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ARC and World Bank book: Faith in Conservation

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A new book published by the World Bank, Faith In Conservation: New Approaches to Religions and the Environment, by Martin Palmer with Victoria Finlay shows how religions are increasingly partnering with the environmental and development movements in order to make this world a better place for all life.

"Faiths are the oldest institutions in the world and possess wisdom about how to live and how to keep hope alive, which we need to hear and respect," said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. "So it is very natural for us to work with religious institutions and leaders. The engagement from all sides is one charged with potential and also energized by differences. These are ideas and possibilities that may well be new to many in the world of development and economics, but, as I know from personal experience, they do work."

"These are not normal experiences; they are spiritual. They make you understand that there is more to life. There is a richness and diversity that is often forgotten."

James Wolfensohn, November 13th, 2003.
In 1995, Prince Philip launched a new non-governmental organization, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), dedicated to assisting and enlarging this work. When each of the participating faiths was asked which contemporary secular phenomenon they felt could be most important in helping, or hindering, the work of the faiths on the environment, two came out clearly: the mass media, and modern economic thinking, embodied for many of the faiths in the modus operandi of the World Bank. The World Bank was represented at that launch and has been engaged with the ARC ever since.

The 11 faiths represented by the ARC range from Buddhism to Hinduism, from Islam to Judaism, and from Shintoism to Sikhism. They own around 7 percent of the habitable surface of the planet, they have a role in 54 percent of all schools, and their institutional share of the investment market is in the range of 6 to 8 percent.

"After a century of unprecedented persecutions, religions are returning to the public arena in many countries. Where they have been deliberately marginalized in the past they are getting back their schools, their farms, even their political voice," emphasized Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC. "Some of this return is happening in disturbing ways, in the form of fundamentalism and even terrorism. But there is another story. This book, Faith in Conservation, is an attempt to show how the vast majority of religious movements are returning as potential forces for good. And to show how religions and the secular society around them can and have to work together as partners, to make the world a better place." While the world's major religions have been, until recently, relatively voiceless in the environmental debate, it is being shown that they can represent a very powerful voice for environmental stewardship. As this book demonstrates, the faiths can bring their many billions of investment dollars, as well as their traditions of storytelling, celebration, practice, spiritual guidance, activism and advocacy, in order to be powerful partners in a wide range of conservation initiatives.

"Working with faith communities in our project sites can be a vital part of how we can achieve our mission," explained Tony Whitten, a Senior Biodiversity Specialist at the World Bank, who manages the ARC work for the Bank. "In many cases, it only makes sense to involve such an important constituency among our clients in the environment, natural resource management, and social projects and programs."

This statement was issued by the World Bank on November 14 2003

Read the preface.

Download the full document as a 13MB pdf or as a text file(apologies for the poor reconstruction of the cover)

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