New eco-faith initiative launched
27 June 2008:
||Oblong Leaved Sundew, Dorset. Photograph by John Allen.
A new eco-faith initiative in one of England's largest counties could be a model for how religious traditions in other counties and regions could learn and plan together about how to better care for creation.
Interfaith Dorset Education and Action (IDEA) was formed in March 2007 by Rabbi Neil Amswych, Principal Rabbi of Bournemouth Reform Synagogue, in the southern coastal region of England. With the help of a grant from Bournemouth Council and some logistics from the Bournemouth 2026 group (set up at the Millennium to 'work together for a better future') he invited over 80 faith and civic leaders to a conference at a local hotel.
The group showed a strong sense of unity of purpose and direction, and people expressed a desire to learn about each other, about the environment, and about what they could do to help. IDEA was born.
A major challenge is securing funding. In the UK, many grant-making bodies give to non-religious organisations, or to organisations working on specific projects within specific locations but IDEA doesn't fit into either category. However, thanks to a very generous local web designer, IDEA now has a website - www.eco-faith.org - and has already had hits from round the world.
"Another big challenge is that there are many skeptical people in the UK, and even getting them to contribute to a conversation about the environment is proving to be more challenging than might have been expected. And yet, that is why IDEA was created." Rabbi Neil said.
The power of IDEA cannot be underestimated. On the website, the Muslim Perspectives on the Environment include a quotation that is exactly the same as an ancient text from the Jewish tradition. Both say that if a person is holding a tree and the day of Judgement (Muslim) or the Messiah (Jewish) comes, you should first plant the tree. IDEA has brought people together to learn about our commonality, and to show that we are much more similar than we may have first thought.
The next stage of IDEA's growth is in reaching out to the communities all across Dorset. If each community made IDEA an important part of their communal life - in sermons, activities and so on - there would be the potential to reach tens of thousands of people.
The next annual conference is planned for September 2008, and Rabbi Neil hopes to get more than 100 people this year.
He has already worked with Bournemouth Council, which is now the first authority in the UK to formally adopt The Earth Charter www.earthcharter.org and Bournemouth is now the UK's first authority to formally adopt it.
The Earth Charter is a global document, and because of the work done by IDEA in Bournemouth, the forthcoming October 2008 global video-link conference will now feature the UK through Bournemouth.
Dorset is one of the largest counties in England, so it is the hope that within the next few years over 400 faith communities in Dorset will become members of IDEA.
Link here for www.eco-faith.org
And here to access the Earth Charter Initiative.
Link here for details about a new eco-congregation website.
here to see more images of Dorset.