Faith in Conservation: New Approaches to Religions and the Environment

By Martin Palmer; Victoria Finlay | Go to book overview
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6
Introduction

In 1986 the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International invited five religions to meet with the key environmental organizations in Assisi, Italy. The faiths were asked to do two things. First, they were asked to look at what environmental projects they had running at the time. There were very few. Second, they were asked to produce, prior to the Assisi meeting, their own statements on ecology. These five original statements proved to be a catalyst for a real participation of the faiths in ecology. Each faith was asked to write as simply and clearly as possible and to take no more than 2,000 words to describe from their scriptures, teachings, and traditions, their views on caring for nature. These statements opened a window into the beliefs, into the very soul of each faith. They provided the environmental world with arguments from within each tradition as to why the faith should now do more to ensure the protection of nature. The statements also stirred debate and study within each faith, for we asked that, where possible, major institutions within each faith, rather than individuals, prepare the statements. Thus for Islam, it was the Muslim World League; for Judaism, the World Jewish Congress; and for Christianity, the Franciscan Orders. In the case of both Buddhism and Hinduism, there was no clear major body that could speak for the majority of the faithful. Therefore we worked with the Dalai Lama on Buddhism and with leading scholars such as Dr. Karan Singh, former minister of the environment in the Indian government and a leading Hindu thinker, for Hinduism.

By 1995, when ARC was launched, the original five had grown to nine. The Baha’is, Daoists, Jains, and Sikhs had created their own statements. In the case of the Jains, the need to create a document reflecting the views of all three main traditions in Jainism spurred the three groups to enter into discussion for the first time in many centuries, and led ultimately to the creation of an Institute of Jainology which now brings the three traditions together on all sorts of issues. The Baha’is have a very

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