Sydney, Australia, climate vigil

Faith-based vigils, #LightForLIMA, to support the climate negotiations underway in Lima, Peru, are being held in at least 13 countries around the world. Here participants are shown preparing for the Dec. 2 vigil in Sydney, Australia. Sydney’s Opera House is in the background. (Photo by Jeff Tan / ARRCC)

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.

Lima Vigil for Climate

On the eve of the first day of COP20, the U.N. climate talks in Lima, Peru, a Vigil for the Climate was held near the Pentagonito where the talks are being held. Christiana Figueres, the head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Manuel Pulgar-Vidal the Peruvian Minister for the Environment and president of the U.N. meeting, spoke to the crowd and a symbolic lighting of candles began the celebration that marks the end of one year of monthly fasting by religious and environmental groups around the world in the Fast for the Climate. (Photo: Sean Hawkey/ LWF)

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.

Moral imperative

“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.

Iconic sites

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.

Solar lamps

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.”

Editor's note: GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition for the environment founded in 1992. The Highland Park, N.J., entity works with houses of worship, religious schools and people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.

The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol is taking place from Dec. 1-12 in Lima Peru.. COP 20/CMP 10 is being hosted by the government of Peru. For more information, go to COP 20.

For more information on the vigils, contact the following:

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