Report on ‘Islam, Christianity and the Environment’ Symposium

‘Islam, Christianity and the Environment’ is the latest event in the series of dialogues driven by the global Muslim-Christian interfaith initiative, A Common Word. The event included dialogue sessions between a Christian delegation from the Eugen Biser Foundation of Germany, A Muslim delegation from the Royal Aal al Bayt, and special guests HRH Princess Areej Ghazi, Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, H.E. Mr. Hazim Malhas, Minister of Environment, Reverend Dr. Trond Bakkevig  and Father Nabil Haddad.

Sessions included a welcoming address from HRH Prince Ghazi and an introduction to the recent publication, ‘The Holy Qur’an and the Environment’ (available for download at . The scholars presented papers on various topics such as basic demands established in the Old and New Testament to assume responsibility for the world, the protection of animals in Islam, the Islamic view on consumption and material development, and the Christian concept of creation facing the ecological challenge today.

The Eugen-Biser delegation, comprised of Dr Richard Heinzmann, Dr Dietmar Mieth, Dr Martin Arneth, and Dr Andreas Renz, presented papers from a Christian perspective. Their dialogue highlighted the importance of Biblical verses that allude to the Spirit of God in all creations and the need to preserve and protect the Earth based on this principle. Of particular concern was the place of secularist approaches to environmentalism and how religious communities might incorporate them in their practices.

The Muslim delegation was comprised of HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, HE Sheikh Dr Mustafa Cerić, Dr Ingrid Mattson, Ambassador Dr Murad Hofmann, Dr Caner Dagli, Dr Joseph Lumbard, and Prof. Minwer Al Mheid. Scholars agreed upon the fard kifaya or collective obligation for Muslims to protect the environment. As part of the cross-community dialogue there was a shared acknowledgement of the need for moral and spiritual education as well as a focus on the role of family in the practice environmentalism.

As part of the 2-day event, scholars visited and prayed at the holy landmarks of the Baptism site of Jesus Christ, and concluded with an endorsement of HE Archbishop of Sweden Anders Wejrud’s environmental initiative, ‘Uppsala Interfaith Climate Manifesto,’ issued in 2008, which calls for religious communities to rally toward a global climate strategy.