Seven Key Areas
Celebration lies at the heart of all major faiths. It is a core element of faith practice, worship and festivals, and rites of passage such as birth, marriage and, yes, even death. At a time when the climate crisis and environmental challenge may seem insurmountable, celebrating nature and creation is more important than ever before. Because focusing on fear, doom and guilt all the time paralyses people rather than inspires then – and if something is worth celebrating, it is worth saving.
'We give you thanks, most gracious God,
for the beauty of the earth and sky and sea'
– The Book of Common Prayer (1549)
Considering celebration in your Faith Plan.
A. TRADITIONAL FESTIVALS
What does your theology say about celebrating nature and creation? Why should it be celebrated?
Have you set aside a specific festival to focus on the natural environment – for example a tree festival or a 'Celebration of Creation'? Could these times of joy and connection be linked to extending ambition or launching new initiatives?
How can traditional festivals become more environmentally friendly? Think particularly of the practical changes you can make.
B. NEW FESTIVALS
If you have not got a festival of creation in your tradition, could you take an existing festival or custom and adapt its practices and rituals so that there is a deeper, more impactful environmental message?
How often will these new festivals be held or celebrated?
Will new festivals be adopted by the faith group globally or in small, specific communities?
How can you ensure that new festivals do not use unnecessary resources that may harm the environment?
How will you fund and resource your new festivals?
Many religious leaders value tradition so much that they have no hesitation in introducing new ones. Perhaps you can introduce a new practice which will be wonderful for Creation as well as for people. Many faiths are expert at bringing people together, and their places of worship are often wonderful buildings for holding forums for events.
Could you open up your place of worship for a party or fete on environmental issues; create a forum for debate; issue an invitation to people in your wider community inviting them to come and tell their story?
Have you considered the environmental impacts of advertising such events, such as the use of materials for leaflets?
D. CELEBRATING BEAUTIFUL PLACES and NEW DEVELOPMENTS
The natural world, despite the challenges it faces, is still a beautiful place. Sometimes it is the role of faiths, amid distressing ecological predictions, to remind people to celebrate the beautiful, good, heroic and brave things about the world and about life.
Celebrate good new developments, efforts to protect habitats and eco-systems better, and give thanks.
How can you remind your faithful to give thanks for the world we live in and all its beauty?
Ordaining trees to protect them
from loggers – how Buddhist monks saved a forest in Cambodia
Monks Community Forest
The Monks Community Forest is 18.3 hectares of legally protected evergreen forest in the Oddar Meanchey province of Cambodia, and the country's largest community-managed forest conservation site.
It owes its protected status to a group of Buddhist monks, who, inspired by the teachings of the Buddha, set out to safeguard the area in the early 2000s by ordaining trees as monks.
The importance of forests
Their action was due to one man in particular, Bun Saluth, who realised the importance of protecting the forests when he returned to Cambodia after studying in Thailand.
Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, much of it due to illegal logging. Aware that Thailand had lost much of its traditional forests, Bun Saluth was worried that Cambodia was following the same path.
Buddhism plays a very important role in conserving nature, says Bun Saluth: "When Lord Buddha was alive, he used trees and caves as his lodging to achieve enlightenment. In this way he taught us to love nature and animals."
Inspired by the action of Thai ecology monks who in the late 1980s began ordaining trees in the way they would induct a
Monks ordain a tree in the Monks Community Forest
new monk to the faith, Bun Saluth set out to do the same, hoping that the loggers – who largely belong to the Buddhist faith – would respect the traditional orange monk's robes and leave the trees alone. To harm an ordained monk is both a religious taboo and legal offence, and the ordination extends this sacred status to the tree.
A NEW MUSLIM ENVIRONMENTAL CELEBRATION
Greening Friday – a new celebration of the environment for Muslims in Uganda
Just over a decade ago, Hajjat Sebyala Aphwa, a Ugandan social and environmental activist, attended an interfaith forum run by the British Council in Nigeria looking at climate change in Africa.
Inspired, when she returned to her home in Kampala, Uganda, she was determined to do something to raise awareness of the issues among her fellow Muslims. Hajjat immediately went to the Uganda Supreme Muslim Council, which represents most of the country's 5.7 million Muslim community – and so Greening Friday was born.
Greening Friday is an annual day for Muslims to celebrate the environment and since it was first held in 2010, it has become firmly established in the Uganda Muslim calendar.
It is held on the second Friday of Ramadan every year, which means many people get to hear the environmental message preached in the sermon (kutba) that day, and also broadcast live aross Uganda via Muslim radio. 'The mosque is packed to capacity because it is a holy month, says Hajjat, who has become known as Hajjat Green or Hajjat of the Trees. Afterwards, tree seedlings are handed out for people to plant themselves.
Collecting tree seedlings as part of Greening Friday