World religious leaders to gather December 7th to mobilize on climate change

December 4, 2009
Global Peace Initiative of Women
Press Release

New York, NY - A multi-faith delegation of key religious and spiritual leaders from around the world will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7-13, 2009 during the UN COP-15 Summit. The delegation’s goal is to deepen the conversation on climate change by recognizing that this environmental crisis is rooted in a profound moral and spiritual crisis. 

The key message of the religious leaders will be the need to bring climate change action to the grassroots.  They see their role as helping the public understand the moral and spiritual issues at stake and inspiring them to make changes in their lives.  The religious leaders will call for a new global partnership between political, economic, scientific and spiritual leaders to strengthen efforts to implement the framework put in place during the conference.  They will call upon all sectors of society to work for the strongest possible plan of action, and they will share plans for mobilizing their communities back home.  Many of the religious leaders are calling for a shift in attitude toward the earth, citing the importance of renewing the understanding of our role as “stewards” of earth’s resources.

The multi-faith delegation includes Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Indigenous leaders.  Included are religious and spiritual leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Senegal, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.  The largest delegation will be from the United States, and it will be led by the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches and one of the founders of the Religious Partnership for the Environment.

The religious leaders will participate in a series of workshops including “A New Partnership between Science and Religion,” “Sacred Activism – Mobilizing Spiritual Communities to Address Climate Change” and the “Moral Dimensions of Climate Change.”   During the discussions, religious leaders will lay out specific steps that individuals can take to help shift the way we relate to earth’s resources.  One action that will be presented is a more mindful consumption of meat. According to a recent report from the Worldwatch Institute, the meat industry emits more carbon into the atmosphere than the entire global transportation system.  It is also a major emitter of methane, which is a greater contributor to climate change than is carbon dioxide.

The delegation of religious leaders is being organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women, an international, multi-faith network of women religious and spiritual leaders.  Most of the funding for the program has come from the Japanese lay Buddhist organization, ITRI.

“Governments alone will not be able to address the problem,” says Dena Merriam, founder and convener of GPIW. “This is the first such global crisis that demands a response from each one of us.  Much will depend on the individual.  We must change not only our carbon habits but the way we think and relate to the Earth.  We must come again into a caring relationship with the life forces that sustain us. Nature can heal itself, but will we help or hinder that healing process?  That is the question.”

Global Peace Initiative of Women

The Global Peace Initiative of Women is a New York-based nonprofit with a network of over 5,000 women and men in over 30 countries. Since its founding in 2002 at the United Nations in Geneva, GPIW has been working in many of the world’s conflict areas, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine and Sudan, bringing women spiritual leaders to these regions to support peace dialogues. Based on the premise that to resolve deep conflicts, spiritual resources are needed to supplement and support political and economic efforts, GPIW’s network of spiritual leaders will continue this work to address some of the underlying causes that block resolutions to long-term conflict. For more information, please go to