Pope Francis with Judge Mohamed Abdulsalam (file photo) Pope Francis with Judge Mohamed Abdulsalam (file photo) 

Abdelsalam: Faith leaders have pivotal role in combatting climate change

The Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Elders, Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, highlights the influence of religious leaders and their role in driving climate action worldwide at a Global Faith Summit in Abu Dhabi ahead of COP28.

By Christopher Wells - Abu Dhabi

The Global Faith Summit taking place this week in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, seeks to highlight “the detrimental impact of climate change” and “the role religious leaders can play in mobilizing their communities” to advance the goal of “global climate acton together,” according to Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Elders.

Judge Abdelsalam spoke with Vatican News ahead of the Global Faith Summit, hosted by the MCE, which takes place on 6-7 November ahead of next month’s COP28 gathering.

Contribution of religions to climate action

The Global Faith Leaders Summit on climate action brings together major religious figures from around the world “to show the world the vision and contribution of different faiths and faith leaders in addressing climate change,” Judge Abdelsalam explained.

The recognition that the climate change crisis is “one of the most dangerous crises in our modern time” provided the impetus for the initiative to bring together religious leaders, along with representatives of communities impacted by climate change and even non-believers, “to come together to reflect and discuss, and to send a unified cry against the climate change crisis and to contribute to addressing this global threat to humanity.”

Role of faith leaders

“Faith leaders and religious leaders worldwide have influence and they have a very important role in driving climate action worldwide,” said Judge Abdelsalam. Precisely because climate change is a global threat, “a collective action and a unified stance, and solidarity among all communities – especially among faith leaders” is required.

He described the actions religious leaders can take to promote positive climate action, especially the ability to raise awareness among their own faith communities and to focus on humanity and put humanity on the top of the agenda for human action – “ because when we prioritize the interest of human communities worldwide, we can reach better goals in addressing this climate crisis.”

Judge Abdelsalam noted that “all religions have called caring for the environment and for the earth,” because they all share “the concept of stewardship and demonstrating care for our common home.”

Faith leaders, he added, have an “ethical and religious responsibility and duty… to guide the communities and take the initiative and show them the example of being unified against this global threat and also to leave a viable legacy for future generations.”

Watch the interview with Judge Abdelsalam

The Pope and the Grand Imam

Judge Abdelsalam pointed to both Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, as religious leaders who have provided “an inspiring example and role model of to many faith leaders worldwide, not only through interfaith dialogue,” but by building “a real partnership between their faith communities. And they have inspired other leaders and relgious figures worldwide to join this journey of building friendship and building and working together shoulder-to-shoulder, very closely, in order to address the challenges that face all of humanity.”

Following on the Document on Human Fraternity and other initiatives, “the Global Faith Leaders Summit on Climate Change is also a result of their “joint action.”

“They have supported this initiative to be an international platform to bring together all faith and tradition leaders worldwide to think together, to reflect, to share their vision, and to send a global faith leaders’ message to the political leaders who will be gathering at COP28.”

“This journey between the Pope and the Grand Imam has demonstrated a real example at the global level,” said Judge Abdelsalam, “and I believe that it hasn't been reflected on quite well by the science research community at the global level because this phenomenon should be studied and should be replicated because it helps to save all humanity.”

Pope at COP28: exceptional, extraordinary, unprecedented

Asked about the Pope’s decision to attend COP28 in person, Judge Abdelsalam described Pope Francis’ participation as “exceptional and extraordinary and unprecedented in the history of the COP conference” that comes “as a culmination of the journey Pope Francis has started in fighting the climate change crisis.”

He also said it was a mark of the Pope’s support for the anticipated outcomes from COP28, and his hope “that this edition of the COP will be different from the previous conferences about climate change and climate action.”

The personal presence of Pope Francis at COP 28, concluded Judge Abdelsalam, demonstrates “a belief on the part of His Holiness about the urgency of this crisis,” and the need for “tangible outcomes and results that we hope that COP28 will deliver.”

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06 November 2023, 08:08