LIMA, Peru — As international leaders meet for major climate negotiations here, religious and spiritual leaders internationally are holding candle and solar-lantern vigils, inviting people from diverse backgrounds to show their concern about climate change.
Building on the momentum from September’s People’s Climate March in New York City where they mobilized tens of thousands of participants, faith groups are holding vigils in 13 countries on four continents to pray for progress towards an international climate agreement.
The global series of vigils was launched here Nov. 30 with a “Green Candle” vigil organized by the Interfaith Council of Peru and #FastForTheClimate. It was attended by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
A vigil in Sydney, Australia, followed on Dec. 2. Many vigils will take place on the eve of Dec. 7.
“We want our leaders to hear the moral imperative for action,” said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith and coordinator of OurVoices.net, the international, multi-faith climate campaign organizing the vigils. “These vigils represent the voices of the human spirit, expressed through our religious and spiritual traditions and through many people’s personal convictions.
We want our leaders to hear the moral imperative for action.
Senior leaders from major religious traditions have written prayers specifically for the vigils, with Imam Zaid Shakir (Muslim), His Holiness Radhanath Swami (Hindu), and Archbishops Desmond Tutu and Thabo Makgoba (Christian) each encouraging their followers to pray for world leaders to progress towards a climate deal.
“The vigils show love and concern for our children, vulnerable people and our precious planet,” said Gopal Patel, director of the Bhumi Project, an international Hindu environmental organization organizing vigils in India.
Fazlun Khalid, whose Islamic Foundation for Ecology & Environmental Science is urging Muslims worldwide to recite a du’aa (prayer) on climate change during their Dec. 7 evening prayers, said, “We want our leaders to know they have our support for a meaningful global agreement on climate change.”
In addition to the countries previously cited, leaders from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian communities, and people from a variety of spiritual backgrounds, are leading vigils in countries including Nigeria, Italy, Germany, France, China, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
Vigils are taking place at a range of iconic sites, including the White House, New York City’s Union Square, the British Prime Minister’s official residence at 10 Downing St., the Sydney Opera House, Tokyo’s Hibiya Park, and Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. At a Jerusalem vigil, Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders will gather at the Jaffa Gate to pray for a climate agreement.
In a twist on the religious tradition of candle-lit vigils, many in several major cities, including Washington, D.C., London, Jerusalem, Tokyo and Sydney, are using solar lamps.
For each lamp used in the vigils, two lamps will be delivered to African rural communities by SolarAid, enabling children to study and read after dark. The solar lamps will replace kerosene lanterns that fill poor households with noxious fumes, leading to thousands of deaths annually.
OurVoices.net’s organizers hope that an outpouring of concern from people of diverse faiths around the world can help political leaders reach agreement.
“Many people turn to their faith or spirituality for hope in the face of challenge and suffering,” said Ciara Shannon, OurVoices.net Hong Kong-based Asia coordinator. “Our prayers, meditations and expressions of sincere concern can help our leaders find the courage to reach a strong climate treaty.”