FEATURE - World's Churches go Green and Rally to Cause
Author: Paul Majendie
For Christians, Jews and Muslims, the message is the same -- mankind has "stewardship" of the earth which it has a duty to protect for future generations.
And environmentalists hailed churches for stepping up to the plate with a real sense of urgency.
"Caring for the environment is a key part of many religions. Any contribution which highlights and tackles issues such as climate change is very welcome," said Mike Childs of Friends of the Earth.
Last week's Doomsday warning from a UN panel of scientists -- temperatures are rising inexorably and mankind is the culprit -- dramatically underlined how the clock is ticking.
That gave added impetus to the campaign and religious environmentalists say pious words of intent are not enough.
Martin Robra, climate change spokesman for the World Council of Churches grouping 560 million Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican Christians, said the debate "must now shift from denial and delays to responsibility and remedies well within humanity's grasp."
So what are the churches doing?
The tide shows signs of turning in the United States, which is responsible for one quarter of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide and uses one quarter of the world's crude oil.
A group of 85 evangelical Christian leaders this month kicked off a campaign to mobilise religious conservatives to combat global warming.
With full-page newspaper advertisements and a television ad, they declared "With God's help, we can stop global warming for our kids, our world and our Lord."
CREATION CARE NEEDED
The push for "creation care" -- the idea that the environment is a divine creation that must be protected by humans -- was highly successful with its "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign to get Americans to use more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, drives an eco-friendly car, bangs the green drum and argues "We are consumers of what God has made. We are in communion with it."
Catholics are also very much singing from the same hymn sheet with Pope Benedict making protection of the environment one of the keynotes of his papacy.
He has called on every Catholic to become environmentally friendly and dedicated an entire section of his 2007 World Day of Peace message to what he called "the ecology of peace," saying that disregard for the environment harms human existence.
"The destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources cause grievances, conflicts and wars, precisely because they are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development," he wrote.
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual head of all Orthodox Churches, is planning to take a ship full of religious leaders to the Arctic Circle this summer to focus on global warming.
The Big Green Jewish Website seeks to galvanise British Jews into environmental action. The Greening Synagogues initiative in the United States opts for the practical -- programmable thermostats, energy-saving light bulbs.
And for Muslims, the issue is just as pressing.
"It is a question of trusteeship," said Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain's inter-faith relations committee.
"We believe that we are God's deputies on the planet and we have been given the responsibility to ensure we use God's gift in the correct manner and leave it in a fit state which can be passed on to future generations," he said.
Words were matched by actions in December when a meeting in Saudi Arabia of environment ministers from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference issued a 12-point plan -- including calls for water, soil and land preservation.
(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome)