11 September 2019, The Tablet

Religious spearhead campaign against fossil fuels

'It is wonderful to see faith institutions at the forefront of the fossil fuel divestment movement'

Religious spearhead campaign against fossil fuels

File photo dated 07/03/13 of a general view of a power Station
Lynne Cameron/PA Wire/PA Images

Sisters from England and Scotland have joined an interfaith coalition of more than one thousand Religious orders and faith groups who this week pledged to divest completely from fossil fuels.

The faith group coalition’s assets, which includes those of more than 150 Catholic orders and organisations, brings the total assets divested from fossil fuels to $11 trillion. Faith institutions now constitute the largest bloc within the global divestment movement.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager for the Christian climate change charity Operation Noah, said: “As the scale of the climate crisis and the urgency of action required increases by the day, it is wonderful to see faith institutions at the forefront of the fossil fuel divestment movement, shifting investments out of the problem and into the solution.”

The English/Scottish Province of the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Franciscan Sisters Minoress are among the orders to commitment to divestment. Other groups include the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the United Reform Church in the UK, and the first cathedral to divest, St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Sr Rita Dawson RSC, Provincial of the English/Scottish Province of the Religious Sisters of Charity, said, “We are proud to be part of the move to a fossil fuel free future. The sisters in our province unanimously agreed that divestment from fossil fuels was the way forward for us and an investment in the future of life on our planet.”

Her comments were echoed by Sister Patricia Jordan FSM, Mother General of the Franciscan Sisters Minoress, which has houses in England, Scotland and Ireland.

She told The Tablet that the Order had been inspired to divest by the example of Saint Francis.

“We each have our own part to play in protecting our environment, all of creation and the most vulnerable in society. Pope Francis said that St Francis shows us how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace,” she said.

“We the Franciscan Sisters Minoress, as followers of Saint Francis of Assisi and in response to the challenges of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and the needs of the times, have taken the decision to divest of our investments in fossil fuels. Our charism of minority places us in communion with God and all creatures but especially with the poor and all those in need. As ‘little ones’, accepting our weaknesses and limitations we put our trust in God, who alone can achieve His work through us. We have a duty to be responsible stewards of all God’s gifts, namely ‘our common home’ and to protect all of creation and our most vulnerable brothers and sisters throughout the world.”

In a statement Operation Noah said that in addition to divestment within the Christian community, Muslim authorities in the United States and Canada have issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, on fossil fuels. “The fatwa calls on Islamic investment managers to develop fossil-free investment vehicles and on individual Muslims to invest in renewable energy”, it explained.

The announcement came as delegates met for a global divest-invest summit in Cape Town in South Africa on 10 and 11 September.  A group of 75 faith leaders at the summit were due to spend a day exploring concrete ways to make the transition to a clean energy economy.

Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg is an ambassador to the conference and president of the Catholic Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. Applauding the transition away from fossil fuels, Archbishop Hollerich said, “In this time and place the key action is to do what we can to preserve creation from the ravages of greed-induced climate change. To do so we should all use the authorities available to us to shift away from industries and models of destruction and into the opportunity to promote life.”


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