African countries including South Africa and . Sixty of these participants were faith leaders from each of the participating countries.