Convergence of Diverse Faith Leaders and Activists in NYC
by Sue Smith
Rev. Robin Blakeman, PEC member, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Organizer, WV Presbytery Stewardship of Creation Ministry Team leader and WV Interfaith Power and Light Steering Committee member recently attended “Ministry in the Time of Climate Change: Multi-Faith Perspectives and Practical Training” at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with her to talk about her experience.
It sounds like this experience was meaningful and exciting. You say that you had high expectations going in, and those expectations were exceeded. What contributed to that?
This was the most powerful conference I have ever been to. It could be earth shaking in its ripple effects. There was so much energy throughout the conference. Both speakers and participants were powerful and brought so many aspects to fighting climate change. There were people from many faith traditions: Buddhists, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Hindus to name some. There were Native Americans. There were academics, lawyers, UN representation, and NAACP representation. The conference was sponsored by the Center for Earth Ethics and The Climate Reality Project. Former Vice President Al Gore presented and participated with us throughout the entire conference. To get a taste of what the presentations were like, one of the sessions can be viewed on YouTube.
What is Al Gore talking about these days? He has revised and updated the Climate Reality Project presentation, which he shared with us. There is a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, coming out in July. Take a look at the trailer. He reminded us that storytelling is as important a part of our work as anything. We must tell where our story meets the climate story.
With so much to take in, does anything you heard stand out? Cheryl Ann Angel, an indigenous leader of the Lakota Nation, was one of the most powerful speakers. She helped to initiate and maintain the Standing Rock camp, and has been vital in the non-violent resistance to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. My takeaway: “When all spiritual people become activists and all activists become spiritual, we will win.” She urged us to not sit on the sidelines; we have to stand our ground, and join in ceremony with all who will participate. We all need to protect the waterways that we depend on for life, because they are all under attack. While many Native voices invited us into their community, they challenged us to stand on the front lines in whatever way we are capable of – be it organizing, speaking, writing, dancing or singing.
Sue Smith is Vice Moderator of PEC and co-editor of EARTH.