His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch spoke to a mixed gathering at Lambeth Palace at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the run up to the Paris Climate Summit and in recognition of his immense contribution to the interface between ecology and faith over several decades.
Across the world millions are being displaced because of climate change and the inability of the land to sustain human life – in sub-Saharan Africa, in Bangladesh, in Pacific Islands, in the Arctic, East Asia, Latin America and in Australia.
We are witnessing the return of God – in relation to this global ecological crisis. Now is a time when there is a re-evaluation of religion in the public sphere. This encourages us to link human rights and social justice with the damage we are inflicting on the planet. Now is the moment to develop a ‘culture of solidarity’ as a path to the future of the Earth.
In this we need to remind ourselves that the economy should be the servant of life, not its dominating master. We must therefore reject economic relativism which subordinates human beings to the tyranny of consumerism.
There is currently a moral crisis which goes to the centre of the human heart. We have progressed enormously through technology yet the solutions we now need are not so much technological ones as a radical change of mind. We need to change ourselves – reaching the depth of our souls. We must recognise that knowledge does not bring about ‘metanoia’ (repentance – change of heart).
In the turmoil there is an opportunity to link environmental awareness and interfaith activity to build this ‘culture of solidarity’ for all, where the vulnerable and the strong are held together for the wholeness of all.
There is no doubt we are living through a highly critical moment in the planet’s history, when we have to make decisions for the sake of the entire Earth community. Whilst our parents’ generations were ignorant of the environmental damage they were inflicting, we cannot plead the same. We are the first generation to realise what we have done, and we might be the last to be able to do something about it.
It is fundamentally clear that the resources of the future are neither limitless nor negotiable. Now is the time for all faith leaders to act with a sense of urgency and profundity. And in this there must be a primacy of spiritual values in shaping a new ecological ethos.
“We cannot remain idle” – sloth is unacceptable, doing nothing and remaining silent is complicit with destroying nature
“We are all in the same boat” – we have to collaborate and work together to produce eco-justice across the world
“Polluting creation is a sin” – there is no comfortable way of sitting on the cross!
“We are united by the same concern” – as demonstrated in and by the new Papal Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’
“Again and again, let us pray to the Lord” – we are always to be rooted in liturgy and Eucharist.
We are part of a long succession of Hebrew patriarchs, Christian saints and church hierarchs who recognise the profound need to be humble and charitable. Humility is rooted in the Earth (cf. humus). The Earth has to unite us as we work to share her resources of air, water and land more equitably and more respectfully for the sake of all life.