Islamic leaders from 20 countries have unveiled a sweeping new declaration on climate change, calling on their fellow Muslims to care for the planet and asking world leaders to phase out their use of fossil fuels.
On Tuesday, attendees at International Islamic Climate Change Symposium concluded their two-day summit in Istanbul, Turkey by issuing a formal declaration on global environmental issues. The declaration — which was clear to stipulate that climate change is both real and “human induced” — was equal parts theological and scientific, using an Islamic moral lens to insist that world leaders take immediate action to assist our warming planet.
“Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet,” the statement read. “Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know as Allah –- gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans.”
“What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and Creator?” the authors added.
The statement also made specific recommendations for world leaders who plan to attend the much-anticipated talks on climate change in Paris this December, hosted by the United Nations. The authors demanded that wealthy nations phase out their use of fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy systems, as well as lend aid to impoverished communities currently suffering from the harsh impacts of climate change — including parts of the world densely populated by Muslims.
“We call upon [leaders participating in the Paris talks] … to bring their discussions to an equitable and binding conclusion, bearing in mind … the enormous responsibility the [conference] shoulders on behalf of the rest of humanity, including leading the rest of us to a new way of relating to God’s Earth,” the document read.
The declaration was signed by the assembly’s 60 participants, including prominent Muslim voices such as Shaban Ramadha Mubajje, the grand mufti of Uganda, and Mohamed Ashmawey, head of Islamic Relief Worldwide. In addition, organizers of the conference — Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Islamic Forum for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and GreenFaith — noted in a press release that the declaration was endorsed by other leaders not at the convening, such as the grand mufti of Lebanon.
“On behalf of the Indonesian Council of Ulema and 210 million Muslims we welcome this Declaration and we are committed to to implementing all recommendations,” Din Syamsuddin, Chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (a body of Muslims scholars), said in a statement.
Organizers also made reference to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment, a nod to the fast-growing multi-faith movement to address climate change. Religious groups from all sides of the theological spectrum have been mobilizing to address environmental issues this year, partly due to the pope’s advocacy, and partly due to longstanding support for the environment among people of faith.
“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said of the Islamic declaration.
But while the symposium’s statement was geared towards high-level world leaders, it also included a clarion call for Muslims of all walks of life to tackle climate change in their daily lives.
“We call on all Muslims wherever they may be … to tackle habits, mindsets, and the root causes of climate change, environmental degradation and the loss of biodiversity in their particular spheres of influence, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and bring about a resolution to the challenges that now face us,” the document read.