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iN Focus: cop21

Halo efect
“He [Pope Francis} has got an incredibly friendly and warm
personality and does very well in creatng a sense of a big tent,” says
Fletcher Harper, Episcopal priest and director of GreenFaith.
“I have seen lots of groups, Christan and otherwise, wantng to add
to the chorus… There is a real halo efect.”

Even among the ranks of US evangelicals, beter known for hostlity
to climate science, there may be some receptveness to the Pope’s
bible lesson.
Reverend Richard Cizik certainly hopes so. A lobbyist for the Natonal
Associaton of Evangelicals for ten years, he was forced to resign in
2008 afer airing views on climate change and gay marriage that were
unacceptable to many on the religious right.
He “had a conversion” to the climate cause afer a week-long
outreach session at Oxford University in 2002 by climate scientst and
Methodist John Houghton.
His curiosity undimmed, Cizik has just returned from Iran, where he
had an audience with a grand ayatollah. The Islamic leader didn’t get
round to answering his queston about climate change.
Back home, he tells RTCC, many preachers are privately convinced of Saint Francis of Assisi, the namesake of the Pope, is cited as an model of
the case for acton but “afraid” to say so. “What the papal encyclical “integral ecology” (Enrique Lopez-Tamayo Biosca).
will do is give courage to those evangelicals.” Mural photo: © Jim McIntosh.

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientst and evangelical who takes
on many a sceptcal audience with a combinaton of evidence and “It is simply reminding us that at the foundaton of Christanity is
values, is also cautously optmistc.
one simple word: LOVE. And that word cannot fail to resonate in the
Some 15-25% of evangelicals approve of the Pope but don’t accept hearts of all who believe, regardless of their denominaton.”
that people cause climate change, she writes in the Conversaton. Eco-social justce
Those are the ones who might be open to persuasion.
In the synagogues of London, says Rabbi Jonathan Witenberg,
“For any who take the Bible seriously, it must change minds,” says “people are absolutely talking about it”.
Hayhoe. “The encyclical is not proposing any new doctrine; it is not
preaching any new message. In the Jewish community, he thinks, “the ant-science lobby will not
be large… more worrying to me than denial is heedlessness”. Jews
may think climate change doesn’t afect them or comes second to
issues like ant-semitsm.
Witenberg, who has solar panels on his house and is hawkish on
waste, hopes the encyclical “will galvanise actons that are slow in
The idea of having a responsibility as stewards for the earth is
common across Judaism and Christanity – and much of the text cited
by the Pope is from the Jewish Bible.
360 rabbis signed their own call for “eco-social justce”.
repairing the world
For Jews, this is a sabbatcal year, the one period in seven they are
supposed to let the earth rest. While that directve may not be
taken literally much outside of Israel, it serves as a cauton against
overstretching natural resources.
It is ted in with tkkun olam, or “repairing the world”, explains Rabbi
Lawrence Troster of GreenFaith.
“God is owner and we are tenants. Therefore we don’t have the right
to abuse creaton. We have the right to use it but not at the expense
of future generatons and not at the expense of other life.”
Troster has been writng on Judaism and the environment for
decades, but admits it “has never been very central” to his
community’s agenda.
Photo: © Preston Rhea |s

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