On Thursday 9 March, a multi-faith prayer service was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, as part of a worldwide fossil fuel Divestment Week of Action, initiated by the global Catholic Laudato Si’ Movement. Held during the season of Lent, the Week of Action is to encourage people of faith across the world and their organisations to consider divesting from fossil fuels as part of their broader responsibility to care for the earth.
Leaders from several faiths participated in the prayer service including Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Venerable Bhante Sujato, Rabbi George Mordecai, Ahmet Ozturk, Reverend Meredith Williams and Reverend Dr Shenouda Mansour.
Organised by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), the event highlighted that people of faith and faith-based organisations should “repent” of unwittingly allowing their savings to finance coal, oil and gas mining.
Bishop Vincent said in his homily, “The time has come for us to act decisively to reduce our carbon footprint, to invest in renewable energy, to divest from fossil fuels, to consume less and waste less.”
Theravada Buddhist monk, Venerable Bhante Sujato, said, “Escalating climate chaos unfolds before us every day, in every nation, in cold and heat, in flood and fire. We fear for ourselves and for our children, yet sometimes we do not even know that our own money is funding the madness. The big banks and financial institutions are too often deeply dependent on fossil fuel investments, profiting while the world burns.
“Divesting from fossil fuels breaks this cycle. When consumers refuse to participate in destructive fossil fuel profiteering, it sends an unmistakable signal,” he said.
Thea Ormerod, president of ARRCC, said, “It is not well known that the big banks and funds tend to invest heavily in coal, oil and gas mining and infrastructure, but certain banks, such as Bendigo Bank and Bank Australia, avoid this and instead engage in ‘positive impact investing’.”
Faith-based organisations have been among the first to embrace fossil fuel divestment, both in Australia and globally. Worldwide, of all organisations to have committed to divestment, those that are faith-based are the largest in number.
Ms Ormerod said, “It makes sense. Faith-based organisations come out of long revered traditions of seeking to live more ethically. Action to ensure that one’s money is used as a power for good and not for harm should, and often does, flow seamlessly from other religious values. Values such as responsibility to care for the earth, respect for life, compassion and justice.”
Many Catholic institutions have divested globally in the last two years. Vatican spokesperson, Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam, said in response on 5 July 2022: “This is how prophetic institutions can live out our values and help the most vulnerable among us. If we want to achieve peace, and ensure a liveable planet for all, including the future generations, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels.”
With thanks to the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).