Before the recent UN Climate Change Conference COP 22 in Marrakech, A Summit of Conscience was held on 2nd and 3rd November in the ancient and beautiful city of Fes, at which I had the honour of speaking. The Summit, under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, brought together religious and spiritual leaders from many faith traditions to look at the issue of climate change and the future of our world.

One of the speakers in particular caught my attention — Nicolas Hulot. He spoke about the need for not just more science and technology and information but, rather, for wisdom and conscience. Nicolas was Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet for COP21 and it was he who was inspired to hold the first Summit of Conscience in Paris last year. It is a reality that climate change isn’t a result of an environmental crisis, but rather a crisis of conscience — or we could say a spiritual crisis.

The foundation of spirituality is trust. At the heart of all traditions lie three things:

1) respect for the sacred and the Divine — however we understand and experience that to be

2) deep values

3) respect for what life is about

Whatever we human beings do, we do based on these core understandings. What has happened over the last 100 years is that we have come to listen more to economics, media and politics, but not to the voice of conscience. And so it has become numb — the voice of conscience has stopped speaking. If you don’t listen to a friend, as a good friend, he won’t talk to you anymore. The same happened with our conscience. We didn’t listen, because we were just too busy following where everyone else was going.

In Fes I saw people with an awakened conscience coming together. Of course, we’re talking about a minority. But, then, it has always been a minority that has brought about change in the world. It starts when a small group of people say: we need to listen to our conscience. And what happens as a result? We move away from a narrow, self-centered perspective and move towards seeing the whole of humanity as our family and the planet as our home. The choices we make at this time are a question of the survival of the planet. That means each one of us.

Everything starts with human heart and mind. Change can and will happen when we begin to treat each other with respect. In silence, I can connect with the true peace that lies within me. When I really feel this, I start to have true self-respect — self respect that is not based on what I have or do, or how people see me, but on my inner goodness and the values I hold dear. It is a crisis of values and self-respect the world is facing today. The environmental, political and social crises stem from this.

Respect starts when we look inside ourselves see and value the qualities within us. In respecting the self, respect then extends to others, to all forms of life and to the planet we share. So, we first need to listen to the inner being. The conscience is the voice of that inner, spiritual self that can connect us all.

Originally published at