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Jerusalem Religious Leaders on Environment

Adelie penguins walk on the ice at Cape Denison in Antarctica in this 2009 file photo. Religious leaders have urged people to take their faith-based commitment to the stewardship of God’s creation to the U.N. Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil 20-22 June. (photo: CNS/Paukine Askin, Reuters) 

22 Mar 2012 – by Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Religious leaders in Jerusalem urged peoples of all denominations to take their faith-based commitment to the stewardship of God’s creation to the U.N. Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil June 20-22.

“We need to bring an invitation for all religious leaders from all faiths” to speak publicly, with determination, “so that we turn religion into a part of the solution rather than ... risking more and more becoming part of the problem,” Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa told Catholic News Service at the March 19 Interfaith Climate and Energy Conference coordinated by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

People have an “immense power” to respect the beauty of nature through the expression of their faith, Archbishop Chacour said, and by using this faith they can work toward forming an alliance with others to protect the earth and its natural resources.

“I don’t (care) if others believe in what I believe in ... but I would like them to consider my positive attitude toward creation. When God created not only the planet but the entire cosmos, he said, ‘This is very good.’ He created man and woman both in his likeness, and he commissioned them to go and care for the world as if he is saying to them: ‘You be my place-taker,’” the archbishop said.

“For me as a Christian the environment is not a modern topic, it is one of the most ancient topics on earth,” he added.

If read attentively, Christian theology and philosophy can be used to lead the faithful toward a positive attitude not only for their environment, but also for the entire cosmos, he said.

“This is a starting point,” he said. “And this will be reflected around us, in our homes and in our societies.”

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III noted that religious leaders not only can influence the faithful in their communities but also all aspects of political life.

“There are people who hold (political) positions who are believers and do follow instructions from their religious leadership,” he said. “There must be harmony between humanity and creation.”

On a more practical level, said Rabbi Yonathan Neril, founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, religious leaders and institutions have the potential to mobilize billions of followers in the global struggle to curb climate change and achieve sustainable development, not only through their congregation but also through their educational institutions.

“Religious leaders are some of the most influential leaders in the world at the grass-roots level ... part of their work is to leverage their moral authority of world religious leadership to promote a more sustainable planet,” said Neril.

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Tags: Middle East Christians Jerusalem Interreligious United States Sustainable Development