Religious Witness for the Earth
 

Interfaith Service of Prayer & Witness
for Climate Action

Massachusetts State House, Boston, June 11, 2002


We Must Build an Ark

by Rev. Fred Small

On behalf of Religious Witness for the Earth, I welcome you all to this first-ever Interfaith Service of Prayer and Witness for Climate Action. This is one of six such services today, one in each of our New England state capitals.

We are here today because we have no choice. We are ministers and rabbis, sisters and brothers, leaders and followers, lay and ordained, all of us called by conscience, summoned out of our churches and temples and mosques into this public and political place. We bring with us the New England Interfaith Call for Climate Action, already signed by over three hundred clergy and hundreds more lay people.

While we may have different understandings of God, we share one understanding that Godís creation is a gift to be cherished and defended.

Every religion forbids theft. Let us not steal from our children to support our addiction to fossil fuels.

Every religion forbids idolatry. Let us not sacrifice creation on the altar of consumption and profit.

The scientists have done their job. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Academy of Sciences, even President Bushís Environmental Protection Agency all agree that global warming is real and potentially catastrophic.

As ever, the first victims are the poor and the powerless.

And in years to come as our children and grandchildren grow up in a dangerously deteriorating world, they will ask us the same questions asked after the abolition of slavery, after the fall of the Third Reich, after the civil rights movement finally put an end to the shame of legal segregationóthe same awful and incredulous questions asked of every human being complacent in the face of evil:

How could you not have known?

Knowing what you knew, how could you have failed to act?

"There is nothing more tragic in all this world," said Martin Luther King, Jr., "than to know right and not to do it."

Yet our political leaders in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike, flee their responsibility.

Here in New England, every governor last August approved a Climate Change Action Plan that established bold regional targets for reduction of greenhouse emissions. But without state implementation, this regional plan will be nothing but words on paper.

And so we call upon Governor Swift to keep her promise. We ask her to make Massachusetts a leader in conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy. We ask her for a plan that will actually achieve greenhouse gas reductions in Massachusetts that meet or exceed the regional targets she approved.

New Englanders are ready, the people of Massachusetts are ready, people of faith are ready to do our part.

Noah was a man of faith. God warned him of the flood to come, and Noah built an ark to save creation and his own children.

Like Noah, we must build an ark.

But we have waited so long. Despite all the warnings, we have doubted and denied and now the sky is dark, and the storm has come, and still we pretend itís just a passing shower.

My friends, let us stop pretending, and start building.

Amen.


V'haya Im Shamo'a: How to Care for the Earth

by Joshua Raab

I became a Bar Mitzvah on June 1, 2002 at Congregation B'nai Or in Watertown, MA. I am going to read an excerpt from the interpretation that I did of the Shema, the central teaching of Judaism. For my mitzvah project I tried to get 100 signatures for the Religious Witness for the Earth petition and I asked people to sign the petition and to give a donation on the day of my Bar Mitzvah celebration.

"Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal." -- Edward O. Wilson (of Harvard)

God created the world and gave it to us and it is our job to preserve it. It's like getting a new bike. You can ride it as often as you want, but you have to bring it inside when it rains to protect it. This Earth needs us to clean up for ourselves and to replace what we take. The world worked fine without us. There's no one higher than us on the food chain. As a result, we drive animals extinct, we ruin habitats, and we're contaminating everything with all of our pollution.

I'm concerned about global warming. It could get so powerful that we won't have things that we should have, like snow in the winter. It could heat up the sea and a lot of fish will die, the polar ice caps will melt, and the sea level will rise.

When I grow up, I want to work on energy efficiency and renewable energy, like putting windmills by the ocean or in other windy places to generate electricity. Soda machines are really energy inefficient because they are always on and most don't have energy efficient light bulbs in them. I want to make cars more efficient, and encourage people to carpool, and use trains, buses, and bikes.

If one person turns off their lights, they think they can't make a difference. But if everyone in North America turns off their lights, they can make a big difference. Imagine if a whole town would just not use electricity for just one hour every week.

"If you are thinking one year ahead, sow seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking one hundred years ahead, educate the people." -- Chinese Proverb

Joshua Raab is a 13-year old 7th grader at the Wellesley Middle School. When not doing homework, Josh likes to play sports, juggle, and hang out with his friends.


A Reflection

by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

Fourteen years ago today I was ordained in the Episcopal Church. I can think of no better way to mark the anniversary of my ordination than to stand with you in the presence of the One who loved us and all Creation into being. According to the sacred story, God made human beings from earth, breathes life into our nostrils, and charges us to care for this web of life in which find ourselves.

We are not here because weíre frightened, though we are frightened when we consider the possible effects of global warming, from rising sea levels to severe droughts, hurricanes, and floods.

We are not here because weíre sad, though we are sad when we gaze at a New England hillside, knowing that because of climate change, our maple, birch and beech trees may be lost, and with them our spectacular fall colors.

We are not here because weíre angry, though it does make us angry when, from the national level down, our political leaders fail to lead.

Itís not just fear, sorrow and anger that sent us here. Above all, we gather to bear witness to love. We love this beautiful earth. We love its creatures. We love the God who created them.

What does love require? A man went to Jesus with that question. "Who is my neighbor?" he asked. In other words, who am I called to love? Jesus answered with a story [Luke 10:29-37]. A traveler is set upon by robbers, who strip him, beat him, and leave him half-dead. Two leaders walk by and do nothing. But then comes the man we call the Good Samaritan. Moved with pity, he stops to bind the travelerís wounds, takes him to an inn, and sees that heís cared for.

"Go and do likewise," Jesus says.

Who is our neighbor today? Look around. Nature is under assault. Forests are being stripped, oceans plundered, and entire species killed. For the first time in the 5 billion years of our planetís history, climate change is being caused by human activities. Today, Nature herself has fallen into the hands of robbers and is being stripped, beaten, and left half dead.

Who is my neighbor? All Creation.

The polar bear facing extinction from melting Arctic ice is my neighbor. The worldís fast-warming coral reefs that could perish in 50 years are my neighbors.

Residents of coastal areas threatened by rising sea levels are my neighbors. The elderly person dying from a heat wave in New York or Chicago is my neighbor.

The child dying from the migration of tropical diseases is my neighbor.

We put our trust in a God who loves every inch of Godís creation and whose covenant with Creation can never be broken. We put our trust in a God who calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And so it is not only with fear, anger, and sorrow, but with love, that we ask Governor Swift to take bold steps to stop global warming.

Let us pray.


Lessons from the Quran

by A. Karim Khudairi

Assalam Alaikum - I greet you with peace

Islam, through revelation in our holy book - the Quran, has emphasized the relations between the humans and the environment. The Quran has a number of chapters related to the environment and Godís creation. The titles of chapters such as the Cattle, the Bees, the Spider, the Stars, the Sun, and the Moon indicate the importance of Godís creation.

Let me read these beautiful verses from the Quran, Chapter 16:10 - the Bees - Which describes Godís creation and how should we be appreciative.

"It is He Who sends down rain from the sky, from it you drink and out of it grows the vegetation on which you feed your cattle.
With it He produces for you crops, olives, date palm, grapes and every kind of fruit: verily in this, is a Sign for those who give thought.
He has made subject to you the Night and the Day, the Sun and the Moon; and the Stars are in subjection by His command: verily in this are signs for men who are wise.
And the things on this earth, which He has multiplied in varying colors and quantities: verily in this is a sign for men who celebrate the praises of Allah in gratitude.
It is He Who has made the sea subject, that you may eat from flesh that is fresh and tender, and that you may extract from ornaments to wear, and you see the ships that plough the waves. And you may seek thus of the bounty of Allah and that you may be grateful.
And He has set up on this earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and rivers and roads; that you may guide yourselves. And marks and signposts; and by the Stars men guide themselves.
Is then He Who creates, like one that creates not? Will you not receive admonition?
If you would count up the favors of Allah, never would you be able to number them; for Allah is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful."

God created Man and sent him to earth to be the steward and guardian for His Creation. Humans are to use the land, the air, the water, the vegetation and animals and not to abuse them. The flora and fauna need to be protected and preserved for the future generations, and God has asked us to be moderate in the use of the natural resources, not to deplete and destroy them to the point of extinction.

It says in The Quran 6:141 "It is He Who produce gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar in kind and different in variety; Eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day of the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess; for Allah love not the wasters."

This message is for all humanity, not only to Muslims. God said; "We have sent this Quran as guidance to all humanity". We should conserve and preserve Godís creation.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, instructed his generals before they went to war that the army should not fight those who do not fight them, and that they should not kill unarmed men, children, women or old men. He added that they should not cut trees, destroy crops, slaughter cattle or pollute or poison wells.

I conclude with this verse from the Quran which is the key to creation, it says; "From water, We created all living things" that what God said telling us there will be no life without water and He created all living things from water. Water is such a precious commodity we humans have to keep clean and never pollute.


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