During a world-wide Divestment Week of Action initiated by the global Catholic Laudato Si’ Movement, Australian people of faith and their organisations are being encouraged to consider divesting from fossil fuels.  

A multi-faith prayer service, held at St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Parramatta on Thursday 9 March as part of the Week of Action was organised by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).  

Leaders from several faiths participated in the event, including Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Ven Bhante Sujato, Rabbi George Mordecai, Rev Dr Shenouda Mansour and Ahmet Ozturk, Centre Manager at the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy.

Held during the Christian season of Lent, the event highlighted that people of faith and faith-based organisations should “repent” of unwittingly allowing their savings to finance coal, oil and gas mining.

Ahmet Ozturk from the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy called the Azan at the start of prayers. Photo credit: ARRCC

Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta said in his homily, “The time has come for us to act decisively to reduce our carbon footprint, to invest in renewable energy, to divest from fossil fuels, to consume less and waste less ….”

“So ‘now is the time for new courage in abandoning fossil fuels, to accelerate the development of zero- or positive-impact sources of energy,’ Pope Francis said recently. The Vatican Bank itself does not invest in fossil fuels and it is hoped that this example is followed, not just by Catholics but others as well,” he said.

Faith-based organisations have been among the first to embrace fossil fuel divestment, both in Australia and globally. Worldwide, of all organisations to have committed to divestment, those that are faith-based are the largest in number. 

It makes sense. Faith-based organisations come out of long revered traditions of seeking to live more ethically. For Muslims, shariah-compliant investing excludes businesses that earn their income through the sale of alcohol, addictive drugs, pork products, gambling, weapons and other products deemed to be harmful to society.

Given the well documented environmental harm caused by fossil fuels, ARRCC welcomes the news that the Islamic Bank of Australia is opening for business in 2024 with an industry-leading plan to avoid investing in fossil fuels. This is above and beyond traditional  practices in Islamic finance. 

Theravada Buddhist monk, Venerable Bhante Sujato says, “Escalating climate chaos unfolds before us every day, in every nation, in cold and heat, in flood and fire. We fear for ourselves and for our children, yet sometimes we do not even know that our own money is funding the madness.”

Thea Ormerod, president of ARRCC says, “It is not well known that the big banks and funds tend to invest heavily in coal, oil and gas mining and infrastructure, but certain banks, such as Bendigo Bank and Bank Australia, avoid this and instead engage in ‘positive impact investing’.” 

“We look forward to the Islamic Bank of Australia also offering its more ethical services,” she said.