Faithful speak out at People’s Climate Assembly after bushfires

Buddhists, Anglicans, Catholics, Quakers and people of other faiths joined thousands of concerned Australians in Canberra during the first sitting week of Parliament to stand up for meaningful action on climate change.

The distress caused by the bushfire crisis has, for many, heightened their sense of urgency that much stronger national action is needed.

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) co-hosted the gathering, known as the People’s Climate Assembly. Christian ARRCC supporters made a Meditation Tent available and a number of faith leaders participated in the peaceful, silent encirclement of Parliament House on the Tuesday afternoon.

Well-known Gosford Anglican priest, Fr Rod Bower, helped lead an Interfaith Mourning Ritual on the Tuesday morning for bushfire victims. The Ritual was organised by the Canberra Interfaith Forum and the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. 

Fr Bower said, “A religious response to climate change is essential for a healthy spirituality. It’s an expression of our connection with God, with each other and with the earth. Our responsibility to care for the earth is something that is common to all the faiths.”

Gillian Reffell, a Buddhist and Secretary of ARRCC, was part of a panel of faith speakers on the Monday which included Fr Bower and a Catholic Brigidine Sister, Jane Keogh.

Ms Reffell said, “With the wake-up call that has been the bushfire crisis, we ask that the Government be guided by those experts who are offering pathways to a prosperous and sustainable future which does not depend on fossil fuels.”

“Australia is very vulnerable to global warming,” she said. “It would be in the interests of country people, our children, Australia’s Pacific neighbours and the world if we finally begin to embrace the new, clean technologies of the future.”

Sr Jane Keogh spoke about the need to reach out to the “unconvinced”. “With so many suffering the direct effects of climate change, now is a pivotal time to counter the lies of the Murdoch media.”

“People are good at heart, but they don’t understand the facts,” she advised the gathering. “Right now, as long as they think that you do respect them, they might be more interested in talking about the issues. Talk about how the climate issue has affected you personally and what you’re doing about it. Then listen, be respectful.”

The People’s Climate Assembly is hosting five days of events, with a coalition of more than twenty community organisations, including School Strike for Climate, Stop Adani, Maritime Workers Union, Aboriginal Elders, Extinction Rebellion, ARRCC and Doctors for the Environment.

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Thea Ormerod

Thea Ormerod is President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. Please visit