The event included speakers from different religious traditions and UN personnel who together were seeking an understanding of our shared history, and providing insights on how we can overcome the colonial model.
This webinar was organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC), with ACT Alliance, Islamic Relief, Soka Gakkai International, and United Religions Initiative. The event was moderated by Dr Ryan Smith, WCC programme executive and representative to the United Nations in New York.
Audri Scott Williams, the first woman to lead a global walk for human rights and environmental justice, said she believes the challenge is to look deep into the wounds of colonialism and racism, and to go deep into the wounds of slavery.
Part of going into those wounds is considering racism from a child’s point of view, she reflected. “What racism looks like, what it feels like for a child is very painful,” she said, and children begin to ask: “What makes me different? What makes me not worthy?”
“Here we are in the midst of great climate change and those individuals who are most impacted by climate change are communities of color from around the world,” she said. “For the unborn children, we have a responsibility now—we have a responsibility as we come together.”
Dr Charles McNeill, senior advisor on forests and climate for the United Nations Environment Programme, oversees the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative. His reflections began when he noted that the evidence is overwhelming that indigenous peoples’ cultures and ways of life provide significant benefits to our planet’s forests, climate and biodiversity through the stewardship and safeguarding of their lands.
“We are seeing evidence of a powerful new kind of partnership between religious leaders and indigenous leaders that may begin to serve as an antidote to centuries of colonialism and racism,” said McNeill. “Without enforceable rights to their lands, territories and natural resources, indigenous peoples are unable to apply the traditional knowledge and practices that are so essential to global environmental protection efforts.”