Belinda F. Espiritu, New Age Islam
Sign of Peril, Test of Faith,
Accelerated Climate Change, the document published by the World Council of
Churches (WCC) in May 1994, challenged the validity of the global
socio-political system where economic growth is extolled as the panacea for all
problems by pointing out that unlimited growth is manifestly impossible in a
finite world (McDonagh, 2007). The drafters of the document recognize that
governments are much more responsive to the vested interests of powerful
economic groups who are committed to the present economic growth-oriented
system for as long as they can make profits from it.
illustrate concretely these general ideas by describing factually what is
happening in my country, Philippines. While the Syrian people are undergoing
extreme hardships as they flee from the war and violence in their towns,
cities, and villages, indigenous peoples in the Philippines have also been
fleeing from their ancestral lands in the mountains as military and
paramilitary groups burned their schools and homes and threatened to kill them
if they stay. They have already killed some of their leaders together with a
number of anti-mining activists and development workers who have been helping
them to put up schools and assisting them in their livelihood which the
Philippine government failed to do for them. The reason for the killings is
connected with the government’s favouring of the so-called “foreign
investments” in the form of transnational mining corporations, cash-crop
plantations, and coal-fired power plants –which are all driven by the economic
model known as “neo-liberalism”.
The mining liberalization, in
particular, which began in the 90s, paved the way for the entry of
transnational mining corporations in different parts of the Philippines,
causing untold destruction to Philippine ecology and environment, the pollution
of rivers and seas with mining tailings, the displacement and loss of
livelihood of indigenous peoples and poor Filipino communities, militarization
of mined areas, and extrajudicial killings. It has also aggravated climate
change as mining corporations and cash crop transnational corporations denude thousands
of forest areas and use up a lot of water, leading to drought in certain parts
of Southern Philippines where hundreds of mining permits were given while
resulting to heavy floods and landslides in other places.
As I researched further, I found out
that corporate plunder is done not just in my country, but in other countries
where minerals and resources can be found such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea,
Central Asia, India, African countries, and Latin American countries.
Pope Francis in his book Laudato Si’
quoted Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church who stated the
following words: “For human beings….to destroy the biological diversity of
God’s creation, for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by
causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests
or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters,
its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. The Pope further quoted the
Patriarch who said “For to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin
against ourselves and a sin against God”.
Pope Benedict was quoted as saying:
“The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts
have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build
God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of
exploitation and destruction”.
It can be said that today’s
environmental crisis is, at its roots, a moral crisis. Dan Story, an
evangelical Christian writer and teacher, sees indifference and an apathetic
attitude as among the causes of the environmental crisis when he wrote: “The
same indifferent and apathetic attitude that compels people to dump rubbish
illegally on national forest likewise prompts the factory owner to dump toxic
waste into rivers, pollute the atmosphere with poisonous gases, and destroy
vulnerable habitats for economic expediency”. He is one with the great leaders
of the Catholic Christian Church in affirming the necessity of having a shift in
moral values in order to “tame humanity’s intrinsic exploitative behaviour and
inspire the human race to obey God’s charge to be His caretakers over
creation”. This requires that our ethical behaviour must no longer be confined
solely to our relationship with God and other human beings but also extend and
include our relationship with all creation (McDonagh, 2007).
The Islamic Declaration on Global
Climate Change, the fruit of the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium
held in Istanbul on August 17-18, 2015,
succinctly enumerates the urgent actions needed to be done by people of
all nations and their leaders. The following is an excerpt from the said
Declaration (from www.islamicclimatedeclaration.org) :
On The People Of All Nations And Their Leaders To –
phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to stabilize
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere;
themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early
as possible, to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities;
decentralized renewable energy, which is the best way to reduce poverty and
achieve sustainable development;
that to chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and
already overloaded is not viable. Growth must be pursued wisely and in
moderation; placing a priority on increasing the resilience of all, and
especially the most vulnerable, to the climate change impacts already underway
and expected to continue for many years to come.
motion a fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current
financial model which depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens
adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with
the least capacity to adapt. And to vulnerable groups, including indigenous
peoples, women and children.
proponents of the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change particularly call on
the well-off nations and oil-producing states to –
way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no
later than the middle of the century;
generous financial and technical support to the less well-off to achieve a
phase-out of greenhouse gases as early as possible;
the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from
what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources;
the ‘2 degree’ limit, or, preferably, within the ‘1.5 degree’ limit, bearing in
mind that two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the
their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of
preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.
The Creation Of A Green Economy.
drafters of the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change also call upon
corporations, finance, and the business sector to do the following: change from
the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating
economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable; pay more
heed to social and ecological responsibilities, particularly to the extent that
they extract and utilize scarce resources; and assist in the divestment from
the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other
Personal responsibility to contribute
to the mitigation climate change is a call of both Islamic and Christian
leaders. The need to reduce our consumption, reduce our carbon footprint, live
a simpler lifestyle, and apply the maxim “reduce, reuse, and recycle” in
different ways is imperative for everyone to address the global environmental
and moral crisis.
But if our efforts do not seem to
match with the gravity of the problem, we should not despair but continue our
journey with hope since the crisis we are facing now can be considered as one
of the birth pangs of a world that is to come - a world free from war and
violence, corporate greed, callous government leaders, sins of various kinds,
erratic weather patterns, hunger, sickness, pain and suffering, tears,
sicknesses, and death. The other birth pangs of this renewed world to come are
prevalent earthquakes, signs from the sky, calamities, wars and rumors of war,
deterioration of morals and values, and climate change.
Pope Francis ends his book Laudato Si’
with the section “Beyond the Sun” wherein he writes evocatively the following
words: “Even now we are journeying towards the Sabbath of eternity, the new
Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven…..Eternal life will be a shared
experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will
take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who
will have been liberated once and for all.” Similarly, MaulanaWahiduddin Khan,
the November 2015 issue of Spirit of Islam magazine, writes that “a conversion
shall take place on a far grander scale, changing this far from ideal world
into an ideal one. This in religious terms would be Paradise”. He quoted the
following verse in the Quran:
When the earth is changed into another
earth. (The Quran 14: 48).
MaulanaWahiduddin Khan further writes
that as the final phase of civilization approaches, the bad individuals will be
separated from the good, and they will be deprived of the resources of the
earth as the earth will be entrusted solely to the good. A cosmic optimism is
at the heart of both Islam and Christianity. Dan Story (2012) writes of this
yearning for Paradise, the perfect world God originally designed and intended
to be our home, but which was lost in the horrible tragedy of the fall. He goes
to explain that because God has not given us any desires that do not have a
fulfillment, this yearning for Paradise will be fulfilled in a future, renewed
“new heaven and earth” where nature will be restored to its former glory.
In the perfect world of Paradise,
there will be no pollution of any kind. “Calamities will cease to occur, and
all disadvantages such as disease, accidents, old age and death will be
eradicated forever” (MaulahanaWahiddudin Khan, 2015). In Paradise, humans will
make unending discoveries. All activities will be a source of entertainment and
enjoyment. Deified humans in heaven will live a life of joy, peace and
happiness in a state of perfection enjoying the blessed state of seeing and
communing with God and His saints for eternity.
we take care of this present world. In the words of Pope Francis: “…we come
together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing
that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly
feast….Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet
never take away the joy of our hope.”
Islamic Climate Change Symposium. Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.
S. (2007).Climate change: The challenge to all of us..Dublin: Columba Press.
Francis. (2015). Papal Encyclical of the Holy Father on Care for our Home.
Rome: Vatican Press Office.
(2012). Should Christians be environmentalists?
Michigan: Kregel Publications.
Belinda F. Espiritu teaches at the University of
the Philippines, Cebu