Still trying to gauge the Francis Effect? If you’re counting heads in parish pews, you may be looking in the wrong place. The pope’s first encyclical, "Laudato Si,'" has been lauded by religious leaders from a number of different faith traditions and quoted by secular and political leaders around the world. Just the news of the impending release of the pope’s “green encyclical” was enough to inspire a statement in June from more than 330 rabbis in a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis: “a call to action to prevent further climate-fuelled disasters and work toward eco-social justice.”
There was more evidence of a Francis Effect on religious leadership today with the release of a declaration on climate change meant “to engage the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims on the issue of our time.” The declaration was signed by Islamic leaders from 20 countries today at the closing of the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul. It calls for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a switch to 100 percent renewable energy as well as increased support for vulnerable communities already suffering from climate impacts. It urges governments to deliver a strong, new international climate agreement in Paris this December, one “that signals the end of the road for polluting fossil fuels.”
A statement announcing the release of the Islamic statement noted specifically that the declaration “is in harmony with the Papal Encyclical and has won the support of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace of the Holy See.”
According to a press statement: “The Declaration presents the moral case, based on Islamic teachings, for Muslims and people of all faiths worldwide to take urgent climate action. It was drafted by a large, diverse team of international Islamic scholars from around the world following a lengthy consultation period prior to the Symposium. It has already been endorsed by more than 60 participants and organizations including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon.”
"All that is in the heavens and the earth belongs to Allah," the Islamic leaders write. "Allah encompasses all things....We affirm that –
"God created the Earth in perfect equilibrium (mīzān);
By His immense mercy we have been given fertile land, fresh air, clean water and all the good things on Earth that makes our lives here viable and delightful;
The Earth functions in natural seasonal rhythms and cycles: a climate in which living beings – including humans – thrive;
The present climate change catastrophe is a result of the human disruption of this balance."
Like the pope's encyclical the declaration is intended by these Islamic leaders hope to influence the dialogue at the upcoming UN Framework Conference on Climate Change to be convened in Paris this December.
The Islamic leaders in their declaration call on the "well-off nations" and significantly "oil-producing states" to:
· Lead the way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century;
· Provide generous financial and technical support to the less well-off to achieve a phase-out of greenhouse gases as early as possible;
· Recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources;
· Stay within the ‘2 degree’ limit, or, preferably, within the ‘1.5 degree’ limit, bearing in mind that two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground;
· Re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.
· Invest in the creation of a green economy.
The document was welcomed by officials from both the United Nations and the Holy See. “It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
And Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change, said, “A clean energy, sustainable future for everyone ultimately rests on a fundamental shift in the understanding of how we value the environment and each other. Islam’s teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide to correct behavior, provide guidance to take the right action on climate change.”