Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (second from right), UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence with representatives of His Holiness Pope Francis, and of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, with COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber (second from left) at the Faith Pavilion at COP28 at Expo City Dubai on Sunday Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: World religious leaders, scientists and global political officials came together for the inauguration of the first-ever Faith Pavilion at a COP, on the fourth day of COP28 in Dubai on Sunday, to discuss the role of faith communities and religious institutions in addressing the climate crisis.

Held under the patronage of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the inauguration was attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, representing His Holiness Pope Francis.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, and Pope Francis both addressed the audience virtually via video, wherein they each highlighted the urgency for urgent action against climate change.

The first-of-its-kind Faith Pavilion - which is co-hosted by the COP28 Presidency of the UAE, the UAE Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence, the Holy See, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Muslim Council of Elders, and a coalition of faith partners - is dedicated to the engagement of faith communities and will host panels with religious leaders, scientists, and political leaders, as well as encourage intergenerational dialogue involving youth and indigenous representatives.

Pope and Grand Imam’s messages

In his video address, Pope Francis said: “Today, the world needs alliances that are not against someone, but for the benefit of everyone. Let us, as religious representatives, set an example to show that change is possible, to demonstrate respectful and sustainable lifestyles, and let us fervently ask the leaders of nations to preserve our common home”.

In his video address, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar said: “The exceptional initiatives undertaken by the Muslim Council of Elders - firstly, inviting diverse religious figures to sign the Abu Dhabi Interfaith Statement for COP28 and secondly, establishing the first-ever Faith Pavilion at COP28 - are precious opportunities in making the voice of religious leaders heard in the face of global challenges - especially advancing the protection of our common home from irreversible destruction, which looms larger every passing year.”

Committed to cooperation, action

Sheikh Nahyan welcomed everyone to the Faith Pavilion and said: “We affirm that the UAE, under the wise leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stands as a nation dedicated to peace, embracing it both as a means and an end. The UAE also prioritises tolerance, harmony, and human fraternity as fundamental principles and plays a pivotal role on the global stage by diligently working towards protecting the environment and achieving sustainable development. The UAE is also deeply committed to cooperation and collective action, firmly believing that the progress and stability of the world depends on such collaboration.”

Historic moment

Meanwhile, COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber, said: “Climate change cares little about our politics, our borders, or our differences in religion. Our success depends on our ability to come together as one global community to solve it, and global faith communities play a significant role in instilling awareness of the shared social responsibility of all people worldwide towards environmental protection. Faith communities have come together in a truly historic moment of hope, peace, and optimism, uniting around a shared commitment to protect our planet.”

Interfaith Statement

The Faith Pavilion builds on the success of an earlier gathering of more than 200 religious leaders, scientists, youth, academics and environmental experts in Abu Dhabi at the Global Faith Leaders’ Summit on November 6 and 7.

During the Summit, 28 faith leaders signed the ‘Confluence of Conscience: Uniting for Planetary Resurgence’ also known as ‘The Abu Dhabi Interfaith Statement for COP28’, which expressed their “shared concern” over escalating climate impacts, as well as a joint commitment to address the crisis. The Statement is on display in the Faith Pavilion, which is located in the Blue Zone at COP28.

Recognising that over 84 per cent of the world’s population identifies with a religion, the Faith Pavilion seeks to unite religious representatives, communities, and institutions in support of climate action and the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.

In October, Dr Al Jaber was received in audience the Pope. He praised the Pope’s unwavering advocacy for positive climate action, following the release of Laudate Deum, the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation, which contained an appeal to address the climate crisis.