Religious Witness for the Earth

A Call to Religious Witness for the Arctic Refuge

We rejoice in God's creation. Now we are called to defend it.

The world's scientists have reached consensus that human activity is responsible for accelerating global climate change. Recent studies indicate that world temperatures may soar ten degrees Fahrenheit in the coming century, far more than earlier predicted, with potentially calamitous impact on our children and our children's children.

The United States, which produces more greenhouse gases than any other nation, should lead the world in combating global climate change. Instead, many of our nation's leaders dispute the existence of the problem and human responsibility for it. Rushing to develop the fossil fuels responsible for global climate change, they speed headlong in the wrong direction.

In their haste, they are even pushing to drill for oil in Alaska's magnificent Arctic National Refuge. On its 1.5-million-acre coastal plain, polar bears, muskoxen, wolves, and millions of migratory birds have lived in balance since time immemorial. Every year, 130,000 caribou travel hundreds of miles to the coastal plain to bear 35,000 calves. In the language of the Gwich'in people, who depend upon the caribou for subsistence and cultural identity, the coastal plain is called "the sacred place where life begins."

The Arctic Refuge must be forever protected as a sacred place for the Gwich'in, a haven for wildlife, and a cathedral for the human spirit to glory in God's handiwork. To drill for oil there would be a sacrilege.

We come from diverse religious traditions, but we stand on common ground. Every religious tradition teaches us to hold sacred the wonders of creation, yet wantonly we desecrate them. Every religious tradition cautions us to temper our cravings for sensation and material things, yet we pursue them addictively, vainly hoping to fill our spiritual emptiness. Every religious tradition forbids theft, yet every day we live unsustainably, we steal from our children and our children's children.

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality," wrote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of us is implicated in injustice, whether human or ecological. Throughout the world, poor and working people, and especially people of color, are pollution's first victims. When we see the earth and its creatures wounded, we cannot pass by on the other side.

Beginning Tuesday, May 1, all of us who can will gather in Washington, DC, for three days of Prayer and Witness for the Arctic Refuge. We will seek to meet with Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, charged with stewardship of the Refuge, and with members of Congress, especially those from the Northeast, who are essential allies in safeguarding the Refuge. We will urge them to spare the Refuge and to support conservation, fuel efficiency, and renewable sources of energy. On Thursday, May 3, we will gather at a federal government site to pray, meditate, sing, and bear witness. In the nonviolent tradition of Gandhi and King, some of us will choose to risk arrest in defense of God's creation. All who are committed to nonviolence and a loving spirit will be welcome among us.

Please share this Call with your religious community and others.

Blessings upon you, your descendants, and the earth.

Between February and May, 2001, the Call to Religious Witness for the Arctic Refuge was signed by over seven hundred people, including 170 clergy. Among them:

Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian
United Church of Christ
Dean of Religious Life, Mount Holyoke College

Rev. Sally Bingham
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, California
Chair, Commission for the Environment, Episcopal Diocese of California

Parke G. Burgess, Jr.
Dharma Sound Zen Center, Seattle, Washington

Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens
Unitarian Universalist Association

Mirabai Bush
Executive Director, Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Co-author, Compassion in Action

Rev. Forrest Church
Unitarian Church of All Souls, New York, New York

Rev. William Sloane Coffin
United Church of Christ
Former Senior Minister, Riverside Church, New York, New York
Former Chaplain, Yale University

Rev. Sharon Delgado
United Methodist
Executive Director, Earth Justice Ministries

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Bethesda, Maryland
Board of Trustees, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

Rev. Rich Fournier
United Church of Christ
Director, Taproot Center

Rev. Wilda C. M. Gafney
Kyles Temple, A. M. E. Zion Church, Durham, North Carolina

Roger S. Gottlieb
Professor of Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Editor, This Sacred Earth

Andrew Harvey
Author, The Direct Path

Helen H. Johnson
Tiep Hien Order, United Buddhist Church

Robert A. Jonas
Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies
Director, The Empty Bell, Watertown, Massachusetts

Dr. Virginia Jones
Sisters of St. Joseph, Nazareth, Michigan
Coordinator, Nazareth Center for Eco-Spirituality

Laurel Kearns
Associate Professor, Sociology of Religion, Drew Theological School

Kwok Pui Lan
Professor of Theology and Spirituality
Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

George Lakey
Religious Society of Friends
Director, Training for Change

Rev. Adora Iris Lee
Minister for Environmental Justice
United Church of Christ

Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, TIKKUN Magazine
Rabbi, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, San Francisco, California

Sister Anita Magovern
Maryknoll Sisters

Rev. Dr. Robert Kinloch Massie
Executive Director, Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES)

Bill McKibben
United Methodist
Author, The End of Nature

Rev. Peter Moore-Kochlacs
Director, Environmental Ministries of Southern California
Cal-Pac United Methodist Environmental Minister
Co-chair, Southern California Ecumenical Council Ecology Task Force

Rev. Ken Sehested
Executive Director, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Shamshad R. Sheikh
Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts

Rabbi Daniel Siegel
Rabbinic Director, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

Rev. Fred Small
First Church Unitarian, Littleton, Massachusetts

Nancy Small
National Coordinator, Pax Christi USA

Jonathon Solomon
Chair, Gwich'in Steering Committee

Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Director, The Shalom Center

Rev. Stephen Young
Assistant Pastor, Church of The Crucified One, Moretown, Vermont
Director, Project Noah

Organizations and affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

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