Faith matters in climate change
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The Green Bible is a 2008 edition of the Christian holy book, published by HarperCollins. There are more than 1,000 references to the Earth in the Bible, and this 2008 copy is printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink.
Likewise, Islam’s Koran also contains numerous surahs (chapters) that both enlighten and command Muslims to use and not abuse the natural bounty the Earth provides. “Do not commit abuse on the Earth, spreading corruption.” (Al-Ankabut 29:36) is just one example.
Meanwhile in Bali, adherents to Hinduism, the island’s majority faith, believe in the trihita karana. This is the belief that happiness derives from the relationship between people and God, the relationship between people and people, and the relationship between people and nature.
Religious writer and scholar Fachruddin M. Mangunjaya raised a profound question in a recent paper on climate change and religion: Who were the first environmental campaigners? Answer: Followers of the world’s religions.
Fachruddin, a lecturer in biology at the National University in Jakarta, told a September 2012 climate change writing clinic for youths in Jakarta that religion had been a major mover, which had established numerous world civilizations.
Now with environmental crises and the impact of climate change casting threats on human civilization, people are returning to religious teachings and reassessing their meaning of and obligations in life.
Fachruddin, a member of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture (ISSRNC), cited a gathering of leaders of nine world religions at England’s Windsor Castle on Nov. 2-4, 2009. The Windsor celebration constituted a long-term faith commitment to protect the living planet.
Leaders came from the Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh and Tao faiths. They vowed to draft an action plan to address climate change based on their individual religions.
Fachruddin, who participated in the Windsor meet, listed seven key elements with which the world’s religions could meaningfully contribute toward tackling climate change.
First: religion as an institution owns useable assets. These could be property, facilities such as hospitals and houses of worship, and cash. Second: education. Children and the public at large can learn about the environment through formal and informal learning activities.
Third: wisdom. People can learn about the irrefutable, supreme value of nature from holy scripture.
Four: lifestyle. This entails adopting a simple lifestyle, holding green audits, and calculating one’s carbon footprint.
Five: media and advocacy. Spread the word through all available media outlets from print to Twitter. This includes printing holy books on certified recycled paper.
Six: partnerships. Stage activities using funds gathered from the faithful.
Seven: celebrations. Major celebrations like the annual Muslim pilgrimage can promote green action.
This seventh point led to the November 2011 publication of the Green Guide to the Hajj, to encourage Muslim pilgrims to reduce their impact on the Earth. An online version can be downloaded from www.arcworld.org/faiths.asp?pageID=11. During the 2010 haj season, 2.5 million pilgrims discarded more than 100 million plastic bottles, according to Husna Ahmad, author of the guide.
The Center for Research and Community Outreach (LPPM) at the National University launched an Indonesian version in June 2012, translated by Fachruddin.
Fachruddin argues that unlike the protracted negotiations at climate change conferences, religion is free from cumbersome talk that achieves slow-moving results.
The faithful should follow the tenets of their beliefs. The question now is how to get all the faithful and the public at large to wholeheartedly accept the facts about climate change and pursue lines of action.
Nevertheless, environmentally friendly pilgrimages and eco-labeling of halal products that use low carbon energy are but two ways to get people on a massive scale to change their living behavior to reduce the impact of climate change. Faith matters in climate change and changing behavior.
The writer teaches journalism at the Dr. Soetomo Press Institute, Jakarta.