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Indonesian religious turn up heat on climate change

Interreligious groups stage church, mosque protests to seek concrete commitment to halting global warming

Indonesian religious turn up heat on climate change

Members of Indonesian interreligious communities protest outside St. Theresa's Church in Jakarta calling on people and the government to protect the environment on Oct. 17. The left banner reads 'Teach children to love the environment' while the one on the right reads 'Stop destroying nature which is the creation of God'. (Photo: GreenFaith International-Asia)

Interreligious groups in Indonesia have held a series of demonstrations outside churches and mosques in Jakarta calling on the government to commit to addressing climate change at an upcoming international conference on global warming.

Continued reliance on fossil fuels, deforestation and increasing air pollution caused by fires show a lack of sincerity by the government in dealing with an increasing number of ecological disasters, they said.

Protesters gathered outside about a dozen places of worship in the Indonesian capital, including Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, and Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church on Oct. 17 to press their message home.

It was part of a global campaign to put pressure on governments attending the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, to come up with concrete solutions to prevent global warming.

The global campaign is being mounted by Faiths for Climate Justice, a movement of interreligious communities organized by the GreenFaith International Network, 

“The government must realize Indonesia is particularly at risk from rising sea levels, flooding and other disasters, so needs to act now,” the protesters said in a statement. 

Ecological education in schools and instilling an ecological spirit to create awareness among youths to love the environment will help bring about change

“Religious communities in Indonesia call on our government and world leaders attending COP26 to end the fossil fuel era, reverse deforestation and push a global green deal ensuring clean energy and a friendly environment." 

Hening Parlan, chairman of the environment division of Aisyiyah, an Indonesian Islamic non-governmental organization dedicated to female empowerment, and founding partner of GreenFaith International-Asia, said people and governments have ignored religious values and in so doing have destroyed the environment. 

"Protection and concern for the environment is a noble jihad,” Parlan said.

He said the interreligious groups were using places of worship to voice their concerns to warn the government and others that they have a religious duty to protect the environment.

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Carmelite Father Egidius Eko Aldilanto, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said people should fear the damage that has been caused to the environment and the dire consequences this causes.

“Environmental issues cannot be ignored; that time has passed and should be prioritized,” Father Aldilanto told UCA News on Oct. 19.

This needs to be backed up by education, the priest said, adding that Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ can be a reference for all on protecting the environment.

“Ecological education in schools and instilling an ecological spirit to create awareness among youths to love the environment will help bring about change,” he said.

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