By Suzy Lamoreaux
YOUNG INTERFAITH LEADERS UNITING FOR CLIMATE
Twenty young people of diverse faiths from across the world will converge at the Mariapolis Luminosa Conference Center in Hyde Park, New York on Thursday, July 23 to tackle climate change. Their desire to build a more peaceful planet through environmental activism unites youth who, on the surface, seem different: they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians from America, India, and Cuba. The group’s diversity underscores a growing consciousness of the widespread and devastating effects of climate change. Indeed, every living being on Earth has been or will soon be affected by this issue.
Religions for Peace USA, along with the Focolare Center for Education and Dialogue, EcoOne, and RfP’s North American Interfaith Youth Network are teaming up to host the first annual Earth - Faith - Peace: An Interreligious Youth Teach-in. It is bringing together a group of incredibly bright, accomplished young people of faith, all of whom are active in interreligious peacebuildingand/or environmental stewardship.
At the three-day retreat, the youth will work closely with one another, learning how each other’s faith informs their environmental advocacy; what each is doing in his or her religious, local, and/or academic communities to foster environmental stewardship; and how climate justice is essential to achieving peace. The Teach-in will feature speakers and panelists, all leaders in scientific, environmental, and/or peacebuilding fields. Presenters will share how religion, environmentalism, and peace converge inspire their own activism.
Besides gaining invaluable advice, mentoring, and inspiration from these experts, participants will participate in two hands-on workshops led by the Climate Reality Project and the ecologists at Norrie Point, an environmental learning center on the Hudson River. Climate Reality Project will provide story-telling training, equipping the youth with skills to provide a convincing argument for climate action in their respective communities. It will teach the youth, already leaders in their fields, how to become “messengers” and relay the urgent message of environmental devastation through localized contexts. At Norrie Point, participants will get their hands dirty, connecting to the earth in hands-on projects.
Earth - Faith - Peace provides a unique opportunity for young people of faith. It is rare, if not unheard of, to bring together so many youth from such a wide array of religious backgrounds to work together on climate change, but it shouldn’t be. At the most fundamental level, the Earth is the one thing we all share, regardless of our personal beliefs. When the home of all creation is threatened, there is no better, more sound option than to build bridges to acknowledge our shared home and shared humanity. A united front against climate change is desperately needed. It will take the cooperation of diverse world leaders to implement the biggest changes, but the Teach-in is proof that no action is too small, too insignificant to make a difference and that we are stronger working together than we are working apart.