Religions and environmental protection

All religions agree that nature is an act of divinity and should be treated as such...

Almost all religions address the issue of the creation of the universe, or universes, in different forms and with varying degrees of clarity or detail. However, all religions agree that the creation is an act of God and should be treated as such.   

Spiritual leaders at all levels are critical to the success of the global solidarity for an ethical, moral and spiritual commitment to protect the environment and God’s creation. These leaders can become observers, make public commitments, share the story of their commitments and the challenges and joys of keeping them, and invite others to join them. In addition, they can display their sustainable behaviors, serving as role models for their followers and the public. The following is a reflection on how religions have addressed religious commitments towards the environment.

Baha’i Faith: The Baha’i writings are replete with statements on the importance of the harmony between human life and the natural world. Bahá’u’lláh’s writings are imbued with a deep respect for nature and the interconnectedness of all things, seeing especially in nature a reflection of the divine and an illustration of the oneness of humanity.

Baha’i Connections and Reflection on Environment: “Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.” (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh)

“Let us look … at the beauty in diversity, the beauty of harmony, and learn a lesson from the vegetable creation…. It is just the diversity and variety that constitutes its charm; each flower, each tree, each fruit, beside being beautiful in itself, brings out by contrast the qualities of the others, and shows to advantage the special loveliness of each and all.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks)

“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.” (Statement of Shoghi Effendi)

Buddhism: The notion of karma alone, being an important part of Buddha's lessons, conveys the values of conservation and responsibility for the future. It is said that the morality of our actions in the present will shape our character for the future, an idea close of sustainable development.

Buddhist Connections and Reflection on Environment: “As a bee – without harming the blossom, its color, its fragrance – takes its nectar and flies away: so should the sage go through a village.” (Dhammapada IV, Pupphavagga: Blossoms, 49)

 “Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.” (Dhammapada IX, Papavagga: Evil, 122)

“Our ancestors viewed the earth as rich and bountiful, which it is. Many people in the past also saw nature as inexhaustibly sustainable, which we now know is the case only if we care for it.” (Dalai Lama, 1990a)

Christianity: There are approximately hundred verses in the bible that talk about protection of the environment. Christians therefore have environmental responsibility and encourage behavioral change for the good of the future (, n.d).

Christian Connections and Reflection on Environment: “Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” (Verse 35:33)

“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)

“We must treat nature with the same awe and wonder that we reserve for human beings. And we do not need this insight in order to believe in God or to prove his existence. We need it to breathe; we need it for us simply to be.” (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 2010)

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.” (Pope Francis, 2015)

Confucianism: For more than 2500 years, Confucianism influenced culture, society, economy and politics of China mainly, but also Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Some sociologists called Confucianism as a civil religion or diffused religion (Center for Global Education, 2018). Also, Confucianism was part of the Chinese social fabric and way of life. To Confucians, everyday life was the arena of religion. In the Analects of Confucius there is a very little about relation of and nature, but some principles followed in Confucianism humanism are related in nature protection and ecology.

Confucian Connections and Reflection on Environment:  “… sustainable harmonious relationship between the human species and nature is not merely an abstract ideal, but a concrete guide for practical living.” (International Confucian Ecological Alliance, 2015)

Hinduism: Hinduism is a religion deeply rooted in nature. The sacred text (Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Epics) has many references of divinity related to nature, such as rivers, mountains, trees, animals, and the earth. To protect them, Hinduism encourages environmental protection and there are organizations who promote sustainable development and support the protection of the environment through awareness campaigns and actions (GreenFaith, 2010).

Hinduism Connections and Reflection on Environment: “I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. Brahman, the spirit, beginningless and subordinate to Me, lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.” (Bhagavad Gita 13.13)

“According to the different modes of material nature — the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of darkness — there are different living creatures, who are known as demigods, human beings and hellish living entities. O King, even a particular mode of nature, being mixed with the other two, is divided into three, and thus each kind of living creature is influenced by the other modes and acquires its habits also.” (Bhagavata Purana 2.10.41)

“There is an inseparable bond between man and nature. For man, there cannot be an existence removed from nature.” (Amma, 2011)

Islam: Hundreds of Qur’an verses support the protection of the environment. Many some Islamic organizations promote the relation between Islam and sustainability. Islam also approaches environment from a stewardship perspective. The earth is God’s creation, and as humans, we have been entrusted to preserve it as we found. The responsibility of humanity is to protect and ensure the unity (Tawheed) of the God’s creation. Moreover, Islam prohibits the excessive consumption of resources the planet provides to the humanity (Qur’an 7:31, 6:141, 17:26-27, 40:34). In fact, Qur’an mentions wasteful consumption (Isrāf) as the thirty-second greatest sin.  In 2015, the Islamic Climate Change Symposium adopted the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.

Muslim Connections and Reflection on Environment: “Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah.” (Qur’an 30:30)

“Do not strut arrogantly on the earth. You will never split the earth apart nor will you ever rival the mountains’ stature” (Qur’an 17: 37).

“It is Allah who made for you the earth a place of settlement and the sky a ceiling and formed you and perfected your forms and provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord; then blessed is Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an, 40:64)

Jainism: Originated from India, the main teaching from Jainism is Ahimsa, the non-violence, in all parts of life. Verbally, physically and mentally, Jainism doctrines focus on a peaceful and disciplined life. Kindness to animals, vegetarianism and self-restraint with the avoidance of waste are parts of Jains life. In addition, in 1990, The Jain Declaration on Nature was written to mark the entry of the Jain faith into the WWF Network on Conservation and Religion (The Jain Declaration on Nature, 1990).

Jainism Connections and Reflection on Environment: "Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being." (Mahavira)

 “As a highly evolved form of life, human beings have a great moral responsibility in their mutual dealings and in their relationship with the rest of the universe. It is this conception of life and its eternal coherence, in which human beings have an inescapable ethical responsibility, that made the Jain tradition a cradle for the creed of environmental protection and harmony.” (The Jain Declaration on Nature, 1990).

Judaism: In tradition, the land and environment are properties of God, and it is the duty of humankind to take care of it. The book of genesis, as an example, proposes that the garden in Eden was initially the chosen territory chosen by God for human to live.

Jewish Connections and Reflection on Environment: “And God said: 'Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed--to you it shall be for food.” (Gen 1:29)

“The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24)

“[…] the Earth is Mine, you are My tenants” (Leviticus 25:23)

Shinto: Shinto is a religion based on Kamis, spirits corresponding to natural entities: wind, rocks, water, etc. It makes the faithful very close to nature to preserve the relation of each person with the spirits. These relations encourage preservation of the environment (Japan Experience, 2017). Related to the kami, it is expected that Shinto followers are in harmonic existence and in peaceful coexistence with both nature and other human beings (PATHEOS, n.d. [a]). In tradition, Shinto is already deeply committed with environment because forests are sacred.

Shinto Connections and Reflection on Environment: “I will give over to my child the rice-ears of the sacred garden, of which I partake in the Plain of High Heaven.” (Nihongi II.23)

“The plan is for Religious Forests to be managed in ways which are religiously compatible, environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.” (Jinja Honcho, 2009)

Sikhism: Sikhism is a native Indian religion appeared in the late 15th century founded by the first guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The sacred text is written by the foundational scripture Guru Granth Sahib where there are several teachings on environment. The Sikh holy site is managed by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), and this organization makes decisions for the global Sikh community, especially on environment.

Sikh Connections and Reflection on Environment: “You, Yourself created the Universe, and You are pleased…You, Yourself the bumblebee, flower, fruit and the tree.” (Guru Granth Sahib, Maru Sohele, page 1020)

“You, Yourself the water, desert, ocean and the pond. You, Yourself are the big fish, tortoise and the Cause of causes.” (Guru Granth Sahib, Maru Sohele, page 1020)

Taoism: Taoism, or Daoism, is an old Chinese religion based on the divine harmony between nature and humanity.  Briefly, the Dao principle consists in “a path” where you find the appropriate way to behave and to lead others.

Taoist Connections and Reflection on Environment: “This original nature is the eternal law. To know the nature’s law is to be enlightened. He who is ignorant of the nature’s law shall act recklessly, and thus will invite misfortune. To know the constant law of nature is to be generous. Being generous, one is impartial. Being impartial, one is the sovereign. Sovereign is the nature itself.” (Lao-Tzu,Tao Te Ching, Chapter 16)

Harmonious Principles (Daoist Faith Statement, 2003): “The Earth has to respect the changes of Heaven, and Heaven must abide by the Dao. And the Dao follows the natural course of development of everything.”

“Those who have only a superficial understanding of the relationship between humanity and nature will recklessly exploit nature. Those who have a deep understanding of the relationship will treat nature well and learn from it.”