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)
What does your faith say about celebrating nature and creation? Have you thought about listing the reasons why it should be celebrated?
Does your faith already hold specific festivals that 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? What practical changes can you make, such as sourcing local, sustainably produced food, reducing waste or switching to environmentally-friendly decorations?
If you don't currently have 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?
Have you considered creating a brand-new dedicated time of celebration of creation? Where could a new celebration fit within your faith calendar?
If you create a new festival, how often will it 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.
Considering this, could you open up your place of worship for a party or fête 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?
How would you advertise such events and have you considered the environmental impacts of doing so, such as the use of materials for leaflets?
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. Do you take time personally to celebrate the environment? Can your personal experiences be shared with others to inspire them?
Can you celebrate good new developments, efforts to protect habitats and eco-systems better, and give thanks? Could you encourage new habits of celebration among members of your community in a dedicated space?
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 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.
Their action was due to 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.
Inspired by the action of Thai ecology monks who in the late 1980s began ordaining trees in the way they would induct a 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.
Monks ordain a tree in the Monks Community Forest
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, and the sermon (kutba) preached that day is on the environment and also broadcast live across 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