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700 warned of a climate doomsday
but sway to the beat of faith and hope

More pictures of Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Washington, March 13, 2009 For the 700 people of faith who came to Washington this weekend for the seventh annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days March 13-16, the opening worship Friday night must have been a roller coaster of emotions.

The soaring music of Tracy McDonnell's St. Camillus Multicultural Choir brought some to their feet, swaying to the beat, just before the Rev. Sean McDonagh, a Columban priest, cited evidence that global warming will reduce a third of the earth to desert by 2010.

A procession brought elements of earth, wind, fire and air to an altar -- each fundamental to  life on the planet. Delegates were invited to celebrate these gifts of nature while confessing how each had been defiled by sinful human action.

Even so, Father McDonagh also said it was not too late to prevent a planet-wide catastrophe, "but serious action must begin now" -- action, he noted, that the world's governments have shown little interest in taking.

But in his words of welcome, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches,  declared, "What a difference a year makes!" The delegates applauded loudly as he cited the election of a new administration in Washington, "which makes it possible for us to play offense, not just defense."

Kinnamon noted he has been attending Ecumenical Advocacy Days gatherings out of his commitment to justice, peace and the health of creation, even before he became NCC general secretary last year.

And the mood remained upbeat as the delegates closed worship by singing La Paz de le Tierra, The Peace of the Earth, the common song for Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2009.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Days theme is "Enough for All Creation." On Saturday and Sunday, delegates will sit in plenary sessions and workshops focusing on how global warming affects the world's populations, especially the poor, and what people of faith can do to stem the tide of destruction.

On Monday, delegates will leave their base at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center and head for Capitol Hill to urge members of Congress and other political leaders to take the action necessary to prevent the destruction of the earth's environment.

In his opening remarks Friday night, McDonagh refuted claims that rises and falls in the earth's average temperature are natural and the current warming will eventually subside.

He said the vast majority of the world's scientists believe global warming is caused by human action, mostly through dramatic increases in air pollutants caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

He quoted a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that global warming has caused a 70 percent increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes, typhoons and other major storms.

"A one or two degree Celsius rose could wipe out one-third of the species on this planet -- it would shut down God's creation," he said.

The rise in global temperature due to greenhouse emissions is not taken serious enough, Father McDonagh said. "I argue this is the most serious  reality facing the planet today, and facing that reality must be the most important religious issue."

McDonagh praised the World Council of Churches for being among the first to call attention to the issue.

"Churches and religions can play a vital role in affecting consciences," he said.

He called upon the delegates to lead others in developing a prayerful approach to the issue -- gratitude to God for the earth, humility for human responsibility to protect it, prayers for forgiveness for failing that responsibility, and pleas for courage to remain committed to the cause of reducing climate change.

More pictures of Ecumenical Advocacy Days



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