At Major New York Interfaith Gathering, Leaders Call for Peace, Climate Justice, and Urgent Action by Congress

Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, founder and CEO of Dayenu: “In the face of an intensifying climate crisis, religious leaders have come together today to provide hizuk – strength and encouragement – for politicians to act decisively for peace, justice, and a rapid transition to clean energy.”

New York faith leaders came together on Sunday, May 22, to offer moral courage to Members of the New York Congressional delegation. In the crucial weeks leading up to August Recess, they have perhaps the last best chance to pass a reconciliation bill that makes historic investments in clean energy and climate justice, transitioning the economy away from the polluting fossil fuels that bankroll Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and toward 100% clean, renewable energy

Senator Charles Schumer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) responded via videos pledging their support for action.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: “This is a moment of truth, not only for our country, but for our entire world. Each passing year, climate change’s threats grow stronger and stronger – hurting most of all the poor, the refugee, and those least able to support themselves… Fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas only serve to fund Putin’s war machine while burning up the planet. That’s why tackling these issues is one of my highest priorities.

Beginning with a somber prayer for Ukraine, Father Kiril Angelov, of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, reflected on the loss of life and radical upheaval caused by the Russian invasion, funded by oil and gas revenues.

Father Kiril Angelov quoted St Francis of Assisi, “the patron saint of ecology,” saying “respect for creation comes not from obligation but from love.” But that is not what President Putin does, “Putin dangles natural resources like a stick.”

In a resolute and inspiring program, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Christian faith leaders offered prayers, teachings, and powerful words to ground our work in the wisdom and traditions of our faiths, and call on Congress to act according to the moral and scientific imperative. These words were accompanied by spirited songs, led by Dr. Charon Hribar of the Kairos Center and Poor People’s Campaign, Rabbi Margo Hughes-Robinson of T’ruah: A Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. And a moving dance piece choreographed by Apollonia Holzer.

Rev. Dr. Michael Bos, Senior Minister, Marble Collegiate Church: “Those of us who are older, like myself, who participated in creating this mess, are now seeing it directly affect those we love.

We [at Marble Collegiate Church] trace our history back to 1628… I’m proud of our history but if I’m honest I have to say sometimes we came down on the right side of history and sometimes we did not…As we meet let’s make sure that whatever we decide and do that we come down on the right side of history when it comes down to climate justice.”

Carolyn Maloney, Congresswoman for New York District 12 (where the event was held): “Climate change is an existential threat that we cannot afford to ignore.”

Jerrold Nadler, Congressman for New York District 10: “As an original sponsor of the Green New Deal… I cannot overstress how important this is.”

Aminta Kilawan-Narine, Co-Founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus: “Our dharma, our moral obligation, means… we must do something when humanity is in danger… We are Hindus acting in the name of justice, not just for Hindus but for all of humanity…”

“Prayers alone are not enough… we’re here to call on Congress to exercise short-term and long-term vision to do right by communities in this country… Especially to BIPOC people because we know that these are the people who are disproportionately affected by this climate crisis.”

Speaking at the Marble Collegiate Church, during a record-breaking heatwave, a reminder of the extreme weather we will continue to experience if we do not confront the climate crisis with action, diverse faith leaders shared a unified message of the urgency to confront the climate crisis to realize a more just and peaceful future .

Hanadi Doleh, Director for Community Partnerships at The Interfaith Center of New York: “Islam teaches us to take care of the earth…Muslims are khaleafas or guardians for the earth and God will hold us accountable for our actions… Caring for nature means serving God.”

Days away from the anniversary of the release of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ encyclical on the care for our common home, now marked as the Laudato Si’ Week, Nancy Lorence of Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement and Cam Stewart of St. Francis Xavier Parish, led an intergenerational reading of “A contemporary interpretation of the Beatitudes inspired by Laudato Si’.” Two prominent Catholic climate diplomats, US climate envoy John Kerry and UN climate envoy Mark Carney, both spoke last week of the need to reduce emissions now.

Now is the time. In recent weeks we’ve seen a devastating tornado in Kansas, massive wildfires in New Mexico and drought conditions across the West. Over half of Americans experienced this weekend’s East Coast heatwave. 2022 is likely to set yet another record breaking summer of extreme weather. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine rages on, bankrolled by Russian oil and gas profits.

By passing a reconciliation bill with bold investments in clean energy, we can end our reliance on polluting fossil fuels, and begin to address the moral and financial crisis we face. In 2021 alone, climate disasters cost the nation a record-breaking $145 billion in direct losses, disproportionately felt by historically marginalized communities..

The window of opportunity is closing. Unless there’s a negotiated framework by early summer, Congress will not have time to pass meaningful climate legislation before departing Washington for the summer. It would miss the opportunity to fund a rapid transition to a clean energy economy creating millions of good jobs. Or worse, kowtow to fossil fuel interests, and build-out expensive, unnecessary and dangerous oil and gas infrastructure.

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, Rabbi, Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE); Senior Fellow, Auburn Seminary: “Some of our leaders are buying into false solutions, they think that we can drill, mine and export our way out of this challenge, but we know that pathway is a fool’s errand. Oil, gas, and coal pollute our communities, heat up this planet and increase our reliance on those intent on making a profit while the world burns — dragging us back to Mitzrayim, the narrow places. But we are looking forward.”

Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice: “[The climate crisis] is especially dire for communities of color and indigenous peoples who are most vulnerable to climate change because they are often the first and worst hit by extreme weather events that exacerbate the legacy of pollution and environmental degradation in their communities.”

We’re ready to lead the nation… toward achieving a just, responsible and ethical climate change future because we can achieve decarbonization and a safer future through policies that protect the most vulnerable communities of our country.

This work is slow and challenging as the administration seeks to initiate a transformative process and consciousness throughout 20 or more federal agencies… but we must take advantage of the political moment and help the administration achieve its climate, social and environmental goals… we have to be the change makers, we have to make the change we seek.”

Phil Aroneanu, Chief Strategy Officer, Dayenu: “After months of negotiations and the passage of a landmark bill in the House of Representatives, climate and clean energy legislation remains stalled in the U.S. Senate. And the window of opportunity is closing. We need our lawmakers to find the moral courage to overcome the powers of denial and delay… and we need them to pass this bill at the scale that science and justice demand.”

Partners: Aytzim: Ecological Judaism; Auburn Seminary; Bronx Jews for Climate Action; Church Women United in New York State; Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action; Dayenu in the Heights; Center for Earth Ethics; Congregation Beth Elohim; Congregation B’nai Jeshurun; Fort Tryon Jewish Center; Green the Church; Hazon; Hebrew Tabernacle, Interfaith Center of New York; Interfaith Power and Light; Jewish Climate Action Network-NYC; Jewish Youth Climate Movement; Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; Marble Collegiate Church; Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Mothers Out Front NY, Capital Region; New York City Environmental Justice Alliance; New York Interfaith Power and Light; New York Jewish Agenda; New York Renews; NY Jewish Clergy Students for Climate Action; Park Slope Jewish Center; Presbyterian Church USA; Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism – New York; Shomrei Ha’Adamah Dayenu Circle; Sojourners; The Point CDC; United Church of Christ Environmental Justice Ministry; United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries. WeACT for Environmental Justice

For Immediate Release

May 23, 2022

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