RELIGION

Muslim and Christian clerics back climate activism with music, fasting

  • Imam Ibrahim Saidy of Norway poses at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. Saidy of Norway has declared a "green jihad" but is holy war action on climate change is mostly about seminars, symposiums and fasting. Saida is one of more than 10,000 interfaith clergy worldwide who fast the first day of each month to call attention to the problem of global warming. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

    Imam Ibrahim Saidy of Norway poses at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. Saidy of Norway has declared a "green jihad" but is holy war action on climate change is mostly about seminars, symposiums and fasting. Saida is one of more than 10,000 interfaith clergy worldwide who fast the first day of each month to call attention to the problem of global warming. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)  (The Associated Press)

  • Rev. Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archibishop of Cape Town, poses with a shirt reading "I fast for the Climate" the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. More than 10,000 interfaith clergy worldwide fast the first day of each month to call attention to the problem of global warming (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

    Rev. Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archibishop of Cape Town, poses with a shirt reading "I fast for the Climate" the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. More than 10,000 interfaith clergy worldwide fast the first day of each month to call attention to the problem of global warming (AP Photo/Francois Mori)  (The Associated Press)

Imam Ibrahim Saidy brought his symposiums and his monthly fasting to the Paris climate talks, hoping to call attention to the problems and injustice of global warming.

He calls it "green jihad."

The Muslim cleric from Norway came up with the idea of an environmental holy movement a year ago. He uses the word jihad in its meaning of a struggle to do good, as opposed to extremists' use of it to signify a holy war.

"The green jihad is to protect and save lives," Saidy told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "To make people aware of the dangers of climate change and fight for climate justice."

Saidy is part of a growing interfaith religious movement seeking action by governments to fight global warming. For the past two years, about 10,000 religious activists have been fasting on the first day of the month to call attention to global warming, according to Caroline Bader of the Lutheran World Federation.

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The idea came out of climate talks two years ago when Super Typhoon Haiyan smacked the Philippines, causing the Philippines negotiator at the climate talks to forego food. The religious faithful joined in and haven't stopped.

Tuesday was a fast day, so Saidy and dozens of others sat behind empty food trays at the climate conference, talking about why they were not eating.

"I'm fasting today because our world will never be complete until there's space at the table — the climate just table — for everyone," said the Rev. John McCullough, the New York based head of Church World Service.

While Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment this year has lent a powerful moral voice to the issue of climate change, he is far from alone.

"The pope is an absolute rock star, a total gift to the climate movement," said Anna Joyner, a religious climate activist and campaign strategist for We Are Here Now in the United States.

"Our parents are more interested in the afterlife and the spiritual world," Joyner said. "Young evangelicals are also interested in those things but tend to be more focused on what we can do now and the whole idea of bringing the kingdom of heaven to Earth."

Joyner, the daughter of an Evangelical megachurch pastor, brought some Christian musicians from North Carolina to the Paris climate talks.

"Peace is at stake here," said the most Rev. Thabo Cecil Makgoba, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. "It is both a moral and ethical issue. And it is a spiritual issue."