More religious leaders are calling on their congregations to act against the climate crisis.
A Nativity Scene shows the Holy Family in an industrial scene with smoke, pollution and a scorched earth to call attention to to the dangers of environmental pollution and climate change. Photo AFP, Frederic J. Brown
Earlier this month, Pope Francis pleaded with religious leaders that living a “respectful and sustainable lifestyle” is possible against a rapidly warming climate.
His call to action came in the form of a YouTube video that was published by the Vatican, according to ORF.at. It showed the Catholic Church head discussing the set-up of a religious pavilion at this year’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The COP28 convened last month in November. The Pope was set to attend the conference but cancelled due to illness.
“It is urgent that religions, without falling into the trap of syncretism, led by example and work together. Not for your own interests or those of a party, but for the interests of our world,” he said.
Francis added that a “change of lifestyle” is also essential in protecting the environment and for setting an example.
“We have to change our way of life and therefore educate them to live a simple and fraternal way of life. This is an indispensable action for religions, which should also lead to contemplation,” he said in the report.
Amid ongoing war in the world, the Pope added that current human conflict is “dividing nations” and preventing collective action on environmental change. Although the Pope alluded to global wars, Franciscan priest, Frei Hermínio Araújo believes that political wars also exist on the ecological front. Hermínio Araújo warns that “radical groups” are creating a “negative impact” in the talks against climate change. Whether someone is on the political left or right, he advocates a message of “integral ecology,” which involves collective Christian action on caring for the environment.
“Whenever the Social Doctrine of the Church, or Christian social thought, has been thought about, this topic [ecology] has appeared, but I think it is still not enough, and perhaps it is very connoted almost with left-wing tones, which is at least very strange. This is not a question of left or right,” he said in a broadcast by Ecclesia.
Even as those tones swing more left, Hermínio Araújo said that climate-based protests create “noise” and subvert the need to “mobilise awareness” by using effective words. He also criticised Catholicism’s overemphasis on “doctrine” and the “lack of enchantment with life.”
“The beauty of the Gospel, Christian beauty, the beauty of the world, the beauty of life, moving from the question of truths to something that allows us to say 'wow, it's good to live!'. We often lack this, we lack charm in life, we are too focused on our problems,” he said.
What Hermínio Araújo claims in environmental admiration and action may affect older generations than younger age cohorts. Evangelische Zeitung recently published a study by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation that showed older generations being more mindful on environmental issues and “behaving in a climate-friendly way in everyday life” than younger age groups. The German-based study also revealed that for those in the 16 to 25 age group, that figure was only at 22 per cent compared to those who were 66 to 75 years old at 46 per cent. For those older than 75, the figure increased to 62 percent when it came to behaving in “climate-friendly” ways.
However, when researchers asked about the importance of a vegetarian or vegan diet, younger people believed that was more important than older generations. At least 34 per cent of those under 25 years old believed that it is “very important or somewhat important.” Individuals over 56 were less likely to hold the same views at 10 per cent.
Fear-based attitudes surrounding the climate were seen more among young people and those living in certain geographical areas. Fear over “climate change due to global warming” was high among 16- to 25-year-olds at 35 per cent. Those over 75 years were less fearful, but the figure remained above average at 19 per cent. At least 90 per cent of women were more afraid over the future compared to men. In addition, those who lived in urban areas (71 per cent) and in the western part of Germany (71 per cent) showed more fear-based attitudes compared to those who lived in the east (64 per cent) and within more rural environments (65 per cent).
Catholic leaders have not been the only ones to preach action against climate change. The national Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) recently called for increased government regulations to protect the climate. He also said that “mandatory limits” imposed by federal regulation would be the only effective ways in protecting others.
“Anyone who still relies solely on voluntary action is acting irresponsibly. Just as naturally, we would all say that if people do not voluntarily adhere to the law, the state must enforce this law so that the law of the strongest does not apply,” Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said in the Evangelische Zeitung report. Bedford-Strohm is the former council chairman of the EKD.
Echoing the former chairman’s stance, the EKD’s own website encourages its users to “get involved in climate protection.” They have also published their own “Climate Bible” (Klimabibel), which was released in June 2023. The text is a compilation of concerns from several hundred people based on the “health-threatening climate changes.”
The Klimabibel contains names from the first five books of Moses and expands on themes found in the original Bible. Take the first book of Genesis, which has been labelled as “Greta” after climate change activist, Greta Thunberg. The first page discusses the beauty of God’s creation along with quotes on the responsibility of man involving climate change. The second book of “Exodus” introduces the reality of being in a slave to a world system based on competition and profits.
“We must act now and change the reality of our lives. We should be in a system without live economic growth in which the common good and not the profit of individuals comes first. Only that will solve the crises of the present and the world make more resilient,” according to one verse that labelled as, “G48.”
Although the Climate Bible has been seen as a gross misappropriation by critics, many religious organisations desire to see a balance on the environment. Some Christian organisations such as the Lusanne Movement are now calling their environmental activism, “creation care,” which encourages Christians to become good stewards of His creation.
“We care for creation not because this is the flavour of the times, but importantly because of our response to the urgent call of our Creator-God who loves us and cares for this world,” according to one article by the Lusanne Movement.