Pope Francis arrives in the United States this week for a historic visit that will include an unprecedented address to a joint session of Congress. In his speech, the pope is expected to bring up the issue of climate change and call for action on the part of U.S. leadership, a message that has led at least one House member to boycott the pope's appearance.
The environment has been a major issue for the Catholic Church ever since the pope released a 180-page encyclical on climate change. In the papal letter, Pope Francis rightly tied human activity to global warming and framed action on behalf of the environment as a moral imperative.
The Catholic Church has a history of supporting environmental causes. Before Pope Francis released his encyclical, Pope John Paul II spoke out against pollution in a message on the World Day of Peace in 1990, and the United States Catholic Conference released a statement the following year calling the environmetal problems a "moral and religious crisis as well."
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The tradition of environmentalism in the Catholic Church goes as far back as Pope Francis' namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his love of animals and the environment and is the patron saint of ecology. The responsibility of environmental stewardship has Biblical roots in Genesis, in which God gave humans dominion over the Earth and its animals.
Christians aren't the only ones to embrace green issues. Other religions hold the environment sacred as well.
Islam With an estimated 1.6 billion adherents, Islam is the world's second most popular religion. Like Christians, Muslims see themselves as caretakers over God's creation.
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The Qu'ran, the holy book in Islam, contains over 750 references to ecology and how those principles can be applied to caring for the environment.
The Hadith, a collection of teachings by the prophet Muhammad, also contains a number of passages concerning wild animals, livestock, plants, crops, soil and of course water, an especially important resource in the desert societies from which Islam first emerged.
Judaism Given that both Christianity and Islam have their roots in Jewish scripture, Judaism unsurprisingly also endorses an environmental ethic. In addition to recognizing the earth and its inhabitants as God's creation and humans as having a responsibility as stewards of that creation, Jewish law prohibits wasteful consumption, Rabbi Lawrence Troster writes in the Huffington Post.
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According to Troster, environmental justice is also a Jewish value. "The Jewish concept of Tzedek (righteousness, justice and equity) demands that we create a worldwide economy that is sustainable and that is equitable in the distribution of wealth and resources," he writes.
Hinduism The Abrahamic religions aren't the only ones that incorporate ecology as a moral or religious tenet. Hinduism is a faith known for its reverance of all life and of the environment.
In Hindu teachings, the concept of ahimsa, which calls for respect for life, urges non-violence, and is a big reason why so many Hindus are vegetarian, according to the BBC. All life is linked together like the branches of the banyan tree, according to the Hindu god Krishna.
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The concept of karma also suggests that destruction of life or of the environment can lead to negative consequences for those who caused it.
Buddhism Buddhists, like Hindus, are known to be followers of an especially environmentally friendly faith. They also typically abstain from consuming meat and emphasize harmony with nature rather than control over it.
Like Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama has taken a similar stand on climate change and called on other religious leaders to do the same. During a panel discussion this June, the Dalai Lama even endorsed the pope's encyclical, describing it as "wonderful."
Although much has been made of the issue of science vs. religion, it seems that on one of the most important issues in our time, climate change, there's strong agreement about what's happening in the environment and what needs to be done to protect it.