Our Living Earth in Crisis -
a Joint Call for a Spiritual Awakening
Foreword by Oddbjørn Leirvik, Emmaus
In the spring of 1993 "Emmaus" - a church-based dialogue center in Oslo - sent out an invitation to take part in a dialogue about "Ecology and Religion". A working group was formed, consisting of representatives from seven major religious communities and a representative of the alternative spiritual movements. Some fundamental recognitions formed the basis of this initiative:
* Norway has become a multi-religious society
* The ecological crisis threatens our common future and the very basis of life on earth, and challenges us to cooperate across religious boundaries.
* A solution to the environmental crisis cannot be found unless we realize that we are facing a spiritual crisis. The ecological problems can be solved only through a profound change of values and behavior, and they challenge us to seek a renewed spiritual consciousness of the wholeness of life.
For more than a year representatives of different religious traditions and spiritual schools met to discuss issues of ecology, spirituality and religion. We have spent a considerable amount of time getting to know each others' traditions. Together with the Norwegian edition of the common proclamation, the participating communities present their particular perception of religion and ecology. But throughout the dialogue the aim was to arrive at a joint expression of the spiritual challenges posed by the ecological crisis.
The group was established in part on the basis of individual inquiry, and in part as a result of inquiries made to the different religious communities. It had no official status, but the participants have nevertheless been aware that they represent a community or a religion, and not only themselves.
The proclamation - Our Living Earth in Crisis - A joint Call for a Spiritual Awakening - is one of the first fruits of a dialogue across religious boundaries we have seen in Norway. We hope this proclamation will be an enduring expression of the possibility of finding values that we all share in spite of our differences. We also hope that it may be received as an appeal to take the spiritual dimension of life seriously; and inspire our personal and political quests for solutions to the challenges that humankind faces.
Being convinced that profound changes of attitude must take place within all religious communities and movements, we also realize that this change will necessarily have to be manifested in different religious and spiritual expressions. Our wish to reach a joint response to the ecological crisis does not mean that we conceal the differences between our various paths of realization and revealed truths. Nonetheless we can and must stand together, in spite of our differences, for the sake of life itself.
The title of the Norwegian edition is En levende jord i krise - et felles kall til ndelig oppvkning, and includes the following contributions along with the Proclamation:
* Under the Trees (Buddhist). * Simple Life Style, Spiritual Development (Vedic perspective, Hare Krishna). * Humanity, Nature and Religion - a Jewish Perspective. * God, Humanity and Nature in Christian Understanding (Lutheran). * A Christian Response (Catholic). * God, Humanity and Nature in Islam. * The View of Nature and Environment in Baha'i-Belief. * A New Consciousness (by the Alternative Network).
(For those who read Scandinavian, the proclamation together with the contributions from the different partners in the dialogue can be ordered from Emmaus, Olaf Ryes plass 7, N - 0552 Oslo. Price: NOK 20,- plus postage).
Unconstrained desires, injustice and oppression, hostility and war, have always threatened human society. Dramatically new, however, is the fact that life itself is endangered. Humankind is facing a global, ecological crisis. We have failed to acknowledge that man and nature constitute one whole, and we have disregarded life's natural limitations. Our consumer society severs the responsibility for the balance of nature, for our fellow human beings as well as for new generations yet to be born. A small group of nations consumes a vast proportion of Earth's resources. This Earth is unable to sustain a worldwide level of consumption taken for granted by the privileged few. This development creates tension and conflicts between countries, and on the individual level it leads to suffering and anxiety. We already have a presentiment of the extent of this crisis, but we hesitate to acknowledge that it forces us to change our life-style, our production, and our level of consumption.
Our dilemma is that we are in many cases aware
of what is right, but at the same time we are not sufficiently willing to act
accordingly. We want peace, but we fail to pay the price: to build on trust
without resorting to violent and self-righteous acts. We want a sustainable
development, but still we continue over-exploiting Earth's limited resources.
We realize that we humans are merely one strand in Earth's enormous web, but
we conduct our affairs as if we were not a part of nature, but a separate entity.
Hope never dies. Each day hope inspires people
to strive for justice, to work for peace, and to protect nature of which we
all are a part. The challenge is to reinforce and deepen our realization that
we constitute one all-embracing whole, and to strengthen hope, so it can change
A Deeper Reality
As religious men and women who recognize that
life has a spiritual dimension, we base our lives upon a deeper reality. We
realize that our existence is part of something larger than ourselves. We believe
that this most profound reality calls upon our humility and devotion. We believe
there is a Love which constitutes the deepest source of our hope, and a universal
Will that calls us to change our direction.
An Ethical and Spiritual Awakening
We believe that we are in fact facing a moral
crisis, which is essentially a spiritual crisis. We therefore believe that an
ethical and spiritual awakening is imperative, if we are to overcome the crisis
that threatens Earth. In spite of pledges of good intentions, political and
general attitudes. are governed by lack of action and by selfish interests.
All over the world human-centered materialistic ideologies and social systems
are spreading. The self-centered materialism of the consumer society makes people
rootless and alienated from their deeper selves as well as from the whole of
which we are a part. Materialism not only turns nature into a commodity which
we are free to exploit as we please. People also become objects of exploitation.
This brings into peril the very belief in ourselves as creative individuals.
There is an urgent need to regain faith in man's positive creative power; in
empathy and with compassion for all living beings.
What Can Religions Contribute?
As religious men and women we have different ways
of expressing our spiritual realizations. What unites us is our wish to live
in harmony with a deeper reality. In trust, prayers and meditation, in silence
or by means of words that have been given to us, we draw hope and strength from
this reality. We have a wish to share these sources with others, and to lift
forward the call of the religions for responsibility and global thinking. We
recognize that religions, in order to be credible, need to dismantle conflicts
which have their roots in the religions themselves. We must confront our own
enemy images, respect each other's traditions, creeds and religious experience.
There is also a need for a spiritual awakening among those who believe. We are,
however, convinced that the fundamental realizations within our religions can
indeed contribute to pointing out a path towards the future. We believe that
the spiritual power of religions gives us the deep-rooted trust in Life which
we all need. Our religious communities constitute a foothold to our fundamental
values. These communities are spiritual homes where our commitment to these
values can be strengthened and our hopes be nourished.
Through dialogue across religious and philosophical
boundaries many have experienced that the process of sharing one's own beliefs
makes those beliefs more clear to US. Dialogue does not eradicate the differences
between our revealed truths or spiritual realizations. At times it may even
reinforce our commitments to them. An inter-religious dialogue may also cause
pain when conflicting realizations and truths meet. But the aim of such a dialogue
must be to seek a reconciled diversity that makes it possible to find a future
for human society and Earth on which we all live. Through dialogue and by sharing
views with each other on the dramatic challenges that we all are facing, we
feel we are on the way to discovering fundamental, universal values as well
as images of hope that can lead us towards a universal clarity and a universal
obligation to act. We seek a spiritual clarity that will strengthen our awareness
of being part of a larger whole, regardless of religious, social, and sexual
boundaries - a larger whole without any true boundaries between man and nature.
Spiritual Growth - the Opposite of Self-Centeredness
We believe that spiritual growth means to open
our hearts and minds in compassion and devotion to our Fellow Beings and to
God - to Life in its infiniteness and to the Ultimate Reality. Spiritual growth
is the opposite of self-centeredness. Spiritual growth is to recognize our inter-connectedness,
our responsibility, and to foster love towards all living beings.
Awakening and Change
We jointly call for a spiritual, compassionate
and down-to-earth awakening. We call upon all, beginning with ourselves, to
change, and to bring about a radical transformation of our attitudes that can
alter our way of life. We call to turn away from those paths that lead to destruction,
so that we may together find the ways that lead to life.
Individual and Governmental Responsibility
If we are to change the course of development, the awakening must be followed by practical action - on an individual level as well as by society as a whole. There is a need for an ethical awareness that is capable of making clear to each individual his or her responsibility to seek a new way of life. On the political level, the various bodies need to see their responsibility in outlining and implementing a comprehensive policy that safeguards and restores the environment. States must establish frameworks preventing any special interest group from imposing their own will at the expense of the common good and the natural environment. In order to give everyone the opportunity for personal and economic development, political institutions must work diligently and consistently to achieve a world-wide redistribution of access to resources. Norway, being a wealthy society with vast natural resources, ought to become a model nation for a future-oriented and ecologically responsible policy. In order to make progress in bringing about this demanding mission, individuals, religious communities, and organizations must be in the forefront. They must join forces and work together to make owners, employers and employees - in industry and elsewhere - as well as public authorities and international bodies, assume their moral responsibility towards all life, and to commit themselves to safeguarding and protecting our natural habitat in its entirety - this Earth upon which all life, our own included, is dependent.
Espen Arnesen - The Buddhist Union of Norway
Tarjei Trefall - The Hare Krishna Movement in Norway
Lynn Feinberg - The Jewish Community in Oslo
Oddbjørn Leirvik, Øystein Braaten - Emmaus, Church of Norway (Lutheran)
Erik Lykke - The Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Diocese of Oslo
Mazhar Iqbal - Islamic Cultural Centre Norway
Kari Lem Ninauve - The Baha'i Community of Norway
Øyvind Solum - Alternative Network.