By Kat Glass
Religion News Service
(RNS) The United Nations is looking to partnerships with the faith community to spearhead the drive against global warming.
The U.N. recently linked with the Bath, U.K.-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), pouring funding and attention into the ARC’s ongoing campaign to use faith groups as a vessel for tackling environmental problems.
Members of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Daoist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh and Zoroastrian faiths will launch a seven-year climate change plan starting in 2009.
Indian Sikhs, for example, plan to cut down on fossil fuels by cooking with solar power and other fuel-efficient equipment in their gurdwaras, or temples. Japanese Shinto shrines will follow sustainable forestry standards during their ritual rebuilding every 20 to 25 years.
Around 50 countries are already involved in the effort with the ARC.
The U.N. support will give the project a “massive, massive surge forward,” said Martin Palmer, ARC secretary general.
Faith groups are a natural steward for environmental conservation, Palmer said. “If you’re looking to the longterm future, they are the strongest and most stable unit anywhere in the world,” he said.
Palmer criticized the new trend of buying carbon offsets, likening it to the sale of indulgences in the 15th and 16th centuries, which sparked the Protestant Reformation. “Indulgences remove from you the moral responsibility,” he said.
He instead promotes a more direction-action approach. “We’re saying, let’s celebrate that this is a fabulous world created by the divine. And because it is being so severely damaged, we should move — not from fear, but from compassion,” Palmer said.
The partnership with the ARC is a major shift for the U.N., which has maintained a secular approach since its inception, Palmer said.
“The old ideology that religion would fade away … is giving way to a recognition that in many parts of the world, it is religion that holds society together,” Palmer said. “So to exclude it is to be quite foolish.”
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