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When spirituality meets biodiversity

WHILE science and religion seem to have opposing views when it comes to the origin of life, the two appear to stand on a common ground when talking about biodiversity.

Generally, religious scriptures focus on the importance of living in harmony with nature. Different religions—such as Islam, Christianity and Buddhism—all have teachings about nature, which serve as guidance for their respective adherents in dealing with the environment. Considering this connection, religion does not just affect the spiritual perspectives of people, but their views on environmental ethics, as well.


Islam’s teachings

TEACHINGS from Koran say that disrespecting Allah’s creation is tantamount to disrespecting Him. The Koran essentially identifies a set of principles that guide Muslims in defining the relationship of man to Allah and of Allah to the environment.

The relationship of Islam with biodiversity shows that each generation should efficiently use existing biological resources so future generations would not bear the brunt of biodiversity loss.

For instance, the Koran states: “With it we have produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from each other. Eat [for yourselves] and pasture your cattle; verily, in this are signs for men endowed with understanding.”

It is also worth noting that while Islam recognizes that humans can utilize natural resources, its teachings emphasize that this opportunity comes with a commitment to conserve nature in whatever means possible.

Muslims also consider animals as an important part of the community they live in. The Koran reads: “There is not an animal [that] lives on Earth nor a being that flies on its wings, but [forms part of] communities like you.”

Uli Sharbinie, a Muslim professor in Indonesia, attests to these teachings of Islam. He said, “My religion has taught me to protect what Allah has created.”

He added that Islam teaches “to help animals since this means helping mankind, as well.”

Sharbinie works on various environmental advocacies with emphasis on the protection of animal rights. He cited that his religion played a huge role in inspiring him to campaign for animal welfare.


Brave Christian stance

IN the Philippines certain religious groups have stood up courageously on issues that affect the environment, such as large-scale mining.

In 2012 the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a letter calling on President Aquino to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 that allows foreign investors to fully own local mining ventures.

The letter to Mr. Aquino, signed by Bishop Neri Odchimar, read: “We are calling for the abrogation of the Mining Act of 1995 that does not adequately protect the interest of our people and the country’s natural resources.”

Christians also grew up learning about the biblical story of Noah, which shows how he saved the animals, as instructed by God, from the flood. This serves as a reminder that God wants to maintain the variety of creatures on Earth; hence, both animals and humans were spared from the catastrophe.

Christianity tells its followers that humanity has the option to preserve or destroy God’s creation. When biodiversity is compromised, humanity must suffer the consequences.

The Holy Bible says, “For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts…as the one dies, so dies the other…a man has no preeminence above a beast” (Ecclesiastes 3:19).

Christianity also underscores that all creatures have roles to play and that humans have a special part in taking care of God’s creation. And as stated in the Genesis, both humans and animals have rights.

Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), one of the largest Christian organizations in the Philippines, also sees irresponsible human activities as factors that result in environmental degradation and calamities. INC also recognizes that pollution and the degradation of forests contribute to global warming, bringing ill effects to humans.


Buddhist perspective

AS reported by, there are around 376 million Buddhists in the world mostly based in Asian countries.

Buddhism generally teaches lessons about the natural relationship among the world’s inhabitants. The Buddha, who was believed to have lived in Nepal thousands of years ago, taught people about being responsible of their actions. They were also taught that one has to go through a cycle of rebirths before experiencing or reaching nirvana.

In his teachings, the Buddha emphasized that ethical actions would lead toward nirvana, while unethical or wrong actions, such as killing animals, would lead to regression.

Buddhism is known to be compassionate to all forms of life, and, thus, promotes conservation of biodiversity in its teachings. Buddhists uphold respect for life while appreciating the interconnectedness of all creatures on Earth. There are taboos being observed, such as the prohibition of killing animals near temples.

Enchanreaksmey Oum, a Buddhist from Cambodia, said believers are often told to be good to the environment. She said she is convinced that her religion has positively affected the preservation of biodiversity in Cambodia.

She cited an example in northwestern Cambodia, where cases of logging trees and hunting of wildlife significantly decreased after a Buddhist forestry association took the lead in protecting the area. Orange fabrics were draped in ancient and large trees as part of the campaign.

“At first, some locals opposed the action, but eventually agreed as they realized that their sources of income were tied to a healthy environment and well-maintained biodiversity,” Oum added.


Making the connection work

RELIGION and science are both powerful forces that can shape society. If these two work on a common cause of preserving biodiversity, then the onslaught of catastrophes can be minimized at the very least.

When religious leaders and faith-based institutions advocate environmental conservation, communities can be mobilized to join the cause. Eventually, even without using jargons on biodiversity, communities can become more aware of the issues that hound the environment and can become great stewards of the web of life, our biodiversity.

In Photo: Biodiversity feeds the world. Various religions, including Buddhism, teach their believers to respect and care for the source of life. (Zaw Min/Myanmar)






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