SHAFAQNA -Â Catholics, Protestants and Muslims joined Tuesday in support of Pope Francisâ€™ encyclical on the environment and signed a letter calling on New Mexico civic leaders to address climate change, environmental degradation and poverty.
The letter â€“ signed by 92 clergy and lay members â€“ calls for New Mexicans to support a scathing communique from Pope Francis in June, in which he warned that the planet is â€œbeginning to look like an immense pile of filth,â€ and drew a connection between climate, pollution and poverty.
Religious leaders announced the letter at a news conference and called for action on issues ranging from clean energy sources to greater support for early childhood programs.
â€œWe do not have unrestricted freedom to misuse creation,â€ Rabbi Min Kantorwitz said outside St. Therese Catholic School in Albuquerque. â€œIn our ignorance and in our greed we have damaged the world. There is no one else but us to repair it.â€
Sister Joan Brown, executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, said organizers plan to distribute the letter widely as â€œan ethical and moral guideâ€ for policymakers as they make decisions about air, water and economic issues.
â€œThis is an opportunity for dialogue about issues that are very difficult and that we are not discussing,â€ Brown said. â€œThe encyclical needs to start more dialogue leading to action.â€
Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Council of Catholic Bishops, said that New Mexicans can expect the stateâ€™s three bishops to promote wind and solar energy and increased funding for programs to support children and fight poverty.
â€œEnvironmental pollution has a clear connection to poverty,â€ Sanchez said. â€œIt has the greatest effect on the poor.â€
â€œWe have been placed on Earth for the purpose of taking care of it,â€ said Necip Orhan, a lay Muslim and New Mexico representative for the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest. â€œWe should encourage the idea that less is more.â€
Donna McNiel, an Episcopal priest and executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches, said the papal encyclical can help build public support for environmental and social support policies.
â€œWe continue building the coalition to the point that elected leaders canâ€™t ignore us,â€ McNiel said. â€œWe have to get to the point that even the most anti-environmental leaders must shift. I hope it happens before we destroy the nest.â€