Religion has an important role to play in the fight against climate change, according to Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Arab Emirates.
Speaking with Vatican News on the sidelines of the COP28 Climate Change Conference being held in Dubai, Archbishop El-Kassis explained that “religion has a big role to play in guiding people” and helping them “to change their mindset,” to change how people look at reality.
For this reason, said the Nuncio, the organizers of COP28 sought to involve religious leaders in the effort to combat global climate change. He noted that religious leaders can help “guide their faithful to think about humanity, about life, as a gift from God.”
“It’s a gift, and we have to care for it,” he continued. “We are also a gift, no? We are created by God. So, we have to thank the Lord for the gift of life and take care of the house that the Lord gave us, which is the Earth.”
A commitment to defend the climate
Asked about why it is important for a country like the UAE to host COP28, Archbishop El-Kassis highlighted the nation’s commitment to working “deeply and globally to defend the climate and to prevent climate change,” and noted its significant investments in the field.
He also noted that, although the UAE produces a great deal of oil, the country has made a commitment to pass from oil to clean energy – a commitment the Nuncio described as impressive and a model for other countries.
Touched by the message of Pope Francis
Finally, Archbishop El-Kassis noted the sadness due to the absence of Pope Francis, whose intended journey to Dubai for COP28 was cancelled due to concerns over the Pope’s health.
“We were very saddened to know that [the Pope] could not make it," he said. "We understand; everyone understands... but here we felt his absence because everybody was excited to meet His Holiness.”
Nonetheless, he said, “the Pope was with us in spirit.” The Nuncio noted that Pope Francis was represented by the Holy See’s Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who read the Holy Father’s message.
“I noticed that people were really touched by the message of His Holiness,” concluded the archbishop.