A lot of people have advice for President Obama for his meeting with Pope Francis this Thursday. Community organizer Ana Garcia-Ashley wants the president to encourage the pope to continue to “speak out on the dignity of work and workers’ rights and the need to curb the worst excesses of corporate capitalism.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants the president to explain why the Affordable Care Act mandates coverage for birth control and why “he is telling businesses in America they can’t remain true to their faith and stay in business.”
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life are offering some slightly less partisan advice: The two groups are encouraging community members to sign a petition asking the president to talk about environmental conservation with the pope.
“Protecting our environment is a political and religious imperative,” said JCPA president and COEJL cochair Rabbi Steve Gutow in a statement. “As Jews, we are called on by our teachings to protect the environment. Each of us is a steward of God’s creation. Our responsibility is great, not only to ourselves and our brothers and sisters around the globe, but to future generations as well.”
The petition, which is posted on the White House’s website, is light on specifics; instead, it urges the two leaders to “discuss the sacred obligation of people across faiths to protect God’s creation.” It also urges Obama to invite Francis to “visit one of America’s national parks and monuments.”
Few Jews might consider the environment the most pressing issue on the Jewish agenda. But given the fast rate of global industrialization and the frightening pace of climate change, there may be no more important issue for interfaith groups working in coalition.
As JCPA chair Susan Turnbull put it, “Both President Obama and Pope Francis have spoken independently about our responsibility for creation and the risks of ignoring climate change. For them to do so together would be a powerful reminder to all communities that we cannot squander resources or permanently damage our environment.”