Air pollution knows no boundaries. It affects all Londoners – people of all faiths, ethnicities and social statuses. As religious leaders representing diverse communities, we come together with a shared concern, recognising the urgency of addressing the grave issue of air pollution and its detrimental effects on our respective communities. This crisis calls us to transcend our differences, pool our voices, and work hand in hand to protect the well-being of our people and the planet we all call home.
As people of faith, we find common ground in the principles that guide each of our faith traditions. In Islam, Christianity and Judaism, we are called to love and care for our neighbours, to be responsible stewards of the Earth, and to pursue justice and well-being for all. The road to breathing cleaner air encompasses all of these actions.
Air pollution affects not only the environment but also the lives of families, friends, neighbours and those living within our communities. It is our collective responsibility to safeguard the health and well-being of our neighbours. It could be your neighbour who develops asthma due to prolonged exposure to polluted air or a friend who has a vulnerable family member suffering from respiratory health conditions. By phasing out polluting vehicles and embracing measures like London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) , we are actively working towards protecting the health of our communities and living in alignment with the key teachings of our faiths.
In our interconnected world, the consequences of air pollution ripple through society. The emissions from polluting vehicles do not discriminate; they permeate the air we share. The detrimental effects of air pollution can be seen in the rising rates of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular complications, and other health issues that burden individuals and communities. As people of faith, we are called to alleviate suffering and promote the well-being of all. This must include those directly affected by air pollution.
In pursuing justice and well-being for all, we recognise that addressing air pollution is an integral part of creating a just society. The effect of polluted air disproportionately affects marginalised communities, who often bear the brunt of environmental injustices both here in the UK and in our global community. By advocating for cleaner air and equitable policies, we work towards a more just society, where the health and well-being of all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status, are valued and protected.
As Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders, we are united in our conviction that urgent action is needed to address the toxic air crisis. Let us come together, and work collectively towards a future where the air we breathe is clean and safe for all. Through collaboration, shared responsibility, and our shared faith in a better world, we can make a tangible difference in the fight against air pollution, leaving a legacy of environmental stewardship for generations to come.
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg is the Rabbi of New North London Synagogue, Zara Mohammed is Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain and Dr Rowan Williams is the former Archbishop of Canterbury