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Faith and Climate Change in Birmingham Friends of the Earth Newsletter (Archive)

02/09/2009

Birmingham FoE Newsletters

February 2007 – March 2007

Multi Faith Climate Change Ambassadors

Avid readers of Action Briefing will be aware of the work Birmingham Friends of the Earth has been doing on the Multi Faith and Climate Change project.  We held a conference at the Council House in June last year with 100 attendees from 9 different faiths and a multi faith declaration on climate change was produced, which has since been endorsed by a range of faith leaders in the city including the Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols.  The conference was followed by an exhibition that is still touring faith centres in the city. In November we had a speaker event with religious leaders from 5 faiths, including one of the most prominent Sikhs in the world, talking about what their faiths have to say about climate change.  The event acted as a spring board for our new project: Climate Change Ambassadors in Faith Communities.  As the Campaign Support Worker, I held a workshop in December with FOEs Jenny Thatcher to start off our work, which involves working with a small number of faith community members to deliver action to reduce co2 emissions or educate people about climate change in their faith communities.  Work so far includes a church working to achieve Eco-Congregation status, another churchgoer establishing a recycling scheme and a Muslim setting up a food education garden.  This work has kindly been funded by the Birmingham Environmental Partnership.  Anyone interested in getting involved  should contact me and join in.

April 2007 – May 2007

Faith and Climate Change – Colin Mansley

Meister Eckhart, the medieval Christian Mystic said ‘If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon.  So full of God is every creature’ The world religions seek to make sense of the world in relation to their understanding of God.

Although fundamentalists of different persuasions may hold that this world does not matter compared with the heaven to come, the ancient mainstream wisdom of the major world religions holds a core understanding of this world as intrinsically good.

Seeing the world as sacred, as worthy of awe and respect is basic to a spiritual understanding of our existence.  So it follows that no part of God’s creation should be abused or disdained.  If we see God as intimately bound up with every fibre of creation, as Eckhart and other spiritual thinkers suggest, then religious believers are bound to be concerned for the plight of fellow creatures and effects of human-induced climate change upon them.

Helping to articulate and reflect upon the sacred nature, the sheer wonder of life on earth is something that religions can offer to address the causes of our flawed relationship with the world, including climate change, as we strive to treat the symptoms.  Last summer’s excellent conference (Faith and Climate Change in Birmingham) and declaration showed that, when it comes to caring for creation, people of different religions and of none have valuable insights to share.

Aug – Sep 2007

Faith and Climate Change, Rianne ten Veen

One of Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s (BFoE) key campaigns is on ‘Faith and Climate Change’.  This campaign aims to explicitly get people of faith on board in collectively saving our one Earth…., where choice of words between ‘secular’ arguments and ‘faith’ arguments wouldn’t always connect people of faith to the issues.  Thanks to a recent grant from Birmingham Environmental Partnership (BEP), BFoE has been enabled to hire a temporary worker to dedicate to taking this campaign to the next level.

Whether we are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew etc, we all share this single planet and either we work together for a habitable future on it or we all go down together.  With 3 of the world’s 10 largest companies selling oil and 5 selling cars (Fortune 500), it’s an uphill struggle to get the truth out as when you sell oil cars its very difficult to admit/be serious about climate change… or as Upton Sinclair so succinctly put it: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”  And to give you an idea about how large ‘large’ is : Exxon’s turnover is bigger than the GPD of Bangladesh (CIA FactBook) or Belgium (WorldBank) and Exxon’s profit alone is similar to GPD of Uruguay or Cambodia (CIA Factbook)

So it’s a challenge with such powers against us, but inspired by our faiths we need to give it our best for the sake of those generations after us who just as much as right to enjoy the Earth as we do! Thus, are you active in your Church/Gurdwara/Synagogue/Mosque/Temple etc? Have you always wanted to become active in your place of worship, but didn’t know what tasks to focus on? Then wonder no longer, but become your own place of worship’s own Climate Change Ambassador! Want to know more, want to be kept informed what other Ambassadors are doing? Then contact Maud now: our aim is to have an Ambassador at every place of worship, community centre and place of work.  There are no formal conditions to becoming an Ambassador, just some enthusiasm and commitment.

As part of the Faith and Climate Change Project the BFoE newsletter will highlight, over the course of the coming months, a shortview of the different faiths’ teachings on the environment.  In this issue we start off with Islam and Environment.

Aug – Sep 2007

Islam and the Environment, Rianne ten Veen

Away from the terrorists abusing the religion (like all are/ have been from time to time), away from the wilful misrepresentations and ignorant remarks, Islam has very clear guidelines: Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life, Islam organises the believer’s relations with God, with oneself , with one’s children, with one’s guest and with other members of creation.  This shouldn’t scare  no muslims, as nowhere is the killing of innocents sanctioned (on the contrary) but should highlight a permanent remembrance of Muslims submission (islam) to God, being at peace with our Creator, ourselves and those around us.  That said, not all, starting with myself, are anywhere near perfect examples of fully living by all the teachings.

Muslim believe that Islam came for the benefit of humanity and God has tasked humans with the job of ‘Khilafa’ or guardian of Creation (“It is He who has appointed you viceroys in the earth and has raised some of you in rank above others, that He may try you in what He has given you.  Surely the Lord is swift in retribution; and surely He is All-forgiving, All-Compassionate” – Qu’ran 6:165).  Also we are but one tiny part of Creation: “Indeed, the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of mankind, but most of mankind do not realise it” (Qu’ran 40”57) and “No creature is there crawling on the earth, no bird flying with its wings, but they are nations like unto yourselves.  We have neglected nothing in the Book; then to their Lord they shall be mustered” (Qu’ran 6:38)

Even the aims of Sharia (the way’, based on the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammed) clearly require we all work to maintain a living planet: protection of life, dignity, progeny, religion and property cannot be sustained on a planet with increasingly extreme weather patterns!

Sometimes we may think that the earth can’t be as ruined as the environmentalists’ say because we surely would have been replaced (as the Qur’an warns us God has done with the people of Ad and Thamud) but “If God were to punish people according to what they deserve, He would not leave on back of the (earth) a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated term: when their term expires, verily God has in His sight all His servants” (Qur’an 35:45).  So when a man denies an animal (or vegetation) its right to mercy, then the right to mercy the man has from God is similarly withdrawn, and he will be punished (either in this life or the next).

The whole of creation works because it follows the laws of the Creator.  The only creature that can act contrary to its preordained patterning and upset the balance is the human being as it has been given free will (otherwise the life in this world can’t be considered a test).  When we pray and place our foreheads on the earth in obedience to the Creator it should remind us that in the end, maintaining the balance of creation requires continuous awareness of the work and the will of God.

Muslim believes that this life is a test and on Day of Judgement our life on earth will be reviewed and those that ‘pass the exam’ that is have absolved well of our duties on earth, will be granted paradise.  Others will not be so lucky.  The ‘exam’ however is not a sone size fits all: the more power, money, intellect etc. we have in this world available to us (those raised in rank above others) the harder the test, the more actions, or opportunities for actions we are accountable for.

As an example: prayer is very important for Muslims (something we should do five times a day).  For our prayer to be accepted we need to make ablutions.  And even for such ‘trivial’ actions, Prophet Muhammed has given us clear guidelines that half a litre (I mudd) or two litres (1 sa’a) of water (depending on the type of ablution necessary) should suffice for this.  There was one occasion when the Prophet saw someone performing ablution and said “what is this extravagance, Sa’ad?” He said, “Is there extravagance in the use of water?” He said, “Yes, even if you are at a flowing river”.  Extravagance is to use water without any benefit, using more than your fair share and thus denying it to others, either fellow humans or of any other species.

Finally some advice from Muhammed, should you wish it: “if the Day of Judgement comes upon anyone of you while he has a seedling in hand, let him plant it” (again highlighting importance of duty of care towards Creation…. You’d have thought that one might have other priorities at such time.)

Salam (in peace)

October – November 2007

Christianity and the Environment, Genevieve Jordan

In a concerned conversation over the future of our planet, someone said to me recently, “Human beings are parasites and the earth would be much better off without us.  The best thing we can do is stop breeding!”  While I agree that the majority of humans do behave in a destructive fashion towards the earth, I don’t believe population control would solve the problem.  As a Christian, I take issue with the underlying belief that man is the worst thing that ever happened to this planet.

Christians believe God created the earth and the book of Genesis how humans, created beings as well, were given the social responsibility of ‘serving and protecting’ or ‘stewarding’ the created order; ‘Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.’ Genesis 2.15 NASB.  Humans were part of God’s wonderful creation plan, how then did we come to place of destroying the earth we were suppose to preserve? Perhaps it started in the mistaken belief that the earth belongs to us rather than God.  Although not a popular concept today it seems to me that the selfish and destructive nature of sin lies at the root of most environmental problems e.g. greed, profit over people, and materialism.

What then can the Christian faith offer the environmental challenges facing us?

It’s a sad fact that the Church has been apathetic to the environmental question.  Some extreme cases have even quoted biblical texts of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ suggesting we let this one burn as we get a new one anyway! This argument goes against the instruction from Genesis to ‘serve and protect’

The hope for the environment the Christian faith can offer is the miraculous power of redemption.  As Jesus, through his death, came to bring about peace between men and women and the God who created them, he effectively gave them life instead of death, relationship and wholeness instead of brokenness.

As Christians experience this offering of peace from God through his son Jesus, we should extend this redemptive experience in our approach and attitude to creation.  My hear longs to see abused and neglected areas of Birmingham brought back into a state where wildlife and people can flourish, the wonder of Creation admired and worship of the Creator inspired  While this may sound naïve and impossible with the challenges facing the environment, with God’s vision and power I believe its possible.

The other week while on a train in the Rhondda Valleys, I saw a heron sitting on a burnt our car wreck in a river.  This made me very sad as I witnessed how nature struggles to exist alongside us as the vulnerable and abused victims of our materialistic and uncaring culture.  I do believe that the earth can flourish when cared for and cultivated by man, but at the moment our lifestyles and attitudes are dominant and destructive.

In Romans 12.2, Christians are encouraged not to conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.  Christians therefore need to make a conscious shift away from our culture’s materialistic and self-centred lifestyles, towards a redemptive and nurturing approach to our environment and communities that reflects God’s love for us and his wonderful creation.  Perhaps the words (with actions to back it up!) A Rocha organisation are a good place to finish: “Our Christian faith is the foundation and motivation for all we seek to be and do.  In caring for creation we are responding to the Biblical revelation of one living God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God is present and active in his world as creator, sustainer and redeemer, and calls people to act as responsible stewards of the earth.  Our relationship with God enables us to integrate concern for sustainable human and non-human communities in practical expressions of Christian faith, hope and love in a fragmented world” (see arocha.org)

April 2008 – May 2008

Love God Love Creation, Shahien Khan

The Birmingham Friends of the Earth (BFoE) MultiFaith project teamed up with Islamic Relief and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) to hold a networking event centred around the theme ‘Love God, Love Creation’.  On 5th February 2008 organisations such as CSV Environment, Ulfah Arts, Interpal, Muslim Scout Groups, St Paul’s Trust, Unity FM and Birmingham Sustainable Energy Partnership attended the Zawiya (also known as ‘Amina Trust’) in Small Heath to meet and share experiences with those interested and committed to working towards a sustainable future.  This event was part of a series of events in the week of 4 – 10 February 2008 to mark ‘Love God, Love Creation’ which was inspired by Stop Climate Chaos (SCC), a national umbrella organisation with members of diverse interests.

Rianne ten Veen, representing Midlands Islamic Network for the Environment (MINE) and one of the main organisers of the event, described it as a discussion evening on our duty of care for the environment, and a means to show our love for God and His Creation.  It included information about what Islamic Relief, IFEES and other organisations are doing to help the environment.

Maud Grainger, Multi Faith Project Co-ordinator, spoke at the event of the importance of different faiths and communities working together on environmental issues.  One of Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s key campaigns is on Faith and Climate Change and community groups are actively encouraged and supported to undertake environmental projects from tree planting to managing allotments right through to formal presentations and training.  Maud undertook to provide support and encouragement for local initiatives in whatever way she could.

Various speakers from different groups and organisations highlighted the work being done to protect the environment on a local, national and international level.  This work is often inspired by personal conviction and a deep-rooted belief that faith in God must be demonstrated by practical action for the benefit of all creation.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 11/06/2010 12:12 pm

    I wrote a similar blog about this subject but you did a better job 🙂

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