Perth religious leaders take public stance against new coal and gas projects

Religious leaders of multiple faiths in Perth

A multi-faith church service was held in Perth is part of a wider call across Australia for an end to new coal and gas projects.

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change group has organised the event.

About 100 religious leaders have urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to make a stronger commitment to climate change at the upcoming United Nations conference in November

Buddhist chants, Hindu songs and prayers to Allah were heard at a rare multi-faith service inside a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Perth on Thursday, 13 October. The topic that brought the faith leaders together? Climate change.

“No more new coal and gas projects,” went the call from the Reverend Katalina Tahaafe-Williams, representing religious leaders from a variety of faiths who attended the service. The event at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth was one of several held across Australia to demand a greater commitment to climate change from the Australian government. The requests were also laid out in a letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, signed by 100 First Nations and faith leaders.

Representatives from the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Baha’i, Jewish and Islamic faiths were present at the service.

Dr Tahaafe-Williams, from the Tongan-Australian Uniting Church, spoke on behalf of the group to call on Mr Albanese to take a stronger stance at the United Nations Climate Conference in Egypt in November. “There must be no more damage to our life-giving planet for the sake of short-term profit,” she said. “Our First Nations communities are struggling to counter the impact of climate change in their lands and are not getting a lot of support for that.”

The Reverend Mitchell Garlett of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress said it was rare to see leaders of faith communities come together in solidarity. “The voice that the prime minister has, that affects all Australians, and the responsibility that he has in his role, he also has a legacy that he has to take a hold of,” he said.

The campaign was organised by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, which approached the various faith leaders to take a public stance against coal and gas projects. The Reverend Sean Fernandez, the dean and administrator of St Mary’s Cathedral, said it was a big decision for the church to put its name to a political statement on coal and gas.

“I think it was aided by the fact that the Pope has spoken so strongly about it,” Father Fernandez said. “We had discussions about it because change impacts communities, and we were aware that communities are challenged living with uncertainty about this.” Pope Francis has previously declared that the science of climate change is clear and that the Catholic Church views it as a moral issue that needs to be addressed.

Bishop Don Sproxton of the Archdiocese of Perth also spoke in support of the call for greater action on Thursday. Father Fernandez said he expected a mix of opinions from the Roman Catholic congregation on the church’s decision to take a public stance on what can be a controversial political issue.

“We’ll hear from everyone, and we welcome the discussion,” he said. “One of the important things with this response we are asking for is that we have an orderly transition. “We want governments to start talking to communities now about the future, about the change to more sustainable energy sources.”

Susy Thomas, the moderator of the Uniting Church WA, said she was passionate about the need for action on climate change. She said her congregation voted in support of the church’s efforts to push for more action. “We are parents and grandparents, and we would really love to see that the world is there for our grandchildren to grow up and enjoy,” Ms Thomas said.

“The way in which it is happening at the moment, the flood, the storm, the bushfire, the heat, all of these are actually saying that climate change is real. “It is not acceptable … if it is within our power to make the changes, we should be doing that.”


Religious leaders of multiple faiths in Perth
Religious leaders of multiple faiths have come together to speak up about climate change.(ABC Radio Perth: Alicia Bridges)

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