All suffering stems from the three poisons of greed, delusion and hate. The Buddhist solution lies in meditation and contemplation. That’s what Sulak Sivaraksa – a prominent leader within the Buddhist tradition – speaking to myself and other delegates in attendance at COY 11 believes. COY11 FYI is the Conference of Youth and its taking place in Paris, where I am now, as a space for international young people to voice their concern, hope and solutions for our future as a prelude to COP21. If you aren’t in the climate change loop, firstly, COP21 is the Conference Of the Parties of the United Nations that meet annually to discuss progress and decisions related to climate change. Secondly, get in the loop – we need you.
The attacks that occurred in Paris recently point to the great need for humanity to unite together in the face of a common enemy, as we have seen with the acts of global solidarity in response to the terrorist violence. Climate change too is a very real threat to global peace and security, one that does not discriminate based on gender, race, or religion. As world leaders gather to discuss global efforts to mitigate its impact, COP21 is a much needed opportunity for the world’s nations to show solidarity with one another and the earth we share in the midst of an atmosphere of fear.
Within this hope for solidarity, there is a sense of urgency for believers of whatever ilk to partake, too, to speak up for action on climate change, echoing the great public commitments made by leaders in 2015. For starters we had Pope Francis’ papal encyclical: On Care for our Common Home, that called for a mighty shift away from the way we currently treat our earth. That was followed by the Lambeth Declaration, which demanded both churches and politicians act and redouble efforts to mitigate our emissions and was signed by faith leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. These actions are a point of celebration for the environmental movement, which increasingly looks to faith communities to help them convince world leaders to adopt responsible policies towards creation. More than half the world’s population align themselves with a religious tradition. That means faith groups have huge potential to mobilise their followers and help secure the needed political and practical action to bring about creation care.
For the Buddhist leader standing in front of me, the response to the ‘poison’ that leads to the suffering evident in our world is meditation and contemplation. Contemplation on compassion, on peace and on love. Like the old adage of becoming what you surround yourself with, he follows that the world will become peaceful, just and centred on love as soon as we do. It starts with us.
While contemplation can seem passive, its value as a route to action is one that trends in the majority of the major religions. In fact I’m reminded of the brilliant Christian Bishop Paride Taban of South Sudan, who shared with me his daily peacemaking practice. At the age of 89, he spends the first portion of his day – without fail- doing his set of 20 exercises. As he does so he repeats the words: “Love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, sympathy, kindness, truth, gentleness, self-control, humility, poverty, forgiveness, mercy, friendship, trust, unity, purity, faith, hope.” And while repeating these, he examines if he is keeping to the virtues – if they are really in him or not. Through this morning ritual he learns where he is weak and during that day will reflect on the weakness. It’s this, he proclaimed, that keeps him healthy, free from stress – relaxing his heart and making him able to correct what he can and live with what he cannot.
At this point, the issue of climate change, as an issue of care for our brothers and sisters who are already suffering from its impacts, can’t be ignored. It’s not an opt in or opt out justice issue. What we can do is respond with reflection of the great tenets that make up our faith tradition and in doing so stand in solidarity with those that value them too, joining together with others to ensure the much needed positive action is done.
A solution to the creation care crisis begins with us. It begins with contemplation on the things valued by our Creator and in turn a love for what He lovingly made. From here perhaps we will influence the world around us with the peace that comes from knowing Christ – His vision for a restored world, and command to love well what was made in the image of His Father.