Faith and the Environment: Christian Orthodox Leaders Urge Environmental Protection

On Friday October 10, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Greek Orthodox Patriarch) addressed a Synaxis of the heads of the various orthodox churches in Istanbul Turkey.

Part of his address focused on urging orthodox churches to focus on efforts to promote inter-religious dialogue, as well as to protect the environment.

Patriarchs and other senior clergymen from Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Syria and Turkey were in attendance.

The statement read in part:

…the modern world is unfortunately plagued by a crisis that cannot be reduced to inter-personal relations but extends to the relationship between humanity and the natural environment…

Therefore, it is abundantly clear that the Church cannot remain idle before the crisis that affects humanity in relation to the natural environment. It is our obligation to assume every possible initiative… so that our own flock may become aware of the demand for respect toward creation by avoiding any abuse or irrational use of natural resources…

This call to arms by the leaders of the world’s second largest Christian denomination will hopefully have significant impacts on the treatment of environmental issues within Christian Orthodox faith communities.

The statement released speaks to the “ecological crisis”, and attempts to promote the Church’s efforts since 1989 to use prayer as well as meetings between scholars and religious leaders to protect the planet.

With its long ascetic tradition and liturgical ethos, the Orthodox Church can contribute greatly to confronting the ecological crisis that now threatens our planet. In full recognition of this, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has…since 1989…[established] September 1st of each year as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment. It has also, since that time, promoted a series of activities, such as the organization of international symposia involving scholars and religious leaders in order to ascertain ways of protecting God’s creation from imminent destruction.

Finally, the statement concludes in part:

To proclaim once again the vivid interest of the entire Orthodox Church for the crucial and urgent matter of protecting the natural environment…

While the Orthodox Church has been promoting environmental actions since 1989, statements such as these can reinvigorate efforts to promote environmental actions, allowing a topic that has traditionally been associated with the liberal/left part of the political spectrum to also be embraced by traditionally more conservative faith communities. And that is a good thing.

Image credit: debaird at Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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