Interfaith Conference on sustainable development

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Religious leaders, including Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee; Zuheika Haj, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs for the Palestinian Authority, and a member of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, and William Shomali, Auxiliary Latin Bishop of Jerusalem.

The forum was organized on the initiative of the Interfaith Centre for Sustainable Development. The objective? To find way of working together in the face of climate change. It is a problem in which all religions have a role to play in pooling ideas through which to influence relevant policy and help implement decisions. To respect creation is to respect its Creator: this is the ideal expressed in one way or another by each speaker.

“Creation is a gift to be treated with care, and we should exercise this in love,” said Bishop Shomali, who was referring to the Canticle of All Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi. The bishop also underlined the relationship between the protection of Nature and peace, and he quoted Pope Benedict XVI is saying, “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.” Bishop Shomali made mention of urgent matters facing the Holy Land today, such as the very difficult ecological situation in Gaza, where a poor drainage system pollutes coastal waters.

Reference was made to the recently signed declaration, on climate change, by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, at which Jews, Moslems and Christians met to discuss environmental protection.

Its aim is to deal with climate change through an appeal to the moral authority of religious leaders. “Climate change is a global challenge, and action is urgently needed,” says the declaration. “We invite all the Faithful to recognize the Planet and its resources as gifts of God, and therefore to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage political leaders to implement strict measures to prevent further deterioration of the climate.”