Brahma Kumaris at COP28

Youth Empowerment and Land Restoration

08 - 09 December, 2023

As the COP28 moves into its second week, the first day seeks to empower young people to shape the outcomes of COP28 and beyond, particularly considering the disproportionate risks and impacts from climate change for children and youth.

In our events we hear heroic narratives from young people who have lost loved ones and risked their own lives in the name of climate justice. We find out about youth-led innovation, entrepreneurship and community projects.

Faith leaders also come together to spotlight how different faiths are working towards land restoration in their communities. They discuss the establishment of the Loss and Damage fund and explore the shared values that underpin our responsibility to care for the Earth.

This week in the Climate Wisdom Studio, Maureen Goodman, Programme Director of Brahma Kumaris, UK, joins our panel of inspiring guests from diverse backgrounds.

Press Conference: Young Heroes of Climate Justice Stories

Today four youth representatives from Mexico, Palestine, Columbia and India, shared inspiring ground-level initiatives they are involved in.

Loay Alatrash, Chairman, Arab Youth Green Voices Network, shared about the work of the Network and the importance of working from the ground up to influence governments. The Network helps Arab youth to build their capacity to face the crisis; supports entrepreneurs developing new technologies and eco-friendly products; helps resilience building within communities; offers education about climate change and sustainable lifestyles; and has created a website that provides information in Arabic.

David Palmer, Ambassador & Emerging Filmmakers Program Coordinator, INUTW, spoke about the value of story-telling and narratives as a form of self-representation. Through his films about the Wayuu community and surrounding indigenous communities, he has been able to educate his own community and reach a global audience. It is a way to share our different perspectives about ecology and our message. He also wanted to celebrate everyone coming together as relatives of one world family.

Shantanu Mandal, Brahma Kumaris Youth Representative, wanted to also acknowledge that we are one family. He shared about three value-based projects and how bringing in values has been key in their success. One is the Plant One Tree (Kalp Taruh) project. When you register your tree you get information for three months on tree-care and self-care. So far 1.6 million trees have been planted. The second is one with local communities in India to restore land and grow kitchen gardens. The third is the Food Care initiative.

Nansedalia Ramírez, Coordinator, Youth Movement, Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, shared how important it was for youth to be involved at the decision-making level. They are the ones with the commitment to carry actions forward. She shared about her work with youth in protecting indigenous communities on threatened lands. Youth support is vital in getting justice for the lands under dispute. Education, voicing out and actionable solutions are the priorities of their organisation.

Shantanu Mandal shared a closing meditation about being a light in the world.

Replay link: Brahma Kumaris Environment Initiative: Young Heroes of Climate Justice Stories | UNFCCC

Care, Share and Inspire in the Climate Wisdom Studio

Today in the studio the discussion was around the role of faith in Climate Change discussions.

Bishop Marika Markovits, Sweden spoke about the link between nature and spirituality and the work of the Church of Sweden in relation to the climate. They are working to be climate neutral, for climate justice and for a change in values. In the bible it says we are stewards of nature and she feels there is a collective guilt around how we have treated nature. They have created a liturgy (service) of mourning for nature and prayers for forgiveness and for stepping into a new kind of stewardship with nature. She is positive about the contribution people of faith can make and how they are working together to find solutions.

Lora Almutairi, Researcher, Public Authority of Agricultural Affairs, Kuwait, sees the direct impact of the climate crisis on animals and farmers. There are technological solutions but the economic capital to implement them is missing. She feels that it is really important that children are educated about nature and how to care for nature; made aware of their individual agency and responsibility; and raised to love and care for each other and the environment. In Islam we are asked to protect nature and respect animals, and all religions have similar values towards nature.

Maureen Goodman, Programme Director, Brahma Kumaris UK: The Brahma Kumaris shares the message about the connection between our inner consciousness and the outer world. There is an intimate connection between human beings and nature and when our consciousness shifts our relationship with nature also shifts. We also need outer application. We practise this by living simply, vegetarian/vegan diet, buying compassionately and creating projects like yogic farming. Dadi Janki used to say: “Are you taking from or giving to nature?”. Our good wishes and feelings can support nature.

The programme finished with a prayer from Bishop Markovits for COP.

Replay Link: Youtube Link

Mobilising Faith Community Towards Land Restoration

Sri Sri Ravishankar, Founder, The Art of Living, spoke of the initiatives they had been carrying out over the last 42 years, including desilting riverbeds; rejuvenating rivers; 3 million farmers trained in natural and organic farming; recharging of wells; planting of indigenous trees. When people are depressed, they are not concerned with environmental issues. We are teaching people breathing techniques and how to become free from stress to move forward.

Yukiko Yamada Morovic, Technical Director, Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action, World Vision International said that this work is based on common sense. People have more respect for faith leaders than politicians. When agricultural initiatives are combined with faith leaders the potential is much greater. When faith is involved, there is the added value of hope, emotion and passion. The golden rule is to respect the harmony of nature and care for the creation.

Muhammad Zubair, CEO, AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics, said the Islamic perspective of land restoration is about the stewardship of the environment. The major issue for Muslims in agriculture is financial. The Islamic faith prohibits the earning of interest, so the bank provides 100% of the needs up front and farmers share their final products with the bank. If a farmer has no resources, or water, then others share what they have and the crops are divided between them.

Maureen GoodmanProgramme Director Brahma Kumaris UK: God loves the whole of creation, not just human beings but every creature and element of matter. When we work with the land we need to work with our hands and our hearts. With sustainable yogic agriculture farmers meditate at each stage of the growing process, starting with the seeds, with amazing results. We have a tree planting project: ‘Forests that Heal’, where native species with medicinal properties, herbal plants and fruit trees are being planted. Eating a plant-based diet, and living a simple life contributes to the restoration of the earth.

Replay Link: Youtube Link

Youth Rising in Solidarity for Environmental Defenders and Safeguarding Lives, Nature and the Future

For this unique event, speakers kept their seats in the audience rather than talking from the front to show their solidarity with the people they were representing.

A video was shown, “Sha’a”, by Peregrino Shanocua from Dominican Republic. He was protesting illegal gold mining in his home forest. He was kidnapped, beaten and his life threatened, so he stopped fighting. Mining continues. He asks “What would you do in my place?”.

Dominic Nyasulu, National Coordinator of World Faith from Malawi, works with youth. Malawi government planned to withdraw water from a conservation area. His group took them to court and succeeded. They were threatened by leaders and politicians but had no protection. “How can upcoming generations of protesters be protected?”

Nansedalia Ramirez, Youth of Mexican Network of Peasant Forestry. Mining was planned which would destroy forests and displace her people. Her community group was threatened but got an injunction to stop mining. “This story gives hope that we can change the world by coming together. People shouldn’t have to risk their lives. We need measures to ensure human rights.”

Nidia Pacheco, Youth Coordinator in Panama. Her indigenous group was forcibly relocated when she was a child because of a dam. They lost their culture and language. She is working to recover her traditions and enable reforestation. “We feel we have a responsibility to carry on the traditions of our grandparents”.

Ina-Maria Shikongo from Namibia, whose father was killed as a freedom fighter, protests fracking in Kavango Basin. It’s home to endangered species and indigenous people. She confronted the company and the police tried to arrest her. They constantly watch her. “I don’t know about fear,” “There is space for a better world.”

The event was finished by all participants holding hands and being led in a meditation by Shantanu Mandal, Brahma Kumaris. He shared that “The word “defending” comes from lack of love. When there is love, everything is saved.” “Visualise yourself radiating light to the whole world”.

Watch : Youtube Link

Faith in Action for Climate Justice in Addressing Loss and Damage

All participants welcomed the operationalization of the Loss and Damage fund. There is still a lot to be worked out but it is crucial that it will be administered not in the form of loans but as grants.

Bishop Julio Murray, Archbishop Central America: As well as Loss and Damage, we must not lose sight of funds for adaptation and mitigation. Capacity building is needed to respond with resilience. As people of faith, we can’t say that we have a relationship with God, if the relationship among us and with creation is broken. It’s about reconciliation. We hope the Spirit of God will bring us together to become better stewards of creation.

Bishop Marika Markowitz, Church of Sweden: We share one planet, one creation and it has been exploited very unequally, this mechanism is needed to remedy injustices. All efforts must be made to reduce emissions without affecting the most vulnerable. Sustaining hope is important, especially for the younger generation. “Hope is based on what is still possible.”

Maureen Goodman, Programme Director, Brahma Kumaris UK: Climate justice requires a ‘levelling out’: individuals from richer nations need to adopt simpler lifestyles. We need spiritual vision, to come back to our original state of being as souls and original state of love and peace. “Let God’s love and wisdom guide every thought, word and action and let faith and determination be infectious.”

His Excellency Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, Holy See Representative, emphasised the need to compromise and put aside national interests in favour of the common good. The fund has potential to meet the needs of people, especially the poorest, affected by climate change. Non-economic factors also need consideration - what has value does not always have a monetary price. “We need to take care of the house the Lord gave us, the earth, and all our neighbours, brothers and sisters.”

Watch : Youtube Link

Care, Share and Inspire in the Climate Wisdom Studio

Today the discussion revolves around the importance of the cryosphere, land restoration and faith and capacity building.

Florence Kon, Paleo Climate Modeller, explained that glacial areas reflect solar radiation. When these are melted, areas underneath are dark and absorb heat. This raises climate temperature and becomes a positive feedback loop, making the ice melt faster. It is important to preserve the cryosphere (part of earth’s surface where water is solid) because it regulates Earth’s climate. This is why commitment to staying within the 1.5 degrees increase limit is vital. Seeing the younger generation at COP brings her hope.

Priyanka Patil, Regenerative Gardener and Permaculture Designer, is working with communities in dry areas of India to help them create nutrition gardens with 50 species, from only having one crop. This creates food security and food sovereignty. Soil can be a sink for carbon, but because of soil degradation, there are flash floods. Using indigenous wisdom can provide solutions for this. She uses mindfulness with nature and stays positive.

Sister Maureen Goodman, Programme Director of Brahma Kumaris UK, said that spiritual capacity helps people to face climate change. “If I panic and lose my peace of mind, I won’t be able to see the solutions that are in front of me. Spiritual capacity is about being able to take the right decisions at the right time.” Having the Faith Pavilion at COP28 is a big step in making the voice of faith heard. She sees all faiths moving in the same direction regarding climate. Faith communities can push governments in the right direction. Having a connection with God enables us to have a constant source of love and peace.

Watch : Climate Wisdom from COP28 | Episode Eleven | Care - Share - Inspire - YouTube

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