Interfaith leaders highlighted the important link between faith and good environmental stewardship at a seminar in the Qatar National Convention Centre. The seminar was presented by Muslim and Christian leaders, a leader from the Brahma Kumaris spiritual tradition and a scientific researcher from the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development.
The panel was chaired by Dr. Ibrahim Saleh Al Naimi, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue, who said that all religions share a common connection on protecting the natural world.
Professor Ali Al-Qaradaghi, General Secretary of the International Union for Islamic Scholars, gave a presentation on environmental protection in Islamic law, pointing out the importance of natural stewardship in Islam.
“The Quran talks about the heavens as a protective canopy from all the elements that are harmful,” Prof. Al-Qaradaghi said. The statement appears to show a reference in the Holy Quran to the protective greenhouse canopy which scientists now understand as a crucial natural phenomenon whose health directly affects climate change.
Prof. Al-Qaradaghi said that the Holy Quran contains 390 verses that reference the Earth and its significance, 311 on the heavens, 43 on the sea, 39 on mountains, 22 on sand, 12 on mud and clay and 53 on rivers. He said that one of the most important concepts in the Holy Quran was equilibrium, specifically “equilibrium between Man and his surroundings”.
Sister Jayanti Kirpalani, the European Director of Brahma Kumaris, World Spiritual University, gave a speech entitled “Nature protects, if she is protected”. Some of her messages echoed those of Prof. Al-Qaradaghi, particularly regarding the interdependence between Man and nature, reflected at the most practical level by how animals inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while plants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.
“For millennia, nature has not only protected us… but also sustained us,” she said, adding that all ancient traditions, including Islam, instill a “sense of our responsibility to nature.”
Sister Kirpalani referenced the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible that tells the story of creation. The book explains how Man has dominion over the natural world, which, she said, has in recent centuries been interpreted without regard to a corresponding responsibility to nature.
“We took it [dominion] a step further… We could misuse the resources available for us,” she said. “Our violence and aggression has created an imbalance with nature.”
Archbishop Seraphim Kykkotis of the Orthodox Church of Zimbabwe, who spoke on behalf of the South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, also voiced his concern with humanity’s approach to nature.
“"We must do our work so that the future generations won’t say that their grandparents’ generation were murderers," he said.
Dr. Yousef Al Horr, the founding chairman at the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development (GORD), spoke of how faith-inspired, ethical motivations to protect the environment translate into practice.
“We do relate values and beliefs with science and technology,” Dr. Al Horr said. “In this part of the world people have acknowledged the link between beliefs and environment.”
Dr. Al Horr said that GORD had established norms and standards to promote sustainability practices, “driven by our Islamic beliefs… Islam gives a framework for environmental conservation”.
Part of GORD’s initiatives in the region have already paid off, with people looking to make “green mosques” that recycle the ablution water, reduce energy consumption, and use environmentally friendly building materials.