Abrahamic Traditions & Environmental Change

On June 23-26, I attended a workshop in Rhodes, Greece entitled “Abrahamic Traditions & Environmental Change.” The workshop was co-organized by the University of Connecticut Abrahamic Programs, the Moroccan Al Akhawayn University, and the Yale Forum for Religion and Ecology. One of the tasks of this workshop was to explore how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam impact the ways in which humans perceive and interact with nature and the potential to translate those perceptions and interactions into positive social and ecological action, especially in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Region. It initiated a relevant, scalable and sustainable collaborative program between MENA scholars and practitioners and their North American and European partners.

I have never been at a conference before with Israelis, Americans, and: Moroccans, Jordanians, Turks, and representatives from the PA, the United Arab Emirates, and from Oman and Dubai. The people were uniformly amazingly smart, motivated and friendly to promote this joint work. There was quite lively discussion around environmental values and policy in all these countries, and how we can potentially cooperate to define and work together for shared goals for our country and the region.

From the conference website:

~The Abrahamic religions have exhibited shared sensibilities of global awareness and responsibility and have worked as inspired catalysts for social change. The history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam indicate clearly that these traditions have consistently represented a genuine moral force, while exhibiting strong spiritual energy. Despite secularization and the one-sided criticism of their supposed outdated, ineffective ideologies, the Abrahamic religions remain foundational to how people of these faiths think, feel and act to this day.

~Current environmental challenges in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Region and beyond suggest an urgent need for cross disciplinary debate and understanding of the causes and consequences of environmental change as a prelude to successful mitigation and adaptation. The urgency of contemporary environmental change calls for policies and practices that reverse current degradation trends to help produce socially and ecologically sustainable development solutions that are consistent with the broad U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

The stated goals of the workshop were:

1) dynamic group and individual conversations that contribute conceptually and politically to current debates; 2) concrete plans for post-workshop collaboration; and 3) the establishment of new friendships and professional relationships.

All the above were achieved, and more!

-Written by Dr. Jeremy Benstein