Twelve years to save the planet?

The South East England Faiths Forum (SEEF) 2019 Annual Conference took place on 16th September 2019 at the University of Surrey. Speakers from different faiths and none offered faith and belief perspectives on our common environment and responsibility for our planet.

Rabbi Alex Goldberg, Co-ordinating Chaplain, University of Surrey welcomed attendees and Kauser Akhtar, Chair of SEEF introduced the speakers.

John Paul from the Ecological Conversion Group works with the Catholic Church looking at the spiritual aspect of the ecological crisis facing our world today. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis has addressed all people about the need to seek a sustainable environment .

Buddhists’ perspective on climate change is expressed in the phrase “dependent origination”. That means, explained John Marder, Interfaith Officer for Network of Buddhist Organisations UK, that all things exist in relationship to each other. So our lack of caring and our selfishness results in global problems. We have individual responsibility to do what we can to safeguard the environment, now.

Cosmic interconnection is one of the ways in which we connect with the environment, one energy flowing through the whole the planet, one creator God in everything everywhere, so that a Sikh regards everything as holy and sacrosanct. Kamal Preet Kaur, Sikh Missionary Society spokesperson, told the conference that Sikhs were conscious of the consequences of their actions and tried to balance needs and wants.

Jeremy Rodell, Dialogue Officer Humanists UK , expressed the golden rule of treating other people as you like to be treated yourself. He found little difference between religious and non-religious views on climate change. Humanists believe that science is the best way to understand facts about the world and do not believe in any supernatural creator being. Pressure by both faith and other organisations on governments to prioritise action on climate change is useful.

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman of Finchley Reformed Synagogue asked a question : how does what you have heard make you feel? Grief, anger, despair, concern for the future …………..We are not separate from nature but part of it. What are we able to do together to effect change? Rabbi Jeffrey advocated peaceful direct action as being most effective. He recommended reading “Deep Adaptation” by Professor Jem Bendell.

There are 2 billion Muslims around the world who need to make connection with the environment. Kamran Shezad from the Islamic Foundation for Environmental and Ecological Sciences told us that the Qu’ran 40.57 taught humility, that humanity is not greater than the creation of earth and heaven. While corporates have a huge responsibility individuals also have a responsibility, for example with food, how we obtain it, what we eat.

Finally Dr Justine Huxley (CEO, St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace) talked about spiritual ecology – building a better world, and resilience, preparing for social and ecological collapse. She asked what is the spiritual opportunity in this problem? The climate change disaster could be viewed as a doorway into transformation, living the story we all want to see.

This Conference was an insight into the various ways faith, and non-faith, communities view the urgent issue of climate change. The speakers found many similarities of views and approach, albeit through different faith and non-faith lenses. All agreed that action now was needed. The Conference ended with pledges to do what we can as individuals and communities, to address climate change honestly and with hope.

http://www.se-faithforum.net

“Deep adaptation” Professor Jem Bendell https://jembendell.com

Shade in the sun

The sunshine is great but when it gets too hot, here in the UK we can sit in the shade of a tree to cool off. In the deseert landscapes of Jordan it’s not so easy to find shade from the burning sun, So it’s good to remember the refugees in Irbid, Jordan who have enthusiastically embraced a new project, planting a community garden. This project has involved the whole community, from the youngest to the oldest, whole families turning out to plant young eucalyptus, fig, olive and rose trees on a plot of land next to the community playground. The refugee camp is crowded, dusty with no space, so creating a tree shaded garden will give refugee families a much needed area for rest and relaxation.

The project is also teaching the refugees especially the young ones, to nurture and tend the saplings so they grow, to conserve scarce and precious water by building a reservoir, and to care for the natural world. To see everyone’s enthusiasm for this project and pride in their growing garden was heartwarming!

Project sponsored by All We Can and delivered by its local partner LWF.

World Refugee Day June 20th 2019

Singer in Za’atari Refugee Camp Jordan

Singing is therapy as well as art! I was humbled and delighted to hear these young Syrian refugees in Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan singing so beautifully together. Their teacher, a Syrian refugee himself, told me that they didn’t want to sing pop songs. Instead they chose to sing the traditional Syrian songs of their culture and homeland. They sang from the heart, a lament of exile like Psalm 137. Yet as well as sadness and pain, there was hope and shy pride shining through as they sang together.

These young people were being given an opportunity to express their feelings through music at The Peace Oasis, Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan which houses more than 80,000 Syrian refugees. Many of the families fled Syria in fear of their lives four or five years ago. Their homes and livelihoods in Syria have been destroyed by the prolonged war; parents wonder what the future holds for their children.

Since 2015 I have been visiting refugee projects in Jordan supported by All We Can (an international development and emergency relief organisation with its roots in the Methodist Church). I can testify from personal experience to the difference these projects make to the lives of refugees.

If you share my passion for this work, and want to support more young people and children by giving to All We Can, you can double your donation to the Syrian Crisis Appeal helping children in Za’atari. Thanks to a generous supporter, every £ you give will be matched by another £, up to £5000.

Go to allwecan.org.uk/refugeeweek to give online or call 0207 467 5132 and help the songs to be sung with joy! Make sure you specify the refugee appeal when you give.

Update on recent visit to Jordan

Women’s refugee catering project in Irbid, Jordan

We visited some of All We Can’s projects via it’s partner organisation Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in March. Some refugee women in a refugee camp in Irbid north east Jordan have received funding to set up a catering business. They cook special meals for celebrations, parties, weddings and family events and the income from this enables them to be more independent. Also they have formed friendships which have eased loneliness and isolation which many of them were feeling as refugees.

More coming soon…

Um Abdu

This is Um Abdu (“mother of” Abdu) with two of her grandchildren. In 2015 Um Abdu and 6 other family members had to flee in fear of their lives from the war in Syria. Now they were living in a converted container in Za’atari refugee camp, northern Jordan. This is her story.

Um Abdu’s husband was a baker from Derra in Syria. Their home and business had been destroyed by bombing so the family left for the safety of neighbouring Jordan.

Life in the refugee camp was bleak. Out of the 7 family members living in the container, there was only one breadwinner, supporting parents, sister and husband and their 3 children, with another brother and sister and 2 children of a cousin orphaned when their parents were killed.

The family relied on aid for their livelihoods and were very proud of one small granddaughter who was awarded a supplementary food coupon because she was attending the school in the camp.

This family said they had no hope for the future, no possibility of finding work. They were thinking of leaving, even of going to Europe – this was the first time the aid workers had heard refugees talking of Europe, although we all know that many refugees have taken that path.

There are 80,000 refugees still living in difficult conditions in Za’atari Refugee Camp. Some of them have been there for years and have no expectations of going home. All We Can is committed to supporting these refugees, and is particularly concerned to help children and teenagers.

Children have the right to special protection and help as refugees. Give this family and others like them some hope. Double your donation to All We Can’s Refugee Appeal helping children in Za’atari. Thanks to a generous supporter the first £5000 All We Can receive will be doubled!

Give now : via the website www.allwecan.org.uk

By telephone : credit/debit card 0207467 5132

Or by post : cheque made payable to All We Can. Send to All We Can 25 Marylebone Road London NW1 5JR.