The Boroondara Interfaith Network marked World Environment Day, Sunday 5 June 2011, with a forum on the theme of Religion and Ecology hosted at the Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism. The event supported by a climate change awareness project of the City Of Boroondara’s Health, Aging and Disability Department and was held in partnership with locally based interfaith organisation focusing on environmental themes and awareness raising, GreenFaith Australia.

Religion & Ecology

This second 2011 event of the Boroondara Interfaith Network captured many of the fears, hopes and strength in community that people of different faiths are experiencing in the face of climate change and the complexities of our ecological and social condition.

Centre host and network member, Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, opened the forum by introducing a panel of diverse speakers who shared their thoughts on the role of environmental ethics and ecological relationships from their faith perspectives. The panel included: young Wurundjeri Elder, Bill Nicholson, who also welcomed us to Country in his traditional language; the education convener for the Buddhist Council of Victoria and Buddhist psychotherapist, Peggy Page; musical interpreter of the traditional Sikh hymns and mediation teacher, Dya Singh; retired Uniting Church Minister and founder of ‘Grand Stand for the Environment’ action group for Grandparents seeking a sustainable future for the next generations, Gail Pritchard; and Rabbi Jonathan who has a long term commitment and leadership role in environmental action and interfaith relationship building.  Each panelist was knowledgeable in their faith tradition and shared some of their personal story around sustainable action and learning.  

The panel was followed by a thought provoking audio-visual presentation  on the fear, hope, beauty and devastation of the eco-human world we live in. It incorporated teachings from a range of sacred texts of the world religions calling humanity to respect and care for the earth which sustains us. In this reflective mood participants then joined Bill Nicholson in the courtyard of the centre for a traditional smoking ceremony to cleanse, renew and connect people to Country.

Ecology & Religion

During a soul-warming vegetarian afternoon tea, participants listened to two of the GreenFaith Australia team, permaculture teacher and community activist, Martha Hills and Sikh interfaith activist, nurse and GreenFaith president Jessiee Kaur Singh present on ecological sustainability in our daily decisions and the links to health and wellbeing. The event was closed by Dya Singh who invited participants to share a song or chant from their tradition and language – many were keen to share a favorite or meaningful piece with the group.

The forum flew by with a packed program, and while we were short on time, participants stayed to draw prayers and images on large leaves to contribute to a community art-piece of a prayer tree which we will continue to build at our next Boroondara Interfaith Network event in August.

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