Muslims to join in efforts on climate change
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Indonesia is set to play an important role in rallying Islamic communities in the battle against climate change as the country will be among those signing an 'Islamic Climate Change Declaration' that is set to be launched during a symposium on Aug. 18 in Turkey, Istanbul.
Despite being one of the countries under serious threat from climate change due to its geography, the majority of people are still oblivious to the challenge, according to Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Din Syamsuddin, who will represent the country during the International Islamic Climate Change symposium from Aug. 17 to 18.
'We are very embarrassed that Islamic communities have not been progressive enough [in combating climate change],' he said over the weekend. 'Seeing as how two-thirds of people in the world follow a religion, a religious approach is important [in tackling climate change],'
Therefore, the planned declaration will be an important intervention by religious leaders and will act as a crucial rallying call ahead of the United Nations [UN] climate change negotiations that are to be held in Paris in December.
'We will spread the word all around the world. I will declare it in Indonesia,' Din said.
The declaration will explain why climate change is the world's most pressing challenge, and why 1.6 billion Muslims across the globe have a religious duty to play their part in tackling it and the manner in which they can fulfil this duty.
'Environmental sustainability and religions are closely linked, therefore religions through their followers have to take up the role and act on a global level to solve the problem,' Din said. 'Indonesia as a Muslim-majority country could become a trendsetter. We will also launch a joint movement in line with government programs.'
Din has earlier said that Islam could be a religion of nature with some 750 out of around 6,000 verses in the Koran touching on nature, the environment and all of its inter-connectedness.
Despite being Indonesia's top Islamic clerical body, Din said that the MUI had limited capacity and thus needed help from all stakeholders in mobilizing Muslims.
'The state, the government and the UN need to improve the role of religious leaders in raising awareness of the need for collaboration because problems cannot be solved only by one party,' he said.
So far, the MUI has been trying to raise awareness on climate change by issuing a fatwa on environmental sustainability.
'The fatwa is about respecting the environment with an Islamic concept, such as planting trees, nurturing them as well as knowing how we should treat plants and animals,' Din said. 'Our position as a religious organization is to raise awareness. If there's a fatwa on conservation, then it should be included in preaching material. There are thousands of Islamic preachers. If they use their voices, this will be a massive public education campaign. If we're using religion, then it will latch onto people's minds,' said Din.
However, the fatwa so far has failed to resonate with Islamic preachers.
To prepare for the symposium, Din consulted with Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar during a meeting on Saturday.
'I felt the need to explain to him [Din] the nature of what we are preparing and doing, as well as our vision,' Siti said.
Siti went on to say that the planned shift to renewable energy was a key focus of the government and that it would bring the campaign to the international community.
'We have stopped issuing new permits for coal mining [in forest areas],' Siti said. 'The moratorium has been implemented although an official decree has not been issued.'
Din himself has been pushing for a complete shift to renewable energy by setting up a petition at change.org that demands President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon set a renewable energy target of 100 percent by 2050.
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