Many thanks to Elizabeth Cruse and Jonathan Woolley for attending the Second Interfaith Climate Symposium as OBOD representatives, held in London on the 7th February; and to Elizabeth for the following blog post about the event:
The Druid Prayer calls on us to seek ‘understanding’. Last Wednesday, Jonathan Woolley and I attended the Second Interfaith Climate Symposium to represent Druidry in general and OBOD in particular. Reflecting on that experience, I have thought that ‘understanding’, perhaps refers more to understanding of, and between, people rather than comprehension of facts.
This, for me, solves the problem that one needs knowledge in order to understand which is not the order of the words in the prayer (“in strength, understanding,/ And in understanding, knowledge,” ). From true understanding between people we gain knowledge, factual, practical or, in the case of the Symposium, knowledge of others’ faiths and how these may impact on solving the problem of climate change.
There were many heartening and interesting aspects of the Symposium that enhanced my understanding in this sense.
The Symposium was held at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue http://www.ljs.org/about-us/ , in itself an education since it was the first time I have been in a synagogue in Britain. The opening remarks came from its rabbi, Alexandra Wright, who highlighted the connection between the Hebrew word for man (‘adam’) with that for earth (‘adama’). You can read her account of the Symposium here
Richard Cheetham, Bishop of Kingston, talked of the importance of interfaith conversation and how the issue of climate change was one of major concern that could enable this by uniting different faith traditions in fundamental agreement. He also hinted at the challenge of generating enthusiasm for action within the Church of England. But this is a problem wherever one looks.
The main speaker was Lord Deben, Chair of the UK Independent Committee on Climate Change. Himself a Catholic, he spoke warmly of the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’. Here is its beginning:
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
Lord Deben, formerly the Conservative MP John Gummer, presented Climate Change as a symptom of our dealing with the world and each other, not merely a matter of science and technology but intimately bound up with moral values and attitudes to poverty and inequality. Lord Deben, for all the imperfections of the political system is at the heart of trying to implement the Paris Agreement adopted by consensus on 12th December 2015 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Agreement
He stressed the imperative of working together and openly referred to Brexit as morally wrong, a triumph of “skulduggery and big money”, a retreat that is not allowed to us in a time when working together is crucial to solve perhaps the biggest threat humanity has faced.
The most fascinating part of the evening for me was the workshop that we attended run by Gopal Patel, Director of the Bhumi Project at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies http://www.bhumiproject.org/ This attracted my attention because of the strong connections between Celtic and Dharmic culture manifested, for example, in similar vocabulary in Old Irish and Sanskrit. Druids have been described as “the Brahmins of ancient Europe.(1)
In the workshop, we looked at some fundamental tenets of Hinduism taken from the ancient Rig Veda, such as dharma (that which sustains and upholds our life) and rta (pronounced ritta) (universal order or balance) and discussed how these concepts related to tackling climate change. Jonathan and I were sparked by this into wondering what precepts from within our own tradition might express similar themes, or be similarly effective at responding to our current ecological crisis.
Overall, the Symposium avoided despair though of course, there was mention of inundation, droughts, extreme weather and climate refugees. But the point of following a spiritual path, in my view, is, through action in the world and through contemplation, to maintain hope. Research has shown that people are not motivated to environmental action by negativity, notably demonstrated by Chris Jordan’s Midway project of 2009 in which he sought to galvanise people into action by documenting the catastrophic effects of plastic waste on albatross chicks on a remote Pacific island.(2)
I was touched by the final words from Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Assistant Secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. http://www.mcb.org.uk/ He spoke simply of things individuals could do, of things he was trying to do in his family and in his mosque. Alone of the speakers, he grieved for the suffering of the animals of this planet who are badly affected by drought in Southern Africa. And he drew our attention to the fact that Mohammed (peace be upon him) said, “We must plant trees.”
For the future, Jonathan and I are eager to be involved in future Symposia and have expressed this to Canon Giles Goddard who organised this gathering. I would also like OBOD to be more aware and proactive on the issue of climate change because as I have observed in a recent article, the earth is sacred. (3)
(2) http://chrisjordan.com/gallery/midway/#CF000313%2018×24 and also Luque-Lora, Rogelio, 2016. “Balancing Beauty and Horror.” Exploring the Role of Enchantment in Motivating Environmentalism in the Anthropocene. Unpublished dissertation, University of Cambridge.
(3) Cruse, L., Because the earth is Sacred – Pagan Dawn, Samhain 2017)