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The Environmentalist Turn in Religions: Religious Communities in Society – Adaptation and transformation (1/2)

Panel Chair: Carrie B. Dohe |

Anthropogenic climate change and overuse of natural resources are the major crises facing humanity today. Given the global scope of these problems, individuals and communities around the world seek to contribute to their solution. This includes religious actors. In this panel, scholars researching Christianity in Denmark, Buddhism in Germany, and Afro-Cuban religious traditions explore how specific religious communities and institutions are adapting to cultural change wrought by environmental degradation and climate change. They consider what sources religious actors draw on to develop their own religiously-specific environmental ethics and practice, and the resistance they face by others who do not support the environmentalist turn in their religion. The scholars examine both religions that have traditionally separated humanity from nature as well as those that do not, and address how these differing understandings impact specific religious communities’ attempts to grapple with climate change.

Carrie B. Dohe

Together for the Preservation of Nature? The Prospects for and Challenges of Interreligious Engagement for Nature Conservation in Germany

In February 2015, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the Abrahamic Forum co-sponsored a dialog forum to initiate an interreligious project for nature conservancy in Germany, combining the two main churches with several new, immigrant-based religions. The goals of the project are four-fold: a collective declaration on religious communities and nature conservation; interreligious teams to conduct educational outreach in schools; an interreligious week to be held in conjunction with the Christian ecumenical Creationtide; and an interreligious network. Despite the initial enthusiasm expressed by the ninety participants, the project faces several challenges, from a lack of funds and personnel to a refusal of some groups to work with representatives of their enemies or persecutors in other countries. Based on ongoing participant observation and conversation with individual actors, this presentation will provide an overview of the four projects and the various prospects for and challenges to this new initiative.

Jens-André P. Herbener

The Greening of Christianity within the Danish National Church

This paper will describe and analyze examples of the greening of Christianity within the Danish National Church. More specifically, it will address Danish theologians who work with ecological reinterpretation of the Christian Bible; ideas and rituals in the worship (i.e. Church service) that are characterized by ecological reorientation; ecclesiastical environmentalist organizations in Denmark such as Green Church; initiatives that intend to promote ecologically responsible behavior among employees within the Danish National Church. Moreover, we will take a look at the resistance that parts of the greening of Christianity have experienced. Finally, it will be discussed whether the ecological thinking and initiatives of some of the religious specialists has led to changes in the behavior of the rank and file members of the Danish National Church.

Lioba Rossbach de Olmos

Gods and Humans in the Environment: Shared responsibilities in Afro-Cuban Religions

The Abrahamic religions’ view of the origin of the world centers on the act of creation by an almighty god. Man was the “coronation” of his creation including the mandate to reign over the rest of the material world. The anthropogenic destruction of the world as well as an "environmental turn" in religion can to be seen as an outcome of this domination. This is not the case with many polytheistic religions, where the environment is not separate but intermingled with the human sphere and is itself an integral part of religious belief and ritual practice. Deities and humans are both conceived as relevant entities with environmental responsibility. This will be shown and discussed by the example of Afro-Cuban religions. In their world conception humans are less powerful, and the environment and its spiritual actors are understood as acting on their own authority. This cosmological conception also allows sustainable conduct.

Sigurd Bergmann


Sigurd Bergmann will respond to the issues raised in these papers.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

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