The Addis Ababa Office of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) recently brought together scientists, representatives of faith communities, and civil society organizations to explore how the insights of science and religion can inform discussions about climate change.
“Ultimately, at the heart of the environmental crisis is a spiritual crisis,” says Solomon Belay of the Addis Ababa Office.
Dr. Belay continues to explain that despite the increasing focus on the discourse about the environment, particularly in the lead-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference — also known as COP 26 — in November, there are few discussion spaces that are specifically looking at how both science and religion can guide an effective response to the environmental crisis.
He adds: “We are all custodians of the environment, every person, institution, and nation. The scale of the problem requires united action that is informed by the best available scientific evidence and grounded in spiritual principles, such as justice and the oneness of humankind.”
The gathering is part of the efforts of the Addis Ababa Office to contribute to the discourse on the environment and was co-hosted with the All Africa Conference of the Churches (AACCP) and the United Religions Initiative (URI).
Panelists discussed how solutions to the environmental crisis cannot be found solely in any one system of society. “Science by itself is not enough, nor are economic solutions alone sufficient,” said Francesca de Gasparis, member of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), at the gathering.
“Faith has a very important role to play,” she continued, “because it is the connection to hearts and minds and has the power to inspire constructive action.”
Atieno Mboya, a representative of the Addis Ababa Office, described how religion can be a force for creating new patterns of individual and collective life, stating: “One of the challenges of the extremes of wealth and poverty is that those suffering the most from the impact of climate change are also the ones suffering from the inequitable distribution of resources.”
She continued: “Our economic models need to be revisited in light of spiritual principles offered by religion, such as the oneness of humanity, to ensure the wellbeing of the planet and all people.”
Arthur Dahl, an environmental scientist and president of the International Environment Forum, highlighted the Baha’i principle of the harmony of science and religion as essential to discussions on climate justice and social progress. “The deepening environmental crisis is being driven by a growing consumer culture and a narrow view for short-term material gain.”
“The preservation of the environment requires not only new technologies,” he continued, “but also a new consciousness about ourselves and our place in the world. This is what we’re up against, a complete reconceptualization of our relationship with nature and the relationships that sustain society.”
Following this gathering, titled “The nexus between climate change, faith, and science,” the Addis Ababa Office plans to continue exploring related themes with diverse social actors, scientists, and faith communities — particularly in relation to issues, such as agriculture, rural sustainability, and migration, within the social reality of African countries.