It's been one month since the devastating typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with the death toll now estimated to be nearly 5800 with another 1780 people missing. As world leaders sat in Warsaw just days later for the annual round of climate talks, one Filipino in particular, the country's lead negotiator Yeb Sano, made headlines for his emotional plea for the world to wake up to the reality of man-made climate change that will make superstorms like Haiyan more frequent and more intense.
While world leaders disagreed about targets, nit-picked over wording and generally avoided responsibility, across Europe a group of young Muslims have been spearheading a new Islamic environmental movement under the banner of "Green Up My Community!" a joint campaign run by youth organisations MADE in Europe and the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO).
When the message of Islam was conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the 7th Century, life was much simpler and living harmoniously with nature was well, second nature because people relied on and respected the environment as the means for their livelihoods and survival. The Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad are packed full of teachings extolling the wonders of nature as signs of God, urging us to live balanced and moderate lives, avoiding excessive use of natural resources and respecting animals as "communities just like yourselves" (Qur'an 6:38).
Fast forward 1400 years and never have we been more in need of examining the way we live and re-thinking our relationship with the environment. With this in mind, MADE in Europe launched the UK's first eco mosque scheme, the Green Up! Award, to encourage mosques to lead the way in the movement to become more environmentally sustainable.
A number of mosques have already made pledges to work towards the Green Up! Award including west London's Al Manar which is planning to provide cycling lessons and bike racks outside the mosque, the East London Mosque in Whitechapel which has bee hives on its roof; and Palmers' Green Mosque in north London where volunteers have set up a community food growing plot.
There are even several eco-mosques mosques in the pipeline in the UK which fully embrace the Islamic vision of humans fulfilling their responsibility as stewards on the earth including the Cambridge Mosque Project and the student-led Salford Ecomosque. The Chair of the Salford Ecomosque Usman Ali spoke at the launch of the Green Up! Award saying that he hoped it would provide inspiration for a whole new generation of environmentally-friendly places of worship.
With storms like Typhoon Haiyan becoming a scarily more frequent occurrence, we need a truly global movement of people from all backgrounds and walks of life who are wide awake to the reality of climate change. Mosques in the UK and further afield in Europe are getting ready to Green Up! and do their bit to reduce their carbon footprints.
For more info about the Green Up! Award visit www.madeineurope.org.uk/greenupmosque.