Faith and Nature

 Welcome address by Anwar Fazal, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific 2000, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at “Faith & Nature” – A Southeast Asian Workshop for Action on “The Ohito Declaration for Religions, Land and Conservation”, held at the Asian and Pacific Development Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 16-18 June 1997.

Assalamilaikum. Peace be on all of you.

I think peace is a wonderful word to start with very often people look at peace as only in the context of the absence of war. It is much more than that – there are three dimensions of peace – the Inner Peace – peace with oneself, Peace with other human beings and finally Peace with the physical environment.

In the conference we are going to address all three dimensions of peace in an interactive way.

When I had that moment of silence I had wished so much that I would hear – Birds, Water. Unfortunately – we are leading lives where we can only hear the hum of the air conditioner the noise of traffic and also very often – another kind of sub humming condenses – lighting systems with buzzes with electronic speakers that are not working properly And I thought it might be useful for us to be reminded of Nature and I looked for something that I like to share with you that came from a group of native people who have interacted with nature in a holistic way. Their way of life links them with Nature in a spiritual bond that makes them feel and interact with nature which is so much part of faith and spiritual traditions until often the built environment destroys those particular links and materialism destroys that very link.

This particular native asks us not only to protect but to learn from Nature. And it goes like this

Blessings of Nature

We call upon the earth, our planet home, with its beautiful depths and soaring heights, its vitality and abundance of life, and together we ask that it

Teach us, and show us the way.

We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, that flow in our rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens and fields and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the way

We call upon the land which grows our food, the nurturing soil, the fertile fields, the abundant gardens and orchards, and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the way

We call upon the forest, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with earth in their roots and the heavens in their branches, the fir and the pine and the cedar, and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the way

We call upon the creatures of the fields and forests and the seas, our brothers and sisters the wolves and deer, the eagle and dove, the great whales and dolphin, the beautiful Orcas and salmon who share our North West home, and ask them to

Teach us, and show us the way

We call upon all those who have lived on this earth, our ancestors and our friends, who dream the best for future generations, and upon whose lives our lives are built, and with thanksgiving, we call upon them to

Teach us, and show us the way

And lastly, we call upon all that we hold most sacred, and presence and power of the Great Spirit of love and truth which flows through all the universe….

Teach us, and show us the way

This is a little blessing of our lives and our home Mother Earth We live in a world that is far from us. We live in a sick world, made sick by Three Technology.

I like to mention the three main technologies that often prevail and effect the daily routine of our lives.

A world that is dominated by three technologies:

  • Technology of Violence – the sick world is dominated by the technologies of violence i.e. warfare, chemicals, the motorcar which has killed more people then wars, the use of pesticides, and the way we operate our lives.
  • Technology of Manipulation – the mass media has conditioned the way we perceive our consumer needs. Through advertising people are motivated to buy things that they don’t really need. Products are built into television programming and that this may cause subliminal behavioural changes.
  • Technology of Waste – We have generated so much waste that we are unable to cope the quality. It is as though Mother Earth has AIDS. We need to have a paradigm shift toward Sustainable Human Development (SHD).


We need to move away from this sick world. What is the paradigm for an alternative? Sustainable Human Development (SHD) – SHD tries to distinguish bad growth. The Human Development Report has indicated five bad patterns of growth in our cities that deters productivity:

  • Jobless Growth – The kind of jobs that are created are not those that are productive.
  • Ruthless Growth – The rich are getting richer and the poor are becoming increasingly marginalised.
  • Voiceless Growth – People do not have opportunities for democratic participation
  • Rootless Growth – Tradition and cultural identities are being obliterated into a “globalised culture”.
  • Futureless Growth – This type of growth occurs when growth has no future because the present generation squanders resources.

These kinds of five growths are the challenges for this meeting.

We are fortunate that we have here a very rich group of people who come from both the environment movement and groups representing the diversity of faiths. In Malaysia you can hold a Malaysian conference and automatically it will be – a multi-faith/global, it is a mini UN which encompasses all faiths and all cultures in such a great remarkable.

A Pro-culture of Stewardship and Trusteeship to ensure that there is trust and respect. We need not only to tolerate each other but we have to care and respect each other which is pro-active – this is fundamental shift from the world tolerance which actually says I don’t like you but you can hand around – a negative connotation that is surpassed by the respect we give each other in Malaysia.

The third culture – is the Culture of Accountability – we have a multi political system not the best but like a great politician said “Democracy is the best of the worst systems”. In Malaysia we also have a strong sense of Spiritual element – people of all faiths live in Malaysia. In Penang, there is a street called Jalan Masjid India that actually is convulsion of the different faiths – the street is lined with sanctuaries of the different major faiths and communities.

Accountability to the future generation – transcends beyond the Five Year Plan – a mathematical figure. What kind of world are we going to leave behind? Are we going to leave behind a world that is better than the one we came to? Malaysia’s Vision 2020 – is a concept that transcends generations. It is in line with the progress and challenges that we are facing in today’s world.

Also in Malaysia we have a strong sense of spirituality and an accountability to a great spiritual being and this meeting is very important as it links with nature, the future and the kind of solidarity of community and faiths that many of you come from.

In Malaysia, there is a proactive culture of balance and harmony, stewardship and trusteeship. We need not only to tolerate but also to respect each other.

Accountability to the future generations - Vision 2020, the larger what kind of world we are going  to leave behind. The new challenges – to leave behind a world that is better than what we came to for our children.

The linking with nature, the environment, solidarity of communities and faiths, I hope this journey will help us to strengthen the kind of work we do and also – linkages between faith but also inter-faith as against intra-faith as against intra-faith not in Malaysia but within the region and also to other places.

To begin the process, I like to thank some special people who have made this meeting possible. First of all Mr. Shoji (MOA), please convey our thanks to the MOA for their grant and assistance and especially for the commitment of promote the Ohito Declaration. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Just World Trust whose President, Mr.S.M.Idris who is here with us. They had also contributed a substantial grant that made this meeting possible. Dr.Azizan Bahuruddin and Datuk Iqbal from Institute Kajian Dasar for their kind help and contribution which had also made this event possible.

I also like to make a special mention of thanks so the United Nations Development Programme especially to Ms.Ameerah Haq and Mr.Neil Buhne who were supportive of this event.

The UN is very involved in peace keeping and today we are involved in an important element of Peace – a new kind of Peace bringing different groups of people together – the environment and faith groups and in promoting a creative and a spiritual kind of Peace that will make this a special event.

Also special thanks to Mr.Suvit Yodmani, Director of United Nations of Environment Programme, Thailand who had sent us a special message for this occasion.


Thank you.

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