04 May 2020 Story Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Faith-based organizations can help the transition to a more sustainable post-COVID-19 world

Photo by Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has noted that the coronavirus pandemic is more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis which is attacking societies at their core.

To tackle it, policymakers will need the support of scientists, experts, and society at large, including religious leaders, scholars, and communities.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is partnering with others, within and outside the United Nations, to get people, including adherents of the world’s religions, to revisit our relationship with nature and rebuild a more environmentally responsible world.

UNEP’s Faith for Earth initiative is a partnership with faith-based organizations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and on 4 May it joined forces with the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.

“We have agreed with the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology to unite our efforts and strengthen environmental advocacy, building on the Forum’s extensive work over the past two decades,” says Iyad Abumoghli, Principal Coordinator of Faith for Earth.

Some pioneer organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and  the Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC), led by Martin Palmer with the support of Prince Philip convened the first gathering at Assisi of religious leaders. In 1992 they published some of the first books on this topic, and in 1995 a major conference was convened at Windsor Castle. Thereafter, a series of conferences on religion and ecology were organized in the late 1990s at Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions (organized by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim).

Programmes and courses on religion and ecology are being taught in colleges, universities, seminaries, and secondary schools around the world.

The Yale Forum has been a leader in this, supporting numerous conferences, publishing books and articles, and creating and maintaining a popular website, recently revamped. It was also a founding partner of UNEP’s Interfaith Rainforest Alliance.

The Forum features news on religion and ecology, produces  a monthly newsletter distributed to over 12,000 people, and highlights 300 projects being implemented by the world’s religions. It publishes books and articles, provides resources for educators and also features the Emmy award-winning film, Journey of the Universe.

As Yale Forum directors, Tucker and Grim observed, “Even before COVID-19 we saw a renewed focus on humans’ relationship with, and dependence on, the environment, in churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques around the world. Awareness is growing, as are calls for environmental justice for people and planet.” 

Photo_by_Iyad_Abumoghli_UNEP_Iyad_with_founders_of_Yale_Forum
Faith for Earth Principal Coordinator Iyad Abumoghli with the founders of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, 2019 Photo by Iyad Abumoghli/UNEP

Every major religion has statements on the importance of ecological protection and ecojustice. The Yale Forum—with many partners, and through thousands of projects—has played an active role in raising awareness and encouraging action.

Together with UNEP’s Faith for Earth initiative, the Yale Forum is inspiring people to preserve, protect, and restore ecosystems and biodiversity, engage in dialogue, and promote action for change within religious communities in partnership with scientists and policymakers. It is thus making an important contribution to the health of people and planet.

“Healthy, functioning ecosystems, and environmental law, are central to a post-COVID world, and religious institutions can help push for progress on strengthening policy frameworks to bring about necessary change,” says Abumoghli.

 

Nature is in crisis, threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global heating and toxic pollution. Failure to act is failing humanity. Addressing the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and protecting ourselves against future global threats requires sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste; strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity; and a clear commitment to “building back better”, creating green jobs and facilitating the transition to carbon neutral economies. Humanity depends on action now for a resilient and sustainable future.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030, led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and partners such as the Africa Restoration 100 initiative, the Global Landscapes Forum and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, covers terrestrial as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. A global call to action, it will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration. Help us shape the Decade.

For more information, please contact Iyad Abumoghli: [email protected]

 

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