Festival of Faiths shines light on climate

Mary Evelyn Tucker stood by a projected image of Pope Francis as she discussed his 2015 encyclical on care for creation, Laudato Si’, during a Festival of Faiths panel discussion April 25 in the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theatre. The speakers, pictured in the background from left, also included Ken Kimmell and Episcopal Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori. (Photo Special to The Record by Father Patrick Delahanty)

A panel of speakers at last week’s Festival of Faiths called on the faith community to exert its moral force to help curb climate change.

“Faith and Science: The Climate Crisis” was presented by three speakers at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. The April 25 panel discussion was one of more than a dozen events offered at the 24th Festival of Faiths held April 25 to 27.

Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for creation, Laudato Si’, was lauded as an example of such moral force by panelist Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University.

She noted leaders like Pope Francis have emerged among various faith traditions. In addition to Pope Francis, she cited the Dalai Lama and Ecumenical

Patriarch Bartholomew, as well as organizations such as Interfaith Power and Light, the Catholic Climate Covenant and Jesuit schools, which have developed curriculum on healing the Earth.

“Creation is being unraveled,” said Tucker. Calling for a “moral force to effect change,” she noted that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. brought such force to the civil rights movement and his influence made a difference.

“The religions of the world,” she said, “are one of the most important acupuncture points for change.”

Panelist Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, delivered a similar message with added urgency.

“We are running out of time. We have decades before parts of our world become unrecognizable,” he told the audience that included about 200 students from St. Xavier High School, Presentation Academy and several other private and public schools.

Today’s children and grandchildren, he said, “will look back on the world we have now as a lost Eden.”

Kimmell said scientists have already figured out how to “prevent runaway climate change.” But the United States and the world lack the political will and courage to adopt a plan, he said.

That’s where religion comes in.

“Religion is the antidote to apathy,” Kimmell said.

He urged his listeners to make climate change their “number one issue.”

Faith and science, for all of their storied conflicts, have much in common, said Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

The bishop, who has a doctoral degree in oceanography, called for a “deeper mutuality” between the two and noted that both disciplines search for truth and beauty and both embrace a certain “humility about the limits of knowing.”

“We need both spheres of inquiry,” she said. “Survival depends on it.”

Right now, she said, humans have an abusive relationship with the Earth. And people are suffering from the effects.

She closed her remarks by reading an excerpt from John Donne’s 17th-century Meditation XVII, which reminds its readers that all life is connected, with the words, “No man is an island, entire of itself” and “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”

The Festival of Faiths’ theme this year was “Sacred Cosmos: Faith and Science.”  The festival is sponsored by the Center for Interfaith Relations.

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