Brahma Kumaris at COP28
Faith and Sustainability
03 - 04 December, 2023
As the theme of the COP shifts to Relief, Recovery, and Peace, the emphasis of our participation is on empowering youth, and the crucial contribution of the voices of faith organisations to the process of recovery.
In addition we include reports from the Climate Wisdom studio: Care, Share and Inspire, an end-of-day reflection by delegates on the science, policies, and spiritual learnings from COP28 with different guests every evening. The conversation is taking place at 7pm UAE each day in the specially curated studio at the Raja Yoga Center in Umm Hurair, Dubai. It also goes on live streaming on the BKEI YouTube Channel.
The Role of Communications in Raising Resilience in Community Resilience Radio and Spotlighting Youth Perspectives on the Path to Climate Resilience.
This workshop was facilitated by Shantanu Mandal from Brahma Kumaris Radio Madhuban and Dennis Mombauer, the director of SLYCAN Trust.
The group listened to Shantanu setting the scene with a 30 second pitch about communicating stories about climate resilience as if it was for a community radio show. Radio can be more accessible to people than the internet.
Dennis presented some powerful images showing the impact of climate change, for eg, in Sri Lanka, the art of traditional mask making is being lost due to migration and the trees that are being lost due to climate change. In Ghana, the coast is being heavily affected by rising sea levels which have destroyed coastal houses.
Shantanu then encouraged people to take the “dummy radio mic” to give their 30 second presentation. These were some of the sharings:
● Resilience can be represented by the forest; it can burn but still grow back.
● A 17-year-old from Brazil is working as part of a women’s group to make spaces in the community for women and children.
● We have the ability to be resilient and we are more than enough, even for climate change.
● A village who could only grow 2 kinds of vegetable were helped by a Brahma Kumaris project and are now growing 50 types of vegetable, which is inspiring other villages.
Shantanu said that, by sharing our stories, we become stronger. They finished by holding hands in a circle, connecting to nature, sharing good wishes for each other, with the image of being a light and sharing light.
Care, Share and Inspire in the Climate Wisdom Studio
Today’s topics were mindsets, the deeper spiritual perspective of the crisis and youth response. The moderator was Golo Pilz, Brahma Kumaris Advisor for Renewable Energies
The link for the full recording can be found here: Youtube link
Hanna Soldal, Act Church of Sweden, shared how as a Christian she believes that God created every living thing on earth, and that everything on earth is holy. How do we treat something we consider holy? If COP negotiations were approached from this mindset how would it impact the decisions? Also, the youth of the Church of Sweden are lobbying for an international Ecocide Law. She is enjoying lots of interesting conversations at the new Faith Pavilion at COP28.
Shantanu Mandal shared about changing mindsets and being mindful of our thoughts. He used to think it was difficult to adopt a vegan diet, then someone said to him, ‘It is only a thought away.’ He came to see being vegan was about adopting a different mindset. Asked about the frustration and anxiety youth are experiencing, he shared that he always asks himself why he is here and what does he need to do right now? This may be as simple as being a listening ear. He reminds himself to be light and inspire others. By holding onto peace, love and wisdom he is feeding into something new.
Sister Jayanti, Additional Admin Head of Brahma Kumaris, was asked about the deeper spiritual perspective. She shared about the idea of cycles, and that the whole world also goes through cycles of light and dark. After the night the day always comes. She also shared about the law of cause and effect, how our actions impact nature and have led to the current imbalance. As human beings we have the capacity to change this. We can choose to share goodwill with the world and translate this into practical actions, like a vegan diet. She also shared that to connect with God we only need the power of our mind. In Raja Yoga we learn how to go inside, become aware of our inner being and connect our thoughts with the Divine. This brings light and wisdom, changes our outlook and awakens our conscience. He is there and concerned for each and every one of us.
Faith and Sustainability: A Spiritual Approach towards Environmental Responsibility
The moderator, Massamba Thioye, welcomed the speakers to the Global Innovation Hub which was launched in COP26 with the vision of how to mobilise innovation to serve people and the planet.
Emilce Cude, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, stated that diplomacy is being used only for commerce. We believe in God and trust in humanity. If we do not do that, then any political diplomacy is unworkable. We need a compassionate social environment dialogue. We must see, discern and act, not teach and correct; listen to what God is telling us.
Sister Jayanti, Additional Head of Brahma Kumaris, said the faith community has come together with a combined voice to talk of values which are the basis of civilisation. It is especially time for respect. We have lost respect for ourselves. When I recognise the self as the inner being, the soul, then I can respect all people as my family and this planet as my home. Innovation comes through silence. Reflection in silence brings new ways of thinking and innovation comes in a very natural way.
Ovais Sarmad, Former Deputy Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, opened by saying that much has been done and a lot of money spent but we are still behind and through faith and spirituality we need to question the value systems that are in operation. The Koran says that we are the stewards of God on earth and that is a huge responsibility. We must shed the ego, the desires, the fame and positions and come to our deep nature of the self. The harm that is being done is not a punishment from God, it is what we are doing to ourselves.
RT Rev Handly, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of California, (virtually from California) said the climate crisis is a spiritual crisis. We must replace the dominant world view with a healthier view based on peace and love. This is the first COP with a Faith Pavilion and 9 different religions have produced meditation cards exploring spiritual values. The Christian ones are based on Confession, Reconciliation and Forgiveness. Every religion has a path to move from brokenness to wholeness, it is a dynamic that all religions have.
Press Conference: Interfaith Talanoa Dialogue on COP28
Valeriane Bernard, co-chair of the Interfaith Liaison committee, introduced the panel and the background to the Talanoa Dialogue. She then asked each speaker to talk about the importance of faith on the subject of climate change.
Sister Jayanti of the Brahma Kumaris, felt that faith enables us to go beyond what we can see physically, helps create hope and facilitates development of inner resilience. The dialogue was a platform for people of faith to come together and share the different impacts of climate change.
Chebon Kernel, representing Indigenous Communities, felt the inclusion of an indigenous structured conversation such as the Talanoa was vital. The story telling mode helped stories of violence and displacement common to many indigenous communities worldwide to be heard.
Lucy Plummer, representing youth, emphasised that many young people are being affected by war and conflict and were seeing the environment around them being destroyed and their futures compromised. “We members of the Faith community will stand by them and will not turn our backs on them especially at COP.”
Harjeet Singh from Climate Action Network, celebrated the success of the Loss and Damage Fund being operationalised at the start of the conference. He stressed that there was still work to be done to make it fit for purpose. “Faith communities have played a very important role in putting a spotlight on this issue.”
Valeriane ended by sharing that on the basis of what had been gathered at the dialogue they will be writing a ‘Call’ of the Interfaith Talanoa dialogue and will deliver it to the COP: the UNFCCC as well as the Presidency.
Care, Share and Inspire in the Climate Wisdom Studio
Today’s delegates shared their thoughts about the role of faith leaders and women in the climate crisis and at COP. Also, reasons they see for hope. The moderator was Sonja Ohlsson, Director of Brahma Kumaris Environmental Initiative.
The link for the full recording can be found here: Youtube Link
Bishop Huggins, Anglican Church of Australia, said it was via his connection with the Brahma Kumaris that he became involved in COP. In Australia he works with Aboriginal peoples and sees that we can learn a lot from them about living gently on this earth. He has a focus on reconciliation, to choose to heal and break the cycle of harm and retaliation, and that this is something that people of faith can offer COP. They need to live it first. They can offer a quiet healing presence and spaces to reduce tensions. He has been given hope by the kindness, goodwill and generosity of spirit he is experiencing at COP28.
Thomas Hirsch, Founder and Director of Climate Development Advice Germany, shared about the importance of meeting, conversations and of value-based climate action. He said the main contribution of faith leaders to COP is to be its moral compass, particularly for long-term decision making. Climate action is about protecting future generations and raising awareness of the ‘ Why,’ which is connected to our value-base. Also, faith leaders need to walk their talk to be credible. Women also have an important part to play as they have a lot of strength to do what is right. He feels hope when he sees what has been achieved so far, even though there is still much to be done.
Sr Jayanti shared that she comes to COP to bring the connection between the inner and outer to the table. She feels that nature is sacred, is sad to see how nature has been violated, and hopes that as our consciousness changes we will begin to have a different perspective of our relationship with nature. She feels that there is still a gender balance issue and often finds herself the only woman on the panel. In the Brahma Kumaris, from its beginning, women were given affirmative leadership roles, and that care is a particularly needed feminine quality right now. Care for ourselves, others and the planet. A big change she has experienced at this COP is that faith leaders have been given an official platform in COP for the first time.
Learn more about Brahma Kumaris @ COP28