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Elizabeth Maupin shares insights from POWR

Along with Corey Passons attending the Parliament of World Religions in August in Chicago, Elizabeth Maupin and Cynthia Figge of Spirit of Peace UCC in Issaquah.

Elizabeth Maupin of Peace UCC and the Eastside Interfaith Concerns Council in Issaquah attended the 2023 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago during August.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Maupin

Elizabeth attended because she won a drawing at Seattle University and received free passes. She just paid transportation and shared a room with a friend from the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

“The Parliament of World Religions is what set off the interfaith movement,” said Elizabeth, who works with the Eastside Interfaith Social Concerns Council and is concerned by interfaith strife across the world.

With more than 8,000 people attending from across the globe, there were many plenaries and workshops with many speakers.

This year the Parliament of World Religions returned to its birthplace in Chicago where this interfaith movement began in 1893.

“Call to Conscience” was the overall theme, with sessions dealing with such issues as climate action, faith and interfaith understanding, peace and justice, the global ethic document, women, the next generation and indigenous peoples, said Elizabeth who was particularly drawn to sessions on climate action and indigenous peoples. 

“Indigenous communities contribute the least to climate change but have the most wisdom to share on ways to live to end climate change,” she said.

Elizabeth reported on several sessions.

• The first session she attended was “Protecting the Rights of Future Generations: The Time for Intergenerational Justice Is Now.” Vanessa Nakate, the UN Secretary General’s envoy on youth and a climate activist from Uganda, reported that biodiversity is being rapidly destroyed and people must act quickly to leave a better planet for future generations.

• Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for Environmental Law, emphasized the need for a moral and legal system that gives tools to leave children’s children a livable climate and world. He said that a Montana court found that young people have a constitutional right to a healthful environment and that the state must consider potential climate damage of projects. 

• David Hales,chair of the Climate Justice Task Force of the POWR, noted that “we are winning the soft law battle on future generations human rights” with these principles and many resolutions, policies and treaties, but strong arguments for these rights are not accompanied by answers about enforcement.  Overlapping jurisdictions keep anyone from being responsible for carrying out resolutions. 

He suggested: “Not only do we need a mandatory phase down of fossil fuels, but also we need to be cautious about what we are putting in place of fossil fuels. We need to be conscious of the unintended consequences of our choices.” 

He believes carbon capture and injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere are dangerous solutions.  Even solar panels have impacts in terms of mining critical minerals and a failure to recycle outdated panels.

• Tom Goldtooth, a Navajo and Dakota environmental, climate and economic justice activist, noted that “rights” are hard to translate into indigenous languages. The Indigenous worldview is about right relationships. The Dakota term, “mitakuyapi,” translates as “all my relatives” and includes belief that all of nature, even rocks, have spirit. 

Rather than rights, he suggests speaking of concern and respect, for we are all part of the Great Spirit. At Standing Rock, he said the cry of “mni wiconi” was “water is life.”

“Water, Mother Earth, and Father Sky are all sacred,” he said, concerned that earth is being destroyed by legal systems of societies that have no concept of the sacred connection with the earth.

“The western idea of human dominion is foreign to Indigenous spirituality,” he said, referring to the Bimidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship.

“If we are to leave clean water and a healthy earth, we will need to learn from those peoples who have carefully observed the ways of nature in their environments and learned how to live in harmony with nature and maintain balance in their ecosystems,” said Elizabeth. 

“We were encouraged to look at our varied creation stories and our relation to the Creator,” she continued. “We could be asking questions about why oil is in the ground, the purpose of gas in the natural order, the impact of individual property rights and how to move from a death-dealing extractive economy to a living economy.

“Our Eurocentric colonial mindset needs to be replaced with a communitarian approach if our species and many others are to survive,” she said, summarizing one session that offered Indigenous voices.

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Pacific Northwest United Church News © Winter 2023-24


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