Interfaith Forum held at the Blue Mountains Environment Expo, 16th June, 2012, Australia.
The forum was part of a larger Blue Mountains Environment Expo. The Asian Green Team and the wing in Australia also had a number of small programmes for World Environment Day. How do we conceive of ourselves in relation to the earth? Embracing spiritual wisdom from four traditions, the speakers at this forum aimed to address the inner changes that climate change requires of us.
Janelle Randall-Court, a National Parks Discovery Ranger and a Bundjalung woman showed part of an educational film she has made 'No waste on Country - Leaving only Footprints'. She spoke of the deep connection and identification Aboriginal people have with the land. Their ancestors cared for Mother Earth over thousands of years, and now it is their responsibility. The film demonstrates their commitment to eliminate the pollution from our consumerist society which is found even in the remotest parts. Janelle actively reduces waste by recycling useable items found in municipal tips. She is an example of how we can live according to our conscience.
Jacqui Remond, National Director of Catholic Earthcare, Australia spoke of our responsibility to sustain God's country by being in close harmony with nature - the Majestic Temple of Creation. She demonstrated with quotes from popes that caring for the earth can be part of the Catholic way. Pope John Paul II said we are called to an ecological conversion - "a conversion in thoughts and behaviour is required."
The current pope, Benedict XVI said "we can no longer do without a change in outlook. If you want to protect creation, you must work for peace". Jacqui said the answer lies in viewing the world from a holistic perspective, so we engage with the earth in such a way that honours its sacredness. This requires a new lifestyle, embracing sobriety, sustainability and self-discipline. To engage, we must be empowered to participate at the local level. A spirit of communion is required where we communicate with one another and explore the steps needed for sustainability, and to lead by example. We should live as God wants us to and be co-creators of the future.
Mahsheed Ansari from the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy explained how, for a Muslim, God has created the world like a majestic palace, so everything in it is of value. In the Islamic worldview, the earth is the tree of life, meeting all our needs. The Qur'an has directions in it to protect the earth, as it is there to serve us. To a Muslim this is a path of interdependency between God the Creator and the human being - the vicegerent on earth. We therefore have to be responsible as guardians and accountable for our actions in how we care for it. She said the shift has to happen at the individual level. We have to give up any egoistic way and integrate into God's holistic way. If we live life God-consciously we will be more aware of our role as a caretaker.
Charlie Hogg, Director of Brahma Kumaris Australia, explained how our inner living system, of thoughts, feelings and attitudes has a deep connection with the outer living system, the environment. An attitude of greed or ego is the first pollution that then manifests in the external environment. We need to examine our internal system. The seed of our thoughts is how we view ourselves.
If I am caught up in a limited image of myself, one of superiority or inferiority then I won't be able to truly respect myself and therefore will also not respect others or the environment. When we connect to our true self, the soul or spirit, that is eternal, then we reconnect to our original feelings of self-respect and peace. We are then able to have a loving relationship with ourselves and with God, according to our belief system. Then as a natural consequence we will care for others and the environment.