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Hugely inspiring Faith Plans event at COP26

FaithInvest teamed up with Focolare and the Ahl Al Bait Society Scotland to hold an inspiring panel and group discussion in front of a very lively and packed room of people from Glasgow-based faith communities during the UN Climate Conference, COP26.

The evening, held at the Al-Mahdi Islamic Centre in Glasgow, looked at how faith groups can use their assets, investments and influence to drive practical action on the environment. It particularly focused on our Faith Plans for People and Planet programme and featured FaithInvest's Lorna Gold as well as Faith Plans partners Olav Kjorven of EAT, Dr Rajwant Singh of EcoSikh and Nigel Savage of Hazon. It also included a video message from Gauranga Das of Gordovan Ecovillage and a presentation by Faith Plans partner China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF).

Afterwards, the audience grouped in tables of up to 10 people to discuss what had struck them most about what they'd heard and how they might take this issue further among their own faith communities. There was a real buzz and energy in the room and we all came away feeling very inspired by what we'd heard.

Here's a flavour of the event from our @FaithPlans social media posts:

Really inspiring event last night with @FocolareGB on #FaithPlans on climate change. Lots of practical discussions – eg, @EcoSikh's Sacred Forest project to plant one million trees – but also of right relationships, pessimism vs optimism & the power of hope. 1/10

Pictured: Olav Kjorven of Eat Forum, FaithInvest's Lorna Gold and EcoSikh's Dr Rajwant Singh watch EcoSikh's inspiring video on its Sacred Forests project which involves planting one million trees through microforests throughout India. You can watch the video yourself here:

Some key takeaways from the event:

'Have confidence that when you organise, what you [faiths] do has impact – it spills over into society and politicians pick it up' – @olavkjorven, ex UN Assistant Secretary-General, now @EATforum Chief of Strategy. 2/10

'Faiths are the oldest and biggest civil society organisations on the planet. When the faiths get their act together in their communities around the world, believe me – that has had an impact and will have an impact' – @olavkjorven of @EATforum. 3/10

FaithInvest CEO Martin Palmer pre-recorded an address to the meeting. He told the gathering that Faith Plans programme was essentially an audit, a way for faith groups to realise they are stakeholders, and to indicate what they are for, not just what they are against.

'We are invested in the wellbeing of the planet and yet somehow we've always slightly stepped back from that. Faith Plans is the chance to do an audit – what do we own, run, influence, shape?' – Martin Palmer. 4/10

You can watch Martin's full address here:

One of the questions that Lorna Gold asked our speakers was what their hope was for the outcome of COP26.

'My biggest hope is that you don't lose hope. Sometimes I worry a bit when I listen to some of the very brave climate activists - they seem to have lost hope. If we lose hope, we lose everything' – @olavkjorven @EATforum 5/10

'I don't know about #COP26 but I have a big hope for this group here. We don't even realise the potential that we have [to take action]. This is why we are here and this is what we need to do' – Rajwant Singh @ecosikh. 6/10
Two years ago @ecosikh decided to plant one million trees in its Sacred Forest project. 'We didn't depend on political leaders or wait for faith leaders to agree. So far we've planted 366 forests and they are full of birds and biodiversity' – @DrRajwantSingh 7/10
'I'm not necessarily optimistic about this #COP26 – this is a very sobering moment for the world. And yet I absolutely come out of it feeling hopeful and incredibly inspired by the range of people around the world taking action' – @nigelssavage @Hazon 8/10
'I've been really struck at this #COP26 by the huge change, not just among governments but also the private sector. This is very good – but it comes out of the force of the environmental movement, including the faith communities' – @nigelssavage @Hazon. 9/10

'It is absolutely the case that coming out of #COP26, every single one of us, from every faith, should leave this gathering with the determination, the possibility and the hope of driving system change in coming years' – @nigelssavage @Hazon 10/10

Faith Plans partner Gauranga Das, Director of ISKCON Govardhan Ecovillage, a United Nations World Tourism Organisation Award winning project based in India, also produced an inspiring video showing the huge range of work – from environmentally friendly farming, to health, rural development, retreats and education – undertaken by the eco village.

You can watch the video here:

Finally, a thought from Imam Sayed Amin Shamaei of the Al-Madhi Islamic Centre:

'We have to change our mentality. Islam has a Hadith: If we want to achieve happiness, we must find a balance with four relationships – with ourselves, with our Creator, with other people and with nature' – Imam Sayed Amin Shamaei


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