Many faith traditions active in environmental advocacy

Published March 11, 2010

Hind AlAbadleh

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists may have their differences but when it comes to ecological stewardship and respect for the sacredness of creation, their sacred texts share similar teachings.

At a forum held March 7 in Toronto, religious leaders cited passages from the Torah, Bible, Ramayan, Quran, and the First Precept of Buddhism, to explain why faith traditions are actively involved in environmental concerns like climate change.

Rabbi Debra Landsberg, who has served Temple Emmanu-El in Toronto since 2001, said Judaism emphasizes the “connectedness” of all of God’s creation. Human beings “need a certain humility” when they regard their place in creation, she said, noting that many creatures, including flies and insects “were here before us.” Many Hebrew prayers, including the Blessing of the Bread, emphasize respect for the natural world, Rabbi Landsberg added.

Cecil Ramnauth, a member of Devi Mandir, a Hindu temple in Pickering, Ont., said Hindus regard it as their “moral and spiritual duty” to respect creation. “Everything in the world is God’s…You only take what you need.”

Sensei Taigen Henderson, a Buddhist priest at the Toronto Zen Centre, said those who follow the Buddhist Path are asked to have “respect for all life.” And since Buddhists believe in reincarnation and consider the human realm as the one place where one can achieve enlightenment, they see it as important to care for the earth “with utmost diligence,” he said. It has also been said that “a good Buddhist plants at least one tree per year,” he added.

Whenever a Muslim plants, it is a work of charity, said Hind Al-Abadleh, an assistant professor of chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., who specializes in environmental atmospheric and geochemistry. She said “the ethical worldview of nature has been recognized since the dawn of Islam.” The Quran calls humans to “live in harmony with the natural world,” she added.

Mardi Tindal, moderator of the United Church of Canada, said “God invites us into wholeness of soul, community and creation.” To be a Christian “is to live by spiritual, communal and justice-seeking practices which bring God’s peace, justice and integrity.” She added that loving God, neighbor and self are “possible only when we also love God’s creation.”

Ramnauth said that the World Religions Summit of inter-faith leaders from G-8 nations, scheduled in Winnipeg this June, sends a powerful message that faith communities are “coming together” to address concerns around the environment, poverty and other social justice issues.

About 120 people attended the forum co-sponsored by The Green Awakening Network and Faith & The Common Good.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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