Meet six of Canada's Fossil Free Faith leaders.

Image by Fossil Free Faith Canada.

Image by Fossil Free Faith Canada.

What you might not know about the fight for climate justice is how it’s inherently rooted in both the social and environmental movements. Vancouver’s Fossil Free Faith team are a group of leaders paving a new path that bridges religion and faith to seek common understandings as we move towards a new energy future. This collective brings people of different faith backgrounds and lived experiences together to celebrate diversity and contribute new perspectives to Canada’s climate justice movement. Here are some of their stories.

Maisaloon Al-Ashkar

I'm a Muslim woman and displaced Palestinian who is grateful to live, work, and learn as an immigrant-settler on unceded Coast Salish Territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and Stó:lō peoples.

I aspire to situate all of who I am in any activism I engage with, which I’m excited to be able to do through my involvement with Fossil Free Faith. I want to participate in and cultivate safe, inclusive, and decolonized spaces for, by, and alongside the marginalized communities I identify with. As the granddaughter of Palestinian farmers, freedom fighters, and refugees, I'm proud to carry the oral histories and legacies of my ancestors. They exemplify the beautifully empowered sense of community and purpose that comes with cherishing that liberation of people, cultures, and lands are intertwined. They are the core of who I am and everything I do.

Sarah Beley

Raised Ukrainian Orthodox in Edmonton, Alberta, I come to Fossil Free Faith with a love and passion for diversity and dialogue. I’m a graduate of Simon Fraser University with a B.A. in Political Science and Dialogue Communications; an alumni of both the Semester in Dialogue and the Radius Fellowship program. My most pivotal moment of environmental awareness came from my year living and working in Wenzhou, China, where I experienced and witnessed the devastating effects of environmental degradation.

The main tenet of an Orthodox Christian is “to love thy neighbour as thyself”. Within a global context my neighbor is redefined from the local to the international, where all of my private and seemingly isolated actions are interconnected with others and the environment. Climate justice, in its pursuit to fight global inequality and poverty, becomes the simple commandment of loving thy neighbour as thyself. Concern for the natural environment is directly related to concern for issues of social justice, and particularly, world hunger.

In the past, I struggled with how others compartmentalized many issues I could see as interrelated. I believe that interfaith and intercultural dialogue are part of the solution. Fossil Free Faith is a way to deepen the conversation on climate change, and serves as a more inclusive tool to engage communities not typically being involved in such important conversations.

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Maggie Knight

As someone from unceded Coast Salish territory in Victoria, B.C., I have been speaking up for climate justice since my teenage years. After years of climate activism with the Sierra Youth Coalition, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, and others, I served as President of McGill's undergraduate student union during the Quebec student strike, and as Managing Director of political advocacy, non-profit Leadnow.ca.

Less publicly, I’m a Quaker—a religious tradition grounded in testimonies of simplicity, equality, integrity, community, and peace. Quakers worship in silence, each inwardly listening for divine guidance; with no priest or preacher, all gathered are welcome to give spoken ministry if they feel "led". I have learned from Quaker elders who have worked for justice for decades, from the front lines of the civil rights movement to standing up for indigenous rights in James Bay.

Faith communities have a powerful role to play in articulating the moral imperative for climate justice and leading by example. I now work with RADIUS at Simon Fraser University, collaborating with social innovators to build a new economy that’s just, sustainable, and healthy for all.

Talia Martz-Oberlander

My roots in the outdoors of British Columbia and my Jewish religion and heritage instill a love and sense of responsibility to preserve the global biome I grew up in. I am a young adult who stands to profit from the systems that afford me privilege bless me as an educated, white Canadian;, but I embrace Jewish ethical teachings that instruct us to save and preserve life and not profit from destructive practices.

I’ve been told divesting from fossil fuels is foolhardy, but I know that the real folly is idly waiting for the floods to hit. Only two generations ago, most of my relatives were social refugees, so how can I continue to profit while millions become climate refugees? I know that my and my children’s generation will be most affected by our practices today. We need to break our financial and energy addictions to fossil fuels and invest in our future instead.

Jason Wood

A Christian from an early age, I know that followers of Jesus must engage with climate change, if we take seriously his fundamental mandate to love our neighbor.

As part of an intentional Christian community in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, I’ve heard how my First Nation neighbours have been impacted by large industrial projects that threaten their people’s way of life. I’ve seen how current fossil fuel related projects disregard the voices of marginalized peoples at home, who see their land and water poisoned, and of countless poorer communities abroad, reeling from the changing global climate’s impacts.

My faith—centered on a man who suffered, died, yet was raised miraculously again, and inspired by people like Pope Francis and his namesake—provides me with hope for a transforming moral vision of reconciliation and renewal. I long for my neighbours and all of creation.

Leo Yu

I have a deep faith in God, a love for Jesus, and progressive values. I belong to St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church—a church that is democratic, inclusive and justice-oriented.

My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were Chinese immigrants who persevered despite living in poverty and facing discrimination in Canada. I was born and raised in Vancouver where I breathe fresh air and drink clean water. I feel at home by the sea, forests, and mountains. That's why a strong public sector and a healthy environment are so important to me.

I find Jesus’ story and teachings incredibly inspiring. When I look around and see rising poverty and inequality, sexism, racism, religious persecution, and environmental destruction, I pray for the courage to be a radical social activist like Jesus.

(All photos by Caelie Frampton)