Brahma Kumaris at COP28

World Cimate Action 1-2 Dec 2023


The World Climate Action Summit convenes heads of state and government, alongside leaders from civil society, business, youth, Indigenous Peoples’ organisations, frontline communities, science and other sectors to discuss concrete actions and plans aimed at scaling climate action. The summit serves as an important platform for major announcements and is intended to provide momentum and guidance to the remainder of the COP.  The first day emphasised the contribution of youth to climate action.

Day 1 - Contributions of faith-based organisations to building climate resilience and adaptation – youth-led climate action

The first event in the Faith Pavilion consisted of a panel consisting of three youth leaders and one faith leader involved in youth projects.  

Julia Rensberg, from the World Council of Churches is part of the Sami indigenous community in Scandinavia.  The language of her people is nature based.  They have 200 words for snow and none for war.  She stressed that we need to protect the biodiversity of the forests as we all depend on nature whether we are indigenous or not. 

Sandra Ombese from the Lutheran World Federation from Kenya spoke of the importance of youth projects within her faith community to empower young people to become agents of change through developing their knowledge and skills base.  “The time to act is now and the future of youth is today not tomorrow”.

Dr Tinashe Gumbo of All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) said that faith leaders have an important role to act justly towards the future generation and to take on this responsibility seriously.   This requires seeing the needs of young people and amplifying their voices through intergenerational conversations and dialogue. 

Shantanu Mandal,  Brahma Kumaris Youth Representative to UNEP, highlighted the importance of providing opportunities for young people to lead, as on this panel.  He said that change happens when I start that change first within myself: ‘Charity begins at home’.  Self-respect leads to respecting others and when we anchor to core spiritual values of respect then the narrative starts to shift.   “So let’s have love for self, community and Mother Nature and add the value of respect to that.

Creating projects such as planting trees and working together to regenerate and restore land were seen as vital components to building climate resilience and adaptation for the future.

Interfaith Youth Dialogue on Climate Justice: Promoting Resilience and Hope

This was an interreligious youth dialogue between youth representatives from different faith traditions and geographical regions.  Discussion topics included: what kind of future they saw for the world,  solutions that youth want for the world, how can we best help the youth be resilient to this challenge?

Sofie Ohlsson from the Church of Sweden, Youth asked how can humans care about nature  when they are disconnected from it by living in cities?  By connecting to nature, we will learn to care for it. By taking care of our own values and faith we will take care of nature.

Shantanu Mandal, Brahma Kumaris youth representative to UNEP, said the terms “loss and damage” are only applied to the financial impact of climate change, but it is the loss of values that has resulted in the damage to the world.  Just pointing fingers won’t help.  Youth can help by living a life of integrity and honesty. There has to be an alignment of head, heart and hands and we need to individually “step up our game” and take responsibility.

Priyanka Patil, Brahma Kumaris agriculture and Youth representative, said we can see a forest with multiple layers as a model for resilience.  We need to be an ecosystem for each other.  We need acceptance and allowing to be a community, a home, a forest for each other.

Carine Josiéle Wendland of the Lutheran World Federation, Mexico, said that indigenous people describe people who talk a lot and do nothing as “empty mouths”. They need financial aid now. Defending Mother Earth is costing lives. Eco is more important than Ego; by putting nature at the top of our priorities we can make a difference.

Faith - The missing piece in climate discussions and for climate action

In addition to the events in the Faith Pavilion, Brahma Kumaris representatives also participated in an Interfaith Dialogue in the Global Climate Action Hub entitled. The participants discussed how there is so much science explaining how people are changing the climate, not to mention the Paris Agreement, and yet emissions are still rising.  What is missing? Is it that we lack the will to change? A group of spiritual figures and clergy from various faiths shared about how to promote faith-based climate action.  A dialogue was held among the following participants:

●       Rev. Dr. Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches

●       Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, Philippines

●       Sister Jayanti, Additional Administrative Head of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University

●       Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Founder & Executive Director, The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

●       Rev. Einar Tjelle, Director for Ecumenical and International Relations, Church of Norway

●       Haposan Cornelius Sinaga, Youth Representative Indonesia

Panelists agreed that faith and love for all creation is the missing piece in the current climate deliberations. Faith is in the heart of sustainable change as it brings courage, strength, enthusiasm, wisdom and so much more. They urged religious communities to be more active to work together towards a sustainable planet for future generations.

Day 2 - Press Conference: Amplifying voices of hope and resilience

The press conference was moderated by Sonja Ohlsson who introduced and greeted the three speakers.

Golo Pilz, Energy Adviser for Brahma Kumaris, opened by presenting photos and explanations of the India One solar power plant at the Brahma Kumaris Headquarters in Mount Abu, India. He outlined other environmental initiatives and closed by saying that changing mindsets, ethical and moral standards, and by raising awareness of vegetarian and vegan diets are the keys for change.

Lindsey Fielder Cook of the Quaker UN Office for the Human Impacts of Climate Change,  said that climate change is less a climate crisis but more a spiritual crisis of human beings. She wanted to address three aspects of the crisis: Challenges, hope and resilience.

One challenge was the fear and denial in most negotiations. Secondly, the distribution of money and power and the third was the normalisation of fossil fuel technology.  Hope is from the steps being taken in climate action, the human rights of indigenous peoples, and that politicians are beginning to understand. Resilience is on an individual basis; we must build our own systems to benefit people and the planet.

Sister Jayanti, Additional Administrative Head of Brahma Kumaris, said that a spiritual approach is based on the understanding that what goes on inside an individual is what impacts the material world outside. Problems are based on a disconnect. A disconnect with the self and with the Divine. Even in the immense darkness of night, it is understood that day will come. Each of us can send messages of hope to at least 100 people. We can be a catalyst for vegetarian or vegan diet, and resilience means to cultivate inner power and develop harmony with self, others, all creatures and nature.

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