Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development”, the Foundation Konrad Adenauer and the Studium Theologicum Salesianum of Jerusalem. Among the participants, Msgr William Shomali, representatives of the two other monotheistic religions, as well as an expert in the field of environment of the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo.
The conference was introduced by Dr. Michael Borchard, Office Manager
of the Foundation Konrad Adenauer in Israel. The latter said a word of
welcome to all participants, including a large number of seminarists
and priests from the Studium Theologicum Salesianum, as well as some
Jewish and Moslem figures.
Fr. Biju Michael, Director of the Studium Theologicum Salesiasnum,
gave a short presentation on the interest that the Church carries
towards environment, especially through the teaching of St Pope John
Paul II, which the Church observed that day in its Liturgy.
Immediately thereafter, Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Executive Officer of the
Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, introduced the
conference director, Rabbi Michael Melchior. The latter underlined how
Jerusalem, “the gate to heaven”, stands for the ideal place for such an
event, that religion has a role to play in the “safeguard of environment
also for the sake of forthcoming generations”. “World belongs to God,
we are just visitors. Whenever we fail to take care of environment, we
commit a basic offense against religion”.
According to Msgr Shomali, such a meeting can find its sources in
both theory and practice. Practice helps to remind us that environment
is in danger; it is the genuine need to protect environment that
inspires today’s meeting. For instance, water pollution, especially in
Gaza, but also seemingly in the area of Jerusalem, represents a real
problem, the Bishop added. Theory – that of the Bible according to Msgr
Shomali, the story of the Creation reminds us how God looked at the
creation and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1). The Lord entrusted Man
with this creation in order to protect it, but Man has become a risk
for the creation.
Later, Imam Wisam Barhum presented the view, which Islam conceives on
environment. Islam sees in the Earth the place that embraced the
prophets, the emissaries of God and the heavenly messages. God ordered
Noah at the time of the Flood, according to Coran, to choose a couple,
male and female, out of each creation. Moslem interpreters see in that a
reference to the protection of animals and vegetables. Man
nevertheless struggles to lay the hands on God’s creation, but ends up
destroying it instead of protecting it.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, on his part, explained that religion is not
confined just to religious rituals, but that is should take interest in
world issues” “Religions cannot stay rigid and tied up to old
traditions. They should engage in dialogue with modernity. That is
important not only to protect environment, but also to protect religion”
he further said.
Finally, the audience heard the word of Science through Dr Nurit
Hashimy Yaffe, of the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo. She started
by listing some problems which environment experiences at present: the
weather, the shrinking of agricultural lands, etc. Environment in her
view does not concern only man’s health and physical ailments. It
concerns as well the social, cultural, economical and political aspects
of his entire life. Regarding environmental issues, man is called to
make “political choices”. Why ? Because the resources on the Earth we
share are limited. Many of them are not renewable (like fuel, for
instance). That’s the reason why it is important to take good care of
the resources, according to the rules of social justice.
Dr Yaffe concluded that most of the environmental issues are recorded in dominated countries, void of any democracy.
She ended up by underscoring the fact that all men are partners of
environment that preserving the planet goes beyond religions and
nations. This fellowship may be an occasion to overcome our differences.
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