Why An Interfaith Dialogue on Climate Change is Important

discussing religion in an interfaith world

Climate change is a crisis that will undoubtedly have serious repercussions far into the future. As a global crisis, it also is a crisis that touches and elicits different responses from people of different faiths. To begin to understand and bridge these different perspectives on climate change, interfaith dialogue is both important, and needed.

The severity of the climate change crisis is indisputable.

According to NASA’s Global Climate Change website, the impact of climate change on the planet and its ecosystems is dramatic. Among the changes it is bringing to the forefront:

  • The average global surface temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. Most of the increase has happened in just the last 40 years. 
  • Average ocean temperatures, meanwhile, have increased more than half a degree Fahrenheit just since 1969.
  • The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have significantly decreased in mass since 1993. Glaciers around the world are also retreating.

In another troubling development, climate change also appears to be slowing down the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, which is part of a complex system that impacts weather on several continents.

These changes in the climate and the Earth’s delicate ecosystems are having a devastating impact on both animals and on human life and well-being.

Yet, while there is a wide consensus that climate change is both a real phenomenon and one caused by human actions—and accelerated by human inaction—there are diverse perspectives on the subject. 

Because climate change is a global crisis, it is one being experienced, albeit in different forms and degrees of severity, by people around the world. Additionally, as a global crisis, it elicits both grief and mourning for what is being lost, in terms of life, livelihoods, and stability.

It also, however, surfaces important questions about the relationship between faith and science, which people stand to be impacted the most, and the roles that various faith communities play in coming together to tackle this crisis.

“The religions of the world are to be the moral and ethical voices on this planet,” says Scott Thumma, Ph.D., Director, Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Professor of Sociology of Religion at Hartford Seminary.

“If their collective voices are silent in the face of this impending climate tragedy, they have abandoned their responsibility to humanity and their commitment to the Divine. As stewards of this earth, people of faith, no matter what the faith tradition, have a responsibility to restore and defend God’s creation. One need not be prophetic to see that the hour and time for action is at hand…With both the fate of the globe and future generations hanging in the balance.”

Hartford Seminary, a pioneer in interreligious and interfaith theological education that facilitates interfaith dialogue around the key issues that we face today, is collaborating with the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network to produce a three-part collaborative seminar series, Many Faiths, One Creation

This series addresses the topic of climate change in different faith-based communities and brings together speakers showcasing the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu perspectives on responses to climate change, underscoring that climate change is one of many issues that people across the world must face and band together to fight.

The next seminar Many Faiths, One Creation is tentatively scheduled for October 26 and registration details will be posted soon. The first two parts can be viewed on YouTube: Religious Communities and the Planetary Crisis and Webinar: Climate Conversations.

Hartford Seminary offers an MA in Interreligious Studies (MAIRS) program. This 36-credit-hour graduate degree engages students in advanced academic study of the lived reality of religions in public multifaith contexts. The program offers specializations in Interreligious Studies, Islamic Studies, and Ministerial Studies. Learn more about the MAIRS program.