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CI recognises importance of faith involvement

October 25 2006:

Muslims understand the importance of clean water - in rivers and in the sea. Photo: CI Indonesia.

Extracted from an article by Fachruddin Mangunjaya, Project Manager for Conservation and Religion, CI Indonesia.

Nature is damaged. Where is religion?

Scientists have shown that planet earth is under threat. Climate change and habitat destruction as well as population expansion have increased species extinction. Global Species Assessment research in November 2003, estimates that about 15,589 species (7,266 animal and 8,323 plant and lichen species) are at risk.

The problem is that conventions and regulations do not bind and are unable to take measures to decrease the level of destruction and species extinction on earth.

One day, Emil Salim – then Minister of Environmental and Population Affairs – appeared before an Islamic Professor and the Head of the Indonesian Council of Religious Scholars. “Buya, what can the Moslems do in preserving their environment?,” Salim asked. The professor wisely answered that there is nothing wrong with Islamic teachings on the environment: “The mistake lies in the ways we teach Islam to the community”

For example, Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and perform ritual ablutions each time. Therefore, every Moslem must preserve water and its sources so that they can worship God.
“Science and technology are required, but they are insufficient. We need religion to get rid of the environmental crisis,” said Prof. Mary Evlyn Tucker, a professor of religion of Bucknel University, USA.

In August 2005, Tucker and Dr. Ibrahim Ozdemir from the University of Ankara, Turkey were invited to hold discussion entitled "Religion and Ecology", organized by the Center for Religious & Cross-cultural Studies, Postgraduate Program of Gajah Mada University, Yogyakarta.

The Five Rs

According to Tucker, religions have five recipes to save the environment:

(1) Reference. i.e. information and beliefs written in holy texts
(2) Respect, i.e. appreciation to all living creatures as God’s creatures as taught in religion;
(3) Restraint, i.e. capacity to manage and control something so as not to be used ineffectively;
(4) Redistribution, i.e. capacity to distribute assets; happiness and togetherness through generous measures, such as zakat, infaq in Islam;
(5) Responsibility, i.e. a responsible attitude in preserving environmental and natural condition.

Scientists and Religious Persons, be United

“There has been no decrease in destruction following the [Kyoto] evaluation. Therefore, religious initiatives are required to reduce such damage in a soft manner, namely the religious approach,” said Dr. Henri Bastaman, assistant to the Minister for the Environment, in a seminar on Moslem Role in Environmental Conservation held by Conservation International, held in June 2005."
At a meeting of religious leaders and scientists called: “Joint Appeal by Religion and Science for the Environment” in Washington, D.C. in May 1992 attendants from both sides made the following statement:

“We believe science and religion can cooperate in decreasing significant impacts and make resolutions on the environmental crises taking place on earth. However, we believe that our leaders in charge of vital institutions as well as industrial leaders do not really pay close attention to this crisis dimension. Nevertheless, we have accepted our obligation to help provide knowledge and understanding for millions of people that we serve and teach with regard to the consequences of the environmental crisis and what to do to deal with it.” (Calvin B. DeWitt, The Good in Nature and Humanity in Stephen R, Kellert and Timothy J Farnham, Island Press. 2002).

For religious leaders, awareness of the environment is not a new thing. The first initiative took place in Assisi, Italy. The meeting held by the Worldwide Fund for Nature(WWF) in 1986 [which eventually led directly to the formation of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in 1995] was aimed at gathering all religious leaders to face the environmental crisis and natural conservation taking place on earth, and produce: “The Assisi Declaration” wherein each religion made statements about its role in conserving nature.

An Indonesian initiative to establish environment preservation cooperation through religious leaders was also taken more recently by the Indonesian Science Agency (LIPI) in cooperation with the World Bank. They invited religious leaders to a Conference on Religion and Conservation on December 18, 2002, producing ‘Kebun Raya Charter’, which in principal involved religious leaders and Islamic scholars in dealing with natural and environmental conservation issues.

Eventually, the attitude and model of religious leaders in conservation need to be reviewed. Islam, for example, is rich in the Wisdom of Rasulullah (SAW) respecting living creatures. It was narrated that the Prophet (SAW) reprimanded his best friend who during their travel took a baby bird from its nest. Missing its child, the bird mother followed – flying anxiously above the entourage of Rasulullah. Seeing what happened, the prophet said: “Who has troubled this bird and who has taken her nestling? Return it to her.” (hadith on Abu Daud story)

Link here for the full article.

Link here for the home page of Conservation International.

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