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A cry for climate justice and peace at the Faith Leaders Summit, Pre-COP28

(Photo credit: National Catholic Reporter)

Ecojesuit shares the address of Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist, academic, public policy analyst, and former director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, during the Faith Leaders Summit at the Pre-COP28 summit on 6 November 2023. A key outcome of the gathering is the signing of the Abu Dhabi Interfaith statement that “demands transformative action to keep 1.5°C within reach and serve affected and vulnerable communities.”

Amid a time of global conflict and exacerbated social vulnerability, Jeffrey Sachs’ address affirms the significant role of faith-based groups in addressing the impacts of climate change from a context of hope.

Your Holinesses, Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are faced with the greatest trial of humanity, to live peacefully and sustainably on a crowded and interconnected planet.

We are currently failing that trial. The world is aflame in wars. Human-caused environmental devastation accelerates. The Earth is warmer now than it has been in 125,000 years.

I blame the politicians, especially of the rich and powerful states.

In these very days, just when we need the world’s leaders to pay attention to the climate crisis in advance of COP28, we are instead enmeshed in a devastating war in the Middle East.

The Israeli government has already killed 10,000 innocent civilians in Gaza and yet it rejects global calls for a cease fire. Israel is committing war crimes, besieging Gaza while bombing hospitals, ambulances, schools, and neighborhoods, and creating carnage.

The United States Government, for its part, vetoes the calls by the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly for a cease fire in Gaza, thereby prolonging Israel’s rampage. Moreover, even as the war in Gaza rages, the US continues its reckless attempt to push NATO enlargement to Ukraine, over Russia’s strenuous objections. The result is an ongoing proxy war between the US and Russia that is utterly destroying Ukraine.

The politicians of powerful nations, especially my own, have dragged us into wars that the people do not want, and have delayed action against climate change to the point where climate change endangers our survival. Through their relentless corruption, the politicians have squandered the toil of billions of people.

Why do they do so? The answers are as ancient as they are relevant today.

The first sin is arrogance. Netanyahu believes that he and he alone can decide life and death in Gaza. He believes that he doesn’t need to negotiate with anybody, least of all the Palestinians. He completely misconstrues the path to true security for Israel, which runs through justice, not war.

The second sin is greed. Many of our wars are about the pursuit of lucre, yet the wars destroy vastly more wealth than could ever be garnered by conquest.

The third sin is corruption. The campaigns of US Congressmen are funded by the US war machine, that is, by giant corporations with hundreds of billions of dollars of arms contracts, for whom war is business, and for whom campaign contributions the way to encourage more wars.

This war-making and relentless deceit must stop.

We must heed Isaiah, to beat swords into ploughshares. With today’s technologies, our modern plowshares and pruning hooks are powerful enough to end hunger worldwide, feed all of humanity, and protect the environment.

The war in Gaza must stop immediately before Israel commits more carnage, and lest we find ourselves in a regional war. Israel can find its true security through peace with Palestine, and only through peace with Palestine. When Palestine is secure in its own state, with its capital in East Jerusalem and with control over the Muslim Holy Sites, Israel too will find security and peace, and Isaiah’s vision will be realized.

The war in Ukraine can and will stop when the US finally stops trying to expand NATO to Ukraine, and instead engages directly with Russia on pressing issues of mutual security, including renewed diplomacy for nuclear disarmament.

Despite the sins of the rich and powerful, yet there is hope for peace, your Holinesses and Excellencies. Yes, there is hope. And you bring that hope.

World public opinion overwhelmingly demands peace. You, the world’s religious leaders, demand peace and pray for peace. The UN member states overwhelmingly demand peace, even though Israel and the United States have so far ignored the calls by the vast majority of UN member states for a ceasefire and for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

When the rest of the world is united for peace, as it is, the United States and Israel will have to listen and to heed the call by humanity.

In his world recent message in advance of COP28, Laudate Deum, Pope Francis calls for a new multilateralism, so that the voices of all the world are heard, and so that the deceit of the powerful is constrained. As the Holy Father writes:

“Our world has become so multipolar and at the same time so complex that a different framework for effective cooperation is required…

All this presupposes the development of a new procedure for decision-making and legitimizing those decisions, since the one put in place several decades ago is not sufficient nor does it appear effective. In this framework, there would necessarily be required spaces for conversation, consultation, arbitration, conflict resolution and supervision, and, in the end, a sort of increased “democratization” in the global context, so that the various situations can be expressed and included.”

Let us therefore here in Abu Dhabi call for a new and honest dialogue of the rich with the poor, the powerful with the powerless, and the large nations with the small. Let us say no to the wars, yes to peace, and yes to planetary survival.

Let the new dialogue start this very day today, here in this assembly of religious leaders, and in the halls of the United Nations, home of We the Peoples and humanity’s best hope for a multilateral world and a sustainable planet.

Let us tell the world leaders, clearly and unambiguously, “You must do your job, to promote the common good. You must put aside your arrogance, greed, corruption, and heresies. Your current approach is not working, so you much change.”

Let us also be clear: there is no one indispensable country. There is only indispensable justice. And with justice, all countries are indispensable.

Thank you for this gathering. May we find the love and respect for our fellow humanity across the world that we so urgently need.

This story was originally shared by the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA) through their newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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