Preservation and care for the natural environment hold high significance for the world's major faith traditions. Both through theological teachings and service, faith communities play important roles in shaping attitudes and action towards environmental protection and policy. An understanding of the theological underpinnings inspiring and driving care for the environment, and of how, in practice, faith communities mobilize around sustainable development can help inform effective environmental policies at the local, national, and international levels.
At the initiative of the United States Embassy to the Holy See, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, World Faiths Development Dialogue, and the embassy met via live video feed for a conference that explored the intersections of religion and the environment, with a focus on implications for policy. The event falls under a broader State Department initiative to engage religion in policy dialogue. It brought together a group of environmental experts representing the Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions, and representatives from the US government and the World Bank, along with international and interreligious graduate students from three pontifical universities in Rome, as well as Georgetown and other universities in the United States. Five panel presentations and a student-led dialogue explored how different faith traditions view the environment, help to shape social action, and engage in the policy process more broadly.
The exchanges highlighted how much is at stake, for young and old alike, on environment and climate change issues. Spiritual wisdom is a rich source to draw on, as is the mobilizing power of communities. Participants came to the discussion with this understanding but came away in some awe of the richness of ideas that could emerge in two short hours and a gnawing sense that there is far more to do, together.