Lagos — The effects of climate change particularly in sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly taking toll on the social and economic well-being of people of the region. Having realised these, some top faith leaders in the region have resolved to explore religion in tackling the menace.
The faith leaders have committed to taking proactive roles by helping educate members on the critical task and responsibilities all must play to safeguard the environment.
They made this commitment at the end of a two-day inter faith forum in Abuja, Nigeria, on climate change for sub-Saharan Africa.
The forum co-organised by the British Council and First City Monument Bank Plc (FCMB) to advance the awareness on climate change issues in the region, brought together over 100 participants from Nigeria, the United Kingdom and several other Sub-Saharan African countries including South Africa.
About 60 of them were faith leaders.
Those from Nigeria include Sheikh Qaribullah Kabar and Sheik Ibrahim Khali, both Islamic scholars; Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies, Noibi; Rev. Mathew Kuka of Catholic mission; Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, National President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN); Prof Wande Abimbola, former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; Archbishop John Onaiyekan; Dr Newton Jibunoh, environment activist; Dr Abdul Audu, academics/environmentalist, and Prof Lanre Fagbohun, environmental lawyer,
Others were Dr John Momoh; Emir of Suleja, who represented Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubarkar Sai'd; Hon Ezeuche Ubani, Chairman House of Reps Committee on Climate Change; Bishop Margret Idahosa, Church of God Mission; Oluwasetihun Salawu and so forth.
From outside the country were Longdi Daniels; and Jeremy UYhili among others.
The Nigeria's British High Commissioner Mr. Robert Scott Dewar and the British Council Director, David Higgs as well as Peter Obaseki, Executive Director, FCMB, were also in attendance.
At the end of the summit, participants arrived at a decision that as leaders of faith communities on the continent, they would commit to highlighting the very real threat to the world's people and to the fragile creation, from the threat of catastrophic climate change.
In all our religious teachings and Holy Scriptures, they said, it is clearly stated that protecting and taking care of nature and human life is one of the main instructions of Creator, and human beings are guardians of this earth.
They believe that if climate change are not curtailed, it would continue to increase the level of poverty, disease and conflict in Africa.
It is a known fact that Africa has already been impacted by climate change through more floods, droughts and extreme weather conditions - but least equipped technically and financially to deal with climate- related risks.
Subsistence farming, the main source of Africa's food, is being threatened by climate change because it mainly relies on rainfall that is becoming increasingly erratic
Studies have shown that climate change may increase competition for diminishing water resources that will force people to become 'climate change refugees', posing challenges to peace and security in the region.
Noting that faith leaders have a crucial role to play in pressing for changes in behaviour at every level of society; and that, all have a responsibility to learn and teach how to live and develop sustainable in a world of finite resources, participants identified some salient action points to pursue subsequently.
These include the need for faith leaders to strengthen their capacity building trainings on climate change issues so as to improve their knowledge and understanding of this serious global threat.
From there, they will further commit to raising awareness of environmental ethics in their religious activities and dedicate a minimum of one sermon, says for one month for issues related to climate change and environmental degradation.
Equally, they said they would commit to emphasising relevant verses in their Holy Books related to the environment as it is the responsibility of every believer to keep the earth clean and healthy for human life.
They are also ready to sharing best practices and strengthen existing structures and practices to implement agreed positive actions for adapting to climate change and preventing environmental degradation, while advising their communities on how to behave in their daily activities.
Similarly, they commit to working together with leaders of different faiths and engage with government, private sector, educational institutions, youth and civil society organisations in Africa and the region.
Their positions, however, are not limited to those above.They also said: "We should also involve and work with policy-makers and, where possible, hold them accountable, while ensuring that these people are a part of regional and national talks and (legal) agreements
"We commit to working together to hold developed countries to account for a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases so that global warming does not exceed 2 C Degree and advocate for an adaptation or Global Climate Fund.
To help to achieve these ends, the faith leaders agreed to use the Abuja meeting as the first step in an ongoing process of collaboration.
"We believe our communities can be key agents of change and urge the government across levels and the international community, wherever possible, to support our efforts to build capacity, raise awareness and promote sustainable practice", they declared.
Nevertheless, the Abuja forum was the first of its kind in Africa coming few months after the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a meeting of faith leaders and faith-based and community organisations at Lambeth Palace, UK to discuss the response of faith communities to environmental crisis and; the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit held recently.