Very Rev'd Dr Peter Catt, Fr Peter Moore and ARRCC supporters in Brisbane. Credit: Peter Branjerdporn
Faith communities across Australia have held vigils on Monday, 18th October, outside the offices of Members of Parliament, including that of the Prime Minister. Their unified call was for Australia to take stronger climate policies to the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, especially a stronger target for the year 2030.
A group of 50 people, including a dozen clergy of various faiths and Catholic Religious, rang bells and held a liturgy outside the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Groups from various faiths also held vigils outside the offices of other MPs, some Coalition and some Labor. They included Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce, Trevor Evans in the seat of Brisbane and Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch.
Part of a global multi-faith ‘day of action’ which spanned over two days, over 440 multi-faith events were held in 43 countries. With a unified message about protecting the earth, they were held in places as different from each other as New York and Nairobi, Lilongwe in Malawi and London, some with corporate targets such as BlackRock and others challenging deforestation.
Over 120 diverse faith communities across Australia were involved on Sunday and hung banners on their places of worship or held events, calling on Scott Morrison to set much bolder climate targets for 2030. As the Government considers a target of net zero emissions by 2050, faith communities say that only an ambitious near-term goal would make that goal meaningful.
Venerable Bhante Sujato, Buddhist monk of Sutta Central, who attended the vigil outside Scott Morrison’s office, said, “We are distressed that the Coalition’s internal debate is about a 2050 target when the main game is slashing pollution this decade. We need targets closer to those of our partners the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union. Indeed, the world needs reductions now.”
Thea Ormerod, President of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), said, “National Party MP’s need to remember that farmers are at the frontlines of heatwaves, fires, droughts, floods worsened by climate change, as well as the threats to water security that mining creates. Compassion for people in the regions means backing action to address these major threats.”
In Melbourne, Pentecostal Pastor Rob Buckingham of Bayside Church, said, “Our prayers are for the Morrison Government, that they will take the bold action needed to protect the integrity of God’s creation. We can already see the early but escalating effects of climate change. We must rise to the challenge now, in order to protect the future of humanity.”
“We share the Nationals’ concern for regional communities but, with the world moving away from fossil fuels, it is more compassionate to assist these communities to diversify their local economies. Otherwise, we abandon them to an uncertain and bleak future. Especially so because people in the regions are also bearing the brunt of fires, floods and droughts made worse by climate change,” Pastor Buckingham said.
In Perth, people from across the religious spectrum held a vigil outside the office of outgoing MP, Steve Irons. Ann Zubrick, Presiding Clerk of Quakers Australia, said, “Mr Irons is in the same prayer group as the Prime Minister. We are asking him to let Mr Morrison know that we’re all praying that fossil fuels are not simply replaced by fossil fuels. Funding for a gas-fired post-COVID recovery is immoral. Instead, we need public investment in large-scale renewable energy which would create more jobs and be better for our farmers, water security, our health and the climate.”
In Cairns a ritual was held at the local Anglican Church, attended by Buddhists, Quakers, Christians and people from other local groups. They then crossed the road to the office of Warren Entsch, who has been an outspoken critic of National Party colleagues over their opposition to setting an emissions target.
Spokesperson for the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland, Father Neil Forgie, said, “We support Mr Entsch in his calls for stronger climate action, but we want to encourage him to speak up even more strongly. He must tell the Prime Minister that the time for half-measures is over - we must drastically reduce emissions this decade.”
In Australia, actions were organized under the auspices of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), a founding partner of GreenFaith International.