Faith leaders call BP spill a wake up call
A group of Christians, Jews and Muslim leaders called the Gulf Coast oil spill a “wake up call” and said the crisis has both moral and economic dimensions.
Leaders of the different faith groups came together to witness first hand the damage caused by the BP oil spill and pray, the Interfaith website said.
They converged at First Grace United Methodist Church, held an interfaith prayer service, then rode a boat down Barataria Bay, the Huffington Post said.
While seeing the extent of the damage, they dwelled on the moral consequences of heavy dependence on oil, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said.
“From my perspective, it’s an insult to God and a sin against creation,” Rev. Sally Bingham, an Episcopal priest who heads Interfaith Power and Light in San Francisco said. Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, a social justice movement in Washington said, “This is not a spill; it’s a spoilage” of God’s creation, the Huffington Post said.
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Rabbinical Assembly said the larger lesson is acknowledging the need to reduce dependence on petroleum. “We all need to turn from short-term gratification … rather than indulge ourselves with this unlimited consumption,” she told the Huffington Post.
Rev. Gerald Durley of Providence Missionary Baptist Church said, “Until one comes down to actually see the devastation happening you cannot understand fully what’s going on. The faith community must serve as a catalyst,” Religious Action Center said.
Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell of the Progressive National Baptist Convention said, “We need to put a face on this disaster,” Religious Action Center said. Dr. Mahmoud Sarmini, a New Orleans-area physician and a Muslim, cited the Quran calling man God’s viceroy on earth, implying humans’ responsibility for creation, the Huffington Post said.
During their three-day visit the group also met with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. They discussed the damage, cleanup efforts, and strategies by which their ministries in their home states could help, Huffington Post said.
Also discussed were the possibilities for lobbying in Congress and the White House for new domestic energy policies.
The Interfaith website cited a new poll by the Benenson Strategy Group which shows that more Americans would like comprehensive energy reform, and will vote for legislators who support such measures. Also noted was the perception that dependence on fossil fuels poses a security threat.
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, cited Jewish tradition that views creation as “on loan” from God, hence should be wisely used. While calling for a new energy policy Saperstein said, “That doesn’t mean we don’t need to use fossil fuel, or drill for oil until we get ourselves off, but we have to move more quickly to get off, and while we are relying on these fossil fuels we have to be much more insistent that there be safety precautions,” the Huffington Post said.
Saperstein also said he hopes that the world will not forget the need for sustained energy reform when the crisis has been resolved. “We are going to be here and the rest of the religious institutions will be here. Religious institutions will play a central role on the Gulf Coast for a long time,” Religious Action Center said.