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Charles McNeill Addresses the Closing Plenary

Charles McNeill addresses the Closing Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA. The Closing Plenary was sponsored by The Fetzer Institute.

Good afternoon. In the assembly event this week entitled “An Urgent Call to Protect the Amazon,” we learned that conserving tropical forests is essential to protect our climate and nature. 

We learned that the Amazon rainforest is one of the most critical elements of the Earth’s climate system, generating enormous amounts of rainfall and strongly influencing weather patterns all over the world. We learned that it plays a critical role in fighting climate change by holding billions of tons of carbon, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere with deadly consequences. We also learned that deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is at a dangerous tipping point that could transform, that could degrade rich forests into dry grassy savannas with profound impacts on the world’s climate, food production, human health, and well-being. 

In short, we learned that protecting the Amazon is everyone’s business, perhaps most importantly, those of us here today, faith communities. This week, we heard directly from many inspiring and courageous Indigenous leaders who are on the front lines of protecting the Amazon, including the new Minister of Indigenous Peoples from Brazil, Sonia Guajajara. 

We were reminded that to sustain the Amazon, we must recognize the rights of the Indigenous peoples who have been responsibly stewarding these forests for centuries. And they face serious threats and attacks today for defending the Amazon from predatory and destructive interests.

And we heard how central, in fact inseparable, Indigenous peoples’ cultures, traditional knowledge, and spiritualities are to the protection of forests.

We discussed how the United Nations, together with the Parliament of the World’s Religions and other interfaith groups represented here, created the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative IRI as a platform for action on the protection of tropical forests. And we reflected on the coming together of religious leaders and Indigenous peoples in common purpose and joint action through IRI programs in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how they’ve created powerful and uplifting new coalitions to protect forests and forest defenders.

Notably, all Parliament participants were invited to endorse a call to action to bring your spiritual resources, your commitment, your influence to bear on these issues. And to that end, we will now see a short video that was produced just last week for the head of state Amazon summit that took place in Brazil and for this very Parliament.

This was displaying the important work of IRI in the Amazon. Thank you very much.

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