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NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — At a small tent on the edge of the U.N. campus here, environmental activists from the world’s faith traditions huddled on the sidelines of last week’s March 11-15 meeting of some 5,000 environmental scientists, politicians and civil society, the fourth gathering of the United Nations Environment Assembly.
As the official delegates discussed current environmental challenges, sustainable consumption and production, the faith leaders, who joined the assembly for the first time in a U.N.-sponsored event called “Faith for Earth Dialogue,” talked about what religion’s role is in environmental protection.
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“Religious leaders have a unique role to play in promoting ecological sustainability, especially because 85 percent of the (world’s) people are affiliated with a religion,” said Rabbi Yonatan Neril, who is the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development in Jerusalem and attended the event.
The faith-based group unexpectedly served as a spiritual presence after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, which particularly affected the U.N.’s offices in Nairobi, a hub of the international aid community that lost several members in the disaster.
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The assembly, which represented more than 170 United Nations member states, said it had delivered a bold blueprint for change that directs a radical shift in the approach to tackling environmental challenges.
The group also agreed on a series of non-binding resolutions, key among them a proposal to protect oceans and fragile ecosystems.
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But those attending the Faith for Earth Dialogue urged the U.N. to recognize the growing religious wave of concern and called for dramatic steps while saying that enough was not being done to address climate change and related environmental challenges.
“There should be no mistake that more and more religious communities are clear that we face a clear emergency,” said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, the executive director of GreenFaith, an American interfaith coalition for the environment.
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