Must have faith: Religion finds its moment at COP28

Must have faith: Religion finds its moment at COP28

From meditation to spiritual guidance to indigenous hymns, the atmosphere at COP28's Faith Pavilion is a little different than elsewhere at the high-stakes United Nations climate negotiations in Dubai.

In a quiet, air-conditioned pavilion, Orthodox priests rub shoulders with Emirati and Jewish rabbis in flowing white robes. It was the first pavilion dedicated to religion at a COP conference.

Housed in a dark glass and geometric triangular building, the pavilion provides a space for quiet contemplation, away from the frenetic diplomacy and flashy business shows that accompany marathon climate change negotiations.

It also provides something else desperately needed in the COP: unity and optimism.

Pope Francis called for united action with senior Muslim cleric and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, in a video message at the inauguration of the pavilion on December 3, saying, “This is a sign of the will to cooperate.'' That's proof,” he said.

“Today, the world needs alliances that benefit everyone, not against anyone.”

Visitors who participate in daily “ritual relaxation” sessions and interact with religious leaders in the lounge room are encouraged to consider the role their faith plays in tackling the challenge of global warming.

“We trust and pray for a fairer and more sustainable world,” one of the visitors said on a paper-cut tree pinned to the pavilion's walls alongside other messages of hope and solidarity. I wrote this.

– Mental crisis –
Organizers say more than 300 faith leaders from all major religions and traditions are expected to take part in the pavilion during the two-week conference in this glamorous coastal city.

It is the first time in almost 30 years of global climate change talks that religion has been given its own space, and the impressive space has a prime location in the bustling heart of the huge complex. have.

The COP is the largest ever, and thousands of people pass by the pavilion every day on their way to conferences, expo shows, or to buy ice cream from the stalls that do a brisk trade in stores.

COP can be an overwhelming experience, and religious leaders hope participants of all faiths will enjoy the pavilion as a respite from haggling, heat and anxiety about the future of the planet.

Organizers say attendance at the daily meditation sessions has been low so far, but could increase as negotiations for a final climate change agreement intensify in the coming days. That's what it means.

On a recent day at the pavilion, Panamanian indigenous leader Jocavedo Solano performed Guna spiritual songs that praise respect and stewardship of the earth.

“This is not only a crisis of climate, but also a crisis of spirituality,” she told AFP after captivating the audience at the pavilion.

– Bridging the gap –
Organizers say that behind the scenes, the pavilion is supporting progress towards an ambitious deal to curb global warming, and also guarantees economic aid to the world's poorest people working on the front lines of climate change. states that they are doing so.

Religious leaders are providing moral and pastoral services to diplomats working around the clock to develop the agreement, and formal negotiating sessions are being attended by interfaith representatives for the first time.

“We want to bring that spiritual understanding into the decision-making process,” Iyad Abumoghly, director of Faith for Earth, an initiative within the United Nations Environment Programme, told AFP. .

Pavilion panels explore difficult topics such as climate-related homeland loss, African mining and ethical investing, and speakers include government ministers, academics and business leaders.

Religious leaders also released an interfaith statement supporting the reduction and eventual elimination of fossil fuels, which became a flashpoint issue at a meeting overseen by Emirati oil executives.

The pavilion aims to foster trust, an essential element of any COP, between the scientific and religious communities, which have not always seen eye to eye.

“We know it's all a matter of science,” Mohamed Bahar of the Muslim Council of Elders told AFP. “But we are here trying to bridge the gap between science and faith.”


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