CAP Freedom of Conscience July 2024

In todays interconnected world the connections, between climate change, conflict and freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) are becoming more evident and urgent. A recent policy brief from Search for Common Ground underscores the importance for decision makers and practitioners to acknowledge and tackle these intersections in order to promote solutions and community resilience.

The document titled “Climate Change Conflict and Freedom of Religion and Belief” stresses that climate change is not a concern but a factor that amplifies conflicts and poses a threat to freedom of religion and belief. This link is often underestimated, resulting in missed opportunities to address both climate change issues and violations of FoRB simultaneously.

As per the brief it is estimated that “40 60% of wars in the 60 years have been sparked by disputes over natural resources.” This figure highlights the influence of factors in escalating conflicts, which can further heighten religious tensions and persecution.

The report outlines ways in which climate change, conflict and FoRB are interconnected;

  1. Resource Scarcity and Religious Tensions; The depletion of resources due, to climate change can exacerbate existing rifts.

The document mentions Nigeria as an example pointing out that conflicts, between farmers and pastoralists are influenced by tensions and violence in the country. This is further complicated by the rise of misinformation and hate speech online.

One significant issue highlighted is the threat climate change poses to practices. For instance the Mandeans in Iraq practice their religion along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which are endangered due to climate change. Similarly Native American tribes in the United States, who consider the Colorado River sacred are facing challenges as the river dries up necessitating adaptations to their beliefs and rituals.

Climate induced displacement can also result in increased vulnerability for minorities. The report emphasizes that women and girls face risks of persecution in unstable environments affected by conflict and climate related threats.

Despite these challenges there are opportunities for action at the intersection of climate change and freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). Many faith communities acknowledge a shared responsibility to protect the environment providing a basis for efforts, on climate issues.

The report mentions instances such, as the “Laudato Si” encyclical by Pope Francis and the introduction of “Al Mizan ” illustrating how various faiths are uniting to tackle climate change.

Enhancing Social Unity; Collaborative efforts among faiths to address climate change can foster cohesion and stability within communities. For instance initiatives like Go Dharmic in West Bengal, India bring together women from backgrounds to plant mangroves in the Sundarbans combating environmental degradation and religious tensions simultaneously.

Empowering Marginalized Communities; Collaborative actions against harm and violations of Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) can be advantageous for religious groups. In Kenya the Kaya community has successfully preserved their forests and religious traditions through interfaith discussions and joint initiatives on conservation.

The report underlines the significance of building trust through interfaith cooperation on shared issues. Tareq Abu Hame, Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies emphasizes in the document; “Establishing a partnership relies on trust as its foundation. This is our focus, at the Arava Institute – promoting peace through collaboration.”

The policy brief ends with a set of recommendations, for donors, policymakers and civil society groups;

  1. Engage religious figures in climate efforts at global levels.
  2. Ensure nuanced policymaking that avoids unintentionally diminishing or worsening causes of conflicts.
  3. Enhance funding opportunities for initiatives addressing both climate change and freedom of religion simultaneously.
  4. Incorporate considerations of religion and conflict sensitivity into climate programs and vice versa.
  5. Further investigate the links between climate change, conflict and freedom of religion.

Iyad Abumoghli, the Founder and Director of UNEPs Faith for Earth Coalition highlights the significance of efforts among faiths in climate action; “Collaboration among faith communities isn’t just a part of the multilateral system; it’s a crucial tool for putting multilateral actions into practice. As representatives of faiths we assert that we possess shared values and traditional wisdom for sustainable development implementation.”

In summary this report acts as a wake up call for policymakers, practitioners and the global community to acknowledge the pressing need, for strategies addressing climate change conflict resolution and safeguarding freedoms.

The effects of climate change have reaching consequences, impacting not our environment but also the very core of our societies, including relationships, among different religions and human rights.

As global warming continues to speed up its effects on conflicts and religious liberties are expected to become more pronounced. It’s crucial that we take action now. By addressing these interconnected challenges in a manner we can develop communities promote cooperation among different faiths and devise sustainable solutions that benefit both people and the Earth.

The urgency of this issue cannot be emphasized enough. As highlighted in the report climate change is exacerbating conflicts and jeopardizing freedoms worldwide. Failing to act and effectively could result in levels of violence, displacement and mistreatment of religious minorities. On the side by tapping into the shared values and joint efforts of faith communities we have a special opportunity to combat climate change while also fostering peace and religious acceptance.

It’s essential for governments, international bodies and civil society to take note of these insights and suggestions. By integrating climate initiatives, with endeavors to safeguard liberties and prevent conflicts we can establish a sustainable, harmonious and inclusive world for generations to come.

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