Faith and Ecology Partnerships 2015

An international workshop on 'Faith in Conservation' was held on 16-18 November 2015 at Lambeth Palace, the Medieval Palace of the Archbishops of Canterbury, UK

While world leaders, governments, conservation and civil society groups are grappling with the issue of mitigating the almost irreversible consequences on climate change at Paris -CoP 21, conservation scientists, faith groups and their promoters have already held three major international meetings since June 2015 to strengthen old partnerships and find new ones to stem the anthropogenic onslaught on nature.

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) founded by HRH Prince Phillip, UK along with The Nature Conservancy, the world's largest conservation organization brought, conservation groups, religious organizations and philanthropists who have been working in the past 20-30 years to consolidate and find more avenues on the way forward to save the world's environment. The 'Faith in Conservation International workshop' in the third week of November 2015 at Lambeth Palace UK, brought together conservation scientists, academicians, faith groups and religious organizations for the better part of 2 days to resolve problems and differences commonly faced by scientists and faith groups, evolve new partnerships and learn the best working practices from their existing partnerships.

The workshop was inaugurated by HRH Prince Phillip of UK and had representation from faith and conservation communities in Asia - China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India, Maldives, USA, Europe- Italy, UK, and Africa- Kenya. It witnessed participation from conservation organisations like The Nature Conservancy, WWF-UK and WWF-Italy, Society for Conservation biology, Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation - China, Mokichi Okada Association, Japan, The Bhumi Project, (Oxford University) UK, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), India, USAID, California Institute of Integral studies-US, among others. Religious organisations affiliated to Catholic and Protestant Christians, Daoist, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Shintos, etc also participated in the workshop. Sanjay Rattan in his capacity as the ARC placed representative of the ATREE Conservation and Religion Project represented both faith and ecology perspectives from India.

ATREE's Sanjay Rattan at the Faith in Conservation Conference UK a) meeting with HRH Prince Phillip of England and Secretary General ARC- Martin Palmer b) 'Why do I care' speaking to working delegates

Key outcomes included

  1. Participants becoming additional signatories, at the initiative of ARC, to a 'Letter of Conscience' forwarded by French President Francois Hollande to every Head of State attending the opening event on the 30th November of the Paris Climate Change COP. Each head of state was asked to examine his inner belief (apart from his outer position) by answer a simple question - why do I care about the climate.
  2. The narrowing and resolution of differences in partnerships between science and religion, both of which strive to explain the universe in their own terms, so that successful collaborations can be achieved by establishing common ground around clear issues and sets of objectives.
  3. The commissioning of a working group to bring out a handbook for religion and conservation practitioners needed to develop and maintain partnerships between conservation groups and faith groups. This which will provide guidance tools and best practices to forge and maintain such alliances.
  4. The launching of new pilot projects between ecology and Faith groups under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy through the Science for Nature and People (SNAP) partnership and the strengthening of existing ones by ARC and its existing funders.
  5. Launching of a major religions and conservation initiative by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) with Arnold Schwarzenegger's R20 organization, to develop conservation and sustainable technology implementation programmes in major pilgrimage cities such as Mecca etc.
  6. Networking and linkages between workshop partners in the conference to reinforce an exchange of experiences, resources for building successful (existing and future) partnerships between faiths and ecology.

In the opinion of one of the participants, Fabrizio Frascaroli, vice president, Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group, Society of Conservation Biology, "The question of whether there are common interests for faiths and conservation to work together is long past. Virtually every world religion and countless indigenous traditions have taken official and unequivocal stances on the environment, the latest being the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si by Pope Francis in 2015, head of about 1.2 billion Catholics. The question now is: how this can most effectively be done, and what conditions are likelier to favor success."