Africa: Climate Action for Peace - Faith-Based Perspectives

press release

Environment and peace are cross-cutting issues that are intrinsic to sustainable development. While natural resources are vital to achieving sustainable development, they are also increasingly acting as drivers of fragility, conflict and violence. The growing demand for natural resources together with environmental degradation and climate change have led to increased conflicts between countries and communities over resource access and ownership.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the growing new threats to world peace and security. Around 80 countries jointly agreed that the greatest impending threats to humanity could be triggered by climate change, not terrorism, nuclear war or the conflicts around the world.

Climate change migration could be one of the most challenging issues humanity will have to deal with not in the future, but now. The threat of sea level rise, caused by climate change, could result in a new category of environmental migrants escaping from their sinking homes to neighbouring countries. The increased frequency, severity and magnitude of extreme weather events all over the world--one of the most immediate and visible results of climate change--will likely continue to generate humanitarian crises.

Water in abundance may lead to devastating floods, while water scarcity leads to drought, both of which have significant political, social, environmental and economic consequences. Water, if not managed effectively in a fair and inclusive manner, can act as a conflict driver. Despite the complexity of the challenges, natural resources, such as water, are also a resource for collaboration. While the past 50 years have seen around 40 violent water conflicts, some 150 water treaties were signed around the world.

An integrated approach to addressing climate change is essential to fully account for social, economic, political and security impacts at the global level. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace.

"Faith-based leaders are well-respected individuals with close community affiliations," said Iyad Abumoghli, Principal Coordinator of the Faith for Earth Initiative. "Their legitimacy is built on their important status and their impartiality to the process".

The Faith for Earth Initiative is working to establish a high-level global Interfaith Coalition to facilitate dialogue and collaboration on natural resources management, encouraging innovative approaches to finding long-lasting resolutions, Abumoghli added.

The word peace appeared in the Bible 429 times in King James version, according to the Comparative 1st Century Aramaic Bible in Plain English. Matthew 5:9 says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." In Islam, one of God's names, according to the Qur'an, is As-Salaam, which means peace. In the Qur'an, it says: "And peace it is, until the breaking of the dawn." This is identifying the night of revelation with peace. Also, the Qur'an says that the virtuous admitted to paradise are greeted by the angels with the saying, "'Enter in peace!'. That is the day of eternity." Therefore, the day of revelation and the day of judgement are identified with peace.

In Hinduism, peace and non-violence are the virtues broadly accepted in the ancient texts and practice. In Sanskrit, the term shanti is used for peace. The word's literal meaning is peaceful, non-violent, calm or undisturbed. The teachings of the Guru Nanak provide the basic understanding of love and compassion, universal brotherhood and equality. These are the basic principles of peace.

Engagement of faith-based organizations and faith leaders can be a tool for addressing water, peace and security challenges. This can be achieved through mediations, dialogue and working towards one global goal to protect the creation of God, our one and only planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of people in the world are associated with a religion or a spiritual community. However, many still lack access to even basic goods and services because of their religion, gender, origin, skin color, and so on.

In this sense, the values of peace and tolerance are critical for providing equal opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. Peaceful societies are those where everybody has the right to access the same goods and services. For example, according to the Islamic law, the basic elements of nature--land, water, fire, forest, and light--belong to all living things, not just human beings.

Human dignity and the shared humanity of all races are foundational to peace. The concepts of redemption and forgiveness in faiths support significant post-conflict reconciliation efforts and provide resources to benefit societies' resilience. Interfaith efforts can help to resolve or to avoid disputes in the most conflict-affected regions in the world, as well as to improve the conditions of millions in civil strife.

Mobilizing partnerships is an essential means for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Action can only be achieved by engaging and partnering with stakeholders from all walks of life, building on cultural diversity as a fourth dimension of sustainable development. The Faith for Earth Initiative is contributing to ensuring that the sound stewardship of natural resources is a fundamental human value and responsibility.

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