Environmental Forum: ‘We need to re-establish our relationship with nature!’
Faith-based organizations gathered to tackle the role of spirituality in caring for the environment in the 370th Kamayan Para sa Kalikasan online forum held by Green Convergence Philippines last April 16, 2021.
“For Buddhists, all things are interconnected,” shared Venerable Zhi Yi, superintendent of the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple.
“Consciously, Buddhism emphasizes the practice of mindful awareness and a lifestyle of simplicity,” she added.
“As a Buddhist organization, we encourage people to have a vegetarian diet, living with contentment, being kind to oneself and to others. We encourage a plant-based diet because it needs less electricity, gas, time, and water” she explained.
“In just one vegetarian day, you can help reduce carbon emissions by 3kg and 45lbs of food waste,” she said.
Jo Guela of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA/Caritas PH) noted a similarity in the Catholic and Buddhist perspective of interconnectedness. “As [Venerable Zhi Yi] also shared, we as Catholics and Christians define ecology as ‘living in harmony with mother earth’.”
“To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. This entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems” she said.
“We need a paradigm shift in order to re-establish our sacred relationship with nature,” said Guela as she cited Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si.
“Napakahalaga yung how we respect nature and how we connect with nature” she affirmed.
The Vice President of Peacemakers Circle Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani, on the other hand, shared the Hindu perspective on caring for the environment.
“We have a rich heritage of scripture text that has shaped our view of the world and its environment. It has given us awareness of the great forces of nature as well as that all living things are an extension of the divine,” she said.
“Religious ethics have acted as sanctions against environmental destruction for hundreds of years in India,” she added.
“Unfortunately, our stewardship of mother earth has diminished in the last century or so, either due to the loss of understanding, or sheer negligence in the course of population growth, development, and industrialization” said Dr. Vaswani.
“We need to return to the teachings and practices of our religions that infuse sacredness and reverence in our relationship with nature,” she concluded.
On the role of churches, Mervin Toquero of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a network of mainline Protestant, Christian, and non-Catholic churches, said “the NCCP sees the role of churches in environmental protection as providing support and encouragement for the whole ecological movement. It does not see itself as separate.”
“Churches are responsive to climate change and disasters which have gotten worse especially in the last few years because of our vulnerability to climate change,” he added.
Citing the NCCP’s policy paper on ecology, Toquero emphasized interconnectedness of life and creation with the Indigenous People’s concept of ‘Land is Life’.
“They do not have the concept of owning the land. They believe that land is here to nurture the present generation and to nurture future generations” he said.
“Caring for the earth has a spiritual basis,” said Leonor Berroya, Treasurer of Green Convergence.
“We had speakers from 4 religions, but everybody is saying the same thing. There is interrelatedness and interconnectivity in creation,” she concluded.
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