Returning to the Mind to Bring about External Change - World Summit of Conscience in Paris

Climate change is no longer a new issue; nevertheless it is an essential challenge of this century that requires the total commitment of all people.

Due to the urgency of this matter, on 21 July 2015 the French government invited nearly four hundred leaders of the world’s religions and cultures, as well as ambassadors from the countries of the COP delegates, Nobel Peace Laureates, experts on the climate and environment, and also influential representatives from secular communities to gather at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council of Paris for the Summit of Conscience for the Climate. Ven Chang Ji(常濟) and Ven Chang Zao(常藻)represented DDM at the summit as the only representatives of Chinese Buddhism.

During the introductory session, President Hollande of France invited the experts and attendees to offer their precious opinions so as to find real solutions that could be implemented, rather than regulations set by governments. He emphasized that we are all part of the world community and the future of the world requires mobilization on a global scale.

This summit is a preamble to the COP 21 Climate Conference in Paris at the end of this year where 195 countries will be asked to reach a universal, legally binding agreement to limit the increase in the global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Prior to the launch of this summit, President Hollande decided on a new approach of generating discussions and implementation that was based on individual personal conscience. He therefore appointed Nicolas Hulot, a famous French television presenter on wildlife and environmental issues, as the special envoy to organize this summit, so as to effectively bring about such awareness to every corner of the world.

According to Nicolas Hulot, instead of offering professional opinions at the skills level, discussion should begin from the inner depth of our heart to express concerns towards climate change and actions that follows. He also mentioned that it is advisable for every person to do sitting meditation, as external conflicts could only be dissolved through peace within our mind.

Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan mentioned that climate change is the largest challenge on earth in this century. For the sake of our future generations, we should not take it lightly, as we have the responsibility to leave for them a world in which mankind and nature coexists in peace. This reflects the African saying which goes “the earth does not belong to us, but we are responsible to safeguard this treasure for our future generations.”

Mr Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Sant’ Egidio community said that we are like the blind who has ignored the truth during the course of life, harming ourselves and even destroying the living environment of the children of the future. We therefore need to treat others and the earth we reside in with compassion.

Quite different from the usual way of formal speech presentation, this summit designed the theme of ‘why do I care?’ to stimulate each participant to respond to the question at a personal level and think of the significant role they may play as a member of the human family to help tackle the climate problem before it is irreversible. The summit came up with the “call to conscience for the climate” to be shared globally through the internet.

The Abott President of DDM has also presented a short article that is uploaded on the summit website.

The French government, the organizer, along with leading French publisher Bayard Press and the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and other religious, social and economic organizations, designed a unique schedule for every participant to discuss and reflect.

The summit started with the question ‘why should we care?’ as the opening theme to generate discussion regarding the importance of the issue of climate change, either through the sharing of personal experience, viewpoints and visions, or religious and cultural perspectives. Through the second theme ‘why do I care?’, guest speakers shared how their personal efforts would bring about beneficial change to the global climate. This is the core session of the summit, designed with the hope to generate more reflections through extensive discussion.

Having initiated personal motivation, the third theme ‘how do I show that I care?’ explored the individual’s personal involvement in the fight against climate change, from the change of personal habits, all the way to coming up with policies related to ethical issues. Finally, the fourth theme ‘inspiring the world to care’ corresponded with the ultimate goal of the summit - to ignite the will of all people of the world to act for the climate, and jointly contribute to the earth.

Apart from these plenary sessions, some religious experience and cultural performances were also organized. Ven Chang Ji(常濟) and Ven Chang Zao were invited to perform a Buddhist chant, through which the participants were guided to return to the inner self and to generate vows as a source of motivation.

It was touching that in this summit, participants have stepped away from policies and statistics as the basis of discussion, to rather speak from their own inner reflections and to connect to the world. Many political leaders or environmental experts have repeatedly affirmed that the role of religion in propagating environmental protection is of the utmost importance. Many panelists also brought up the fact that mankind possesses many strengths, for example love, conscience, and the capacity to change. The return to inner peace will definitely bring about external change, as there is a close connection between each one of us as well as with the earth. We are indeed all one.

Written by Venerable Chan Zhao/ translated by Venerable Chan Ji (常寂)/ edited by Australia Editing Team

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