Brahma Kumaris at COP28
COP28 Talanoa Dialogue - 30 November 2023
"We are here to bring a moral and spiritual voice to the existential challenge of our generation. We cannon leave the issue of climate change to politicians and scientists," - Dr Jerry Pillay
Informal Interfaith Gathering in the Spirit of Talanoa Dialogue at COP28
As the COP28 opening ceremony takes place on November 30 at Expo City, UAE, over 100 members of the international interfaith community gathered in-person in Christchurch, Jebel Ali in Dubai and 50 participated via Zoom to express their hopes and visions in the Spirit of Talanoa Dialogue.
Archbishop Hosam Naoum, the Archbishop of Jerusalem welcomed the attendees with a gentle note referring to the honest nature of the conversations under the Fiji tradition of seeking wisdom among all parties involved.
Hosted by the Christ Church and facilitated by Valeriane Bernard and Henrik Grape, co-chairs of the Interfaith Liaison Committee to the UNFCCC, leaders of various faith traditions put their hearts and minds together to assess, according to the Fijian indigenous tradition, the three fundamental questions: « Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we want to get there? », in several areas of the global climate challenges we are facing.
The panel discussion opened with Rev Dr Professor Jerry Pillay, the Executive Secretary of the World Council of Churches, calling on leaders for a profound and rapid change of heart. “We are here to bring a moral and spiritual voice to the existential challenge of our generation. We cannot leave the issue of climate change to politicians and scientists,” he emphasized.
Sister Jayanti, Additional Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris, brought compassion and connection as the two important aspects that each one can pay attention to at this time. She reminded the participants of how many people have experienced something called a ‘compassion deficit’ because of their experiences during the COVID period. “In the spiritual context of what is going on in the world today, I feel it is important to touch upon the aspect of compassion for each and every person on this planet.”
“When there is compassion in my own inner being, realizing that there is a lot of healing to be done inside from many different factors, coming to the awareness of my eternal existence, I then find compassion for my human family, and extend to all living creatures,” she added.
Reverend Chevon Kenu of the United Methodist Church, and part of the indigenous peoples, gave a powerful message asking everyone to protect indigenous peoples since they have been from time immemorial the protectors of Mother Earth: “There is wisdom in indigenous people’s lives, and that’s why I ask to respect our way of life, to allow us that freedom to show and to teach whoever might listen to walk with us on the path of defending our way of life.”
Rev James Baghwan a Fijian working with the Pacific Council of Churches shared the meaning of ‘Talanoa’ which is about the sharing of our stories – the power of speaking our truth involving two important aspects, the power of the spirit which is referred to in Fijian as ‘manna’ and ‘dinna’ which is about truth.
He highlighted that while there are new promises for Loss and Damage funds for affected countries by climate change, communities and people must make sure the money goes to affected communities. And we must all ensure that the 1.5 degrees target is met.
While these funds are important, it should not only look after economic losses in terms of infrastructure and businesses. He noted: “We have been advocating for non-economic loss and damage, but also on the impact of climate change on homes and communities, women and children, indigenous communities, and our spirituality, on our relationship with one another and with the planet. Our responses that are spiritual, pastoral, and culturally appropriate are not one-size fits all. We need to develop contextual responses to the trauma, grief and pain that people are experiencing, “
The panel discussion was followed by focused group dialogues on the following key issues: Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice; Indigenous Peoples’ participation in the negotiations; Gender inclusive climate action and the Gender Plan of Action; Climate finance; Mitigation and ending fossil fuels, Just transition; Global Goal on Adaptation; Loss and Damage; Global stocktake process; Human rights in the negotiations and Food systems and agriculture. Each group came up with a few important considerations that will be imbedded by the Interfaith Liaison Committee to the UNFCCC through a call that will be delivered to the UNFCCC leadership as well as the presidency of the COP28. After the dialogues an interfaith service took place.
The session ended with networking and a shared meal.