MANILA, September 24, 2014—A Filipino Catholic priest is in New York City, representing the country at a multi-faith conference on climate change, says that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but a “moral” one.
Speaking at the “Religions for the Earth” conference, which gathers spiritual leaders from around the world to discuss the many challenges posed by climate change, and how they can “provide leadership for the earth in a historic and critical moment,” Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace (NASSA), explained that the issue of climate change is not only about reducing carbon emission, expansion of carbon markets or transitioning to low carbon economies.
Gariguez, who is at the forefront of emergency rehabilitation response for communities wrecked by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Central Philippines, emphasized that climate change is also a moral issue which the Church cannot afford to ignore.
Quoting the Bishops’ Conference in Asia, he said, “As Church we are challenged by this grave situation, since climate change is an ethical, moral and religious issue.”
Gariguez said beyond the search for technical or political solutions, there is a need to recover “the wider ethical context underlying the climate change discourse.”
Gariguez pointed out that as far back as 1988, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had already articulated the urgent need for the faith to take on the ecological challenge.
In its Pastoral Letter on Ecology “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land”, CBCP noted, “At this point in the history of our country it is crucial that people motivated by religious faith develop a deep appreciation for the fragility of our islands’ life system and take steps to defend the earth. It is a matter of life and death.”
Gariguez said, “For the Church, climate change is an urgent issue that is clearly related to our Christian responsibility to care for the earth and to care for the poor and vulnerable in our midst.”
According to the priest, the social teaching of the Church is “replete with pastoral exhortations invoking for environmental stewardship, social, and inter-generational justice, the use of earth’s resources for common good, authentic development, and service for the poor and the vulnerable.”
“All those principles are at stake of being violated when we do not avert or address the causes of climate change,” he stressed. (Raymond A. Sebastián)