Representatives from different faith communities gathered outside Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday to call for stronger bipartisan action on climate change.
The demonstration was part of the Community Climate Petition, a grassroots campaign spearheaded by faith communities throughout Australia.
Faith leaders from Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Quaker and Muslim communities prayed together on the front lawn of Parliament House before participating in a panel discussion. They were joined by Greens MP Adam Bandt and Rebekha Sharkie from the Nick Xenophon Team.
Maria Tiimon, originally from Kiribati, spoke about the impact of climate change in her homeland. Kiribati is one of the countries most affected by climate change, with scientists predicting that much of the low-lying Pacific Island will become uninhabitable within decades.
“Climate change does not discriminate – it affects everybody,” Ms Tiimon said.
“My message to the government of Australia is to look at the marginalised people around the world, not just in Kiribati, as human beings.
“If Kiribati disappeared because of climate change, Australia and the rest of the world will eventually follow.”
More than 25,000 people have signed the petition, making it the largest climate petition in Australia’s history.
The Uniting Church is a supporter of the petition, along with other faith-based organisations including the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, Caritas Australia, Common Grace and TEAR Australia.
As part of the campaign, 200 volunteers from different faith backgrounds collected signatures in churches, mosques, schools and shopping centres across 94 electorates.
A number of faith leaders personally delivered petitions to their local member of parliament.
Last month, Uniting Church members including Rev Denise Liersch from The Avenue Uniting Church in Blackburn presented a Community Climate Petition to Michael Sukkar, federal member of Deakin.
The petitions call on Australia’s political leaders to support deeper reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a faster transition towards a clean energy economy.
Philippa Rowland, president of the Multi-Faith Association of South Australia, said the recent floods in South Asia and Hurricane Harvey in the US are signs of the devastating human impact of climate change.
“If we look around us, we can see an enormous ocean of suffering in nearly every direction,” Ms Rowland said.
“Right at this moment, there are 40 million people who are homeless in South-East Asia. Two-thirds of Bangladesh is underwater.
“Hurricane Harvey has dumped a metre of rain in oil and gas fields in Texas in a single hour.”
Ms Rowland said public support for the Community Climate Petitions indicates that people of faith are making their voices heard on climate justice.
“We are a rising groundswell of diverse faiths calling urgently for bipartisan action on climate change,” she said.
“Australian politicians from all parties bear the responsibility to work for the common good, and must swiftly work together to address climate change as a global emergency.”
Image: Caritas Australia/Twitter