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'People of faith are in a key position to change the narrative and rewrite the future'

That was the message that came through loudly and clearly at the grassroots events involving faith and civil society groups in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in which FaithInvest CEO Dr Lorna Gold took part. And what wonderful and inspiring events they were!

More than 60 people representing 40 organisations gathered at the Belfast Campus of Ulster University for an event entitled Join the Dots Together on Friday January 12 to discuss how they can explore a joint approach for addressing environmental challenges. They included representatives from the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church; the Inter-Faith Forum; organisations such as the Mothers' Union, Trocaire, Tearfund, Knights of St Columbanus; and civil groups such as the Corrymeela Community, Fridays for Future and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

Lorna spoke passionately about the role of faith groups in tackling the climate crisis, saying: 'People of faith are in a key position to change the narrative and to rewrite the future.'

One of the few signs of hope at the recent COP28 climate conference in Dubai was the faith community coming togther in the Faith Pavilion, she said: 'It was a fantastic new opportunity for bringing faiths together and discussing a whole myriad of issues from biodiversity to food systems change.'

Photographs courtesy of Fr Brendan McManus

Witnessing history

The other sign of hope was the decision of 12 countries to sign up for a new fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. 'This is a campaign that started a couple of years ago calling for a specific UN treaty which tackles the real underlying cause of most of our climate emissions, namely the fossil fuel industry. The fact that fossil fuels have not even mentioned in the official negotiations until this COP yet represent 85% of the problem – and are controlled by less than 100 countries – means that such a treaty is essential,' she said.

'Colombia became the first oil producing country to sign on to the treaty process – with others to follow soon. The atmosphere in the room when they signed on was electric. I was so glad to be there to witness history. The President of Colombia named Pope Francis and Laudate Deum, his pre-COP letter, in the reason for his decision.'

As well as discussing her how journey Lorna also spoke of the importance of community, and commented on how many different groups were represented there: 'Coming here this morning I can feel that there is a moment building here in Northern Ireland towards faiths leading in climate action. Despite the dark times we are living in – or perhaps due to them – there is an awakening that this is everyone's issue. The positive spirit here today points to a deep commitment and a shared hope that we can build something together.'

That hope was echoed by participants at the event. John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy at Queen’s University said: 'At this time of the climate and ecological emergency we need to all come together recognising it’s both later and worse than people think, but not hopeless. Faith communities have an important role to play so it was great to see such an interdenominational gathering of people of faith willing to roll up their sleeves and start repairing our broken world. Now more than ever we need hope, hope that can only come through collective action.'

Edwin Graham from the Inter-Faith Forum, added: 'The diversity of those present was impressive - from senior leaders in faith communities to small organisations composed of dedicated activists.'

Lorna also met faith leaders over lunch at Queens University, Belfast, on Thursday 11 January to discuss how they can mobilise their investments for sustainability beyond divestment, and attended an informal session with the NI Inter-faith Forum at the Bahai South Belfast Windsor Hub

You can read her full speech here:

Joining the Dots for Climate Justice
Download PDF • 90KB


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