Question: How does Religion tie into the Environment?



By: Ashwini Selvakumaran

The sustainability of the earth depends partly on the interconnectedness of religion and environmental concerns, and the appreciation for the fundamental importance of our planet.

Simply stated, the earth is dying. And if we do not act fast, we will still continue to be consuming and taking in at a faster rate than this world can handle.

Now we propose a question - could faith communities collaborating within interreligious dialogue aid in the reconstruction of eco-ethics around the world?

A multi-faith approach raises awareness about the diverse traditions that acknowledge the sacredness of nature and help people to grow spiritually through a deeper connection with creation. At the center of each religion, a common sentiment is expressed about the concerns of the environment. All religions acknowledge that nature has an inherent value that goes beyond its services to humanity. Now we will focus on the perspective from two major religions, Christianity and Buddhism.

Christianity asserts the fact that the creation of the world is a wonderful gift God has given us all. We must care for it and use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude. In the New Testament Jesus stresses God’s concern for life, and is clear that the earth still belongs to God not to humans. Key principles of Catholic Social Teaching include Stewardship of creation by showing our respect for God through recognizing that the goods of the earth serve to benefit all people and we must preserve this environment for future generations. Similarly, Buddhism commands respect for all beings, not merely human beings. Dharma describes the pathway of principles and practices we can follow to minimize climate change and the suffering it causes. Buddhism acknowledges that the earth is sacred and we must all understand our role in the contribution to climate change. There are Eight guidelines taught by the Buddha to help humans escape suffering and approach enlightenment. These include 'right mindfulness'. If you are 'mindful' of the effects of your actions on the world, this is an effective way to avoid causing damage to nature and other living creatures. For most Buddhists, the guiding principles are to live simply in order to respect all life forms as well as the balance and peace in nature.

Most Buddhists understand and apply these principles to the question of looking after the environment in a variety of ways. The Dalai Lama said: We are the generation with the awareness of a great danger. We are the ones with the responsibility and the ability to take steps of concrete action, before it is too late. This means we all have to make ourselves aware of the damage we all do to the environment so that we can then act to change it. Through this we must accept that we should not overly consume and desire more than what we require, as this hinders us from  path of positive change. Tying this in with Christianity, a quote from Leviticus states “25:23-24 - The land must not be sold permanently, Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land” (NIV). Both Buddhists and Christians accept changes in nature. Change is an essential part of growth, and when we engage in the exchange of ideas within dialogue, it will encourage one another to invest more deeply into conserving our world.

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