Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation conducted a Press Conference on the last working day of COP26 on the topic of Interfaith Reflections on COP26 and the Road Forward. The purpose of the press conference was to examine COP26 and what paths forward are open to faith organisations. Among a plethora of actions available for Action for Climate Empowerment, it is the faith organisations that can provide the spiritual path forward.

Faith communities have been responding to loss and damage, by providing food and security to those suffering loss and damage from rising waters and extremes of the climate.

As the temperature of this planet continues to rise (with a projected 2.4 degrees within the next decade, faith organisations can no longer be reactive. Instead, they must continue to see the needs and to be proactive in this matter.

The following are short notes and are not a verbatim record of the press conference. Watch the video below to obtain the full communications.

Valériane Bernard: The Talona Dialogue was held by the Interfaith Community on the first day. This dialogue confronted participants with the deep questions facing COP26 as it commenced. Many religions participated: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Pagan: they were wanting everyone from the grassroots to the higher up in religions to have a deep conversation on the issues we were all facing.

Rev. Henrik Grappe: the Faith Communities have a presence at COP. They are confronted by questions about why they are here, what is their purpose, what is their outcome? COP26 – and all other COP events – are confronted with great moral questions. How are these moral issues articulated at COP? What is the contributions of the major religions of humanity? If they (faith communities) can contribute more to this Dialogue process, they will engender more success. Interfaith Dialogue can help. The more discussions among the Faith Communities about these issues, the more that is shared, the more help and stronger foundation for the future is built.

Many faith communities do advocacy work. It is of extreme importance to take this seriously. There are many churches, many congregations all around the world who are not able to come here because of Covid, because of travel restrictions; in particular, the vulnerable nations. The faith leaders of these nations have a critical message that needs to be heard.

It is important that human rights language is now coming out of the discussions and agreements. The right to a clean and healthy environment was enacted immediately prior to COP26 commencing.

Rev. Peggy Clarke of the Community Church of New York: Ministers follow the call to serve, to heal, to inspire, wherever the call is. At COP, we were inspired to bring a moral voice. What is it that we need to be holding up, how are we vulnerable? The moral voices have been here; since Paris. It seemed almost radical to talk about the most vulnerable. Loss and Damage was not on the table in most places and conversations I participated in. It seemed almost like a fight to get that topic there.

The moral voices seem to woven into most places. What we need to do now – it is really desperate for the vulnerable and those suffering – is to bring compassion to the table. We have brought everyone to the doorway, now we have to start working this particular “muscle” called compassion. We need to be having these conversations more and more intentionally, of following those who are suffering. There are acerbic, detached discussions about about finance and mitigation, but we are not actually hearing the voices of the suffering.

Dr Liao, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation: Tzu Chi means “compassion to give”. We have been present since COP13 and have been able to share our contributions and best practice to climate change discussions around the world.

Our purpose – along side other faith communities – is to express shared values about the needs of climate change and its impacts on our civilisation. We have seen a projected rise of 2.4°, we have seen sharp increases in humanitarian, medical aid and like assistance to affected communities in times of drought, floods, wildfires and other kinds of climate increase.

As a Buddhist foundation, our philosophy and response is based on loving-kindness and compassion (metta). And we set our mission to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings in the world, including living creatures.

We note the achievement of COP26 of reducing methane emissions in a short time.

In Sanskrit “Buddha” means ‘enlightened one’. And we have a position of providing comfort and saving of the entire world, including living creatures. We cannot allow living beings to be harmed. According to the FAO – report given in 2018, every day, every second – 2,256 animals are slaughtered to provide food. At the end of the day, this adds up to 220 million animals slaughtered. And at the end of the year, it means that over 80.6 billion animals are being slaughtered.

While a plant based diet is our position, it becomes our mission to promote the Plant Based Diet globally. We have been successful in promoting the plant based diet with scientific evidence through compassion and other faith-based values. Faith is a very powerful – a key driver – in transforming consumption habits. Cultivation of faith values is a very important component of transformation of community values.



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