Norway has hosted a major gathering of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions to discuss how faith communities can work together to protect rainforests. The meeting, which took place in the presence of His Majesty King Harald V of Norway, discussed how to activate the collective moral influence of religious communities across the planet. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist and Jewish leaders joined with indigenous people.
In a statement preceding the gathering, the organisers said: “For the first time, leaders from many of the world’s religions will meet to discuss the spiritual and ethical responsibility they share to protect rainforests, one of the planet’s most vital life-support systems. Besieged by growing global demand for commodities, tropical rainforests are being cleared at a perilous rate, with an area the size of Austria chopped down each year."
The meeting was convened by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, GreenFaith, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Religions for Peace, REIL Network, and the World Council of Churches:
"The multi-faith summit marks the first significant engagement by the world’s religions with an issue that climate scientists and development experts argue is a lynchpin for global efforts to address climate change, poverty, food insecurity and violations of human rights. It also heralds the first time that religious leaders from a broad spectrum of faiths will work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples, the historical guardians of rainforests, on an action agenda to end deforestation."
Among the Church leaders participating were : H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel, Exarch, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Episcopal Bishop, Pierre W. Whalon, and Lutheran Bishop, Emeritus Gunnar Stålsett.
The organisers said the following questions would be addressed:
• How do religious and spiritual teachings support the care and protection of rainforests, and how do they relate to environmental, socio-cultural and economic justifications for ending deforestation?
• How can religious and spiritual communities contribute to the battle to protect rainforests and stop deforestation? What are the specific actions on the ground undertaken by spiritual groups and mainstream religions to protect forests?
• Where are forests most under threat and what do spiritual and religious leaders, and their communities and constituencies, propose to do to protect them?
• What can indigenous forest communities teach that can help influence a world that judges the value of forests through the lens of price, utility, or efficiency?
• How does this initiative complement and add to other interfaith efforts?