Stakeholders have called on religious leaders to use conservation teachings embedded in the Holy Books for the people to save the environment and the world.
The stakeholders made the call at the 17th Chief S.L. Edu Memorial Lecture of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in Lagos on Thursday, January 17, 2019.
Various religious leaders and environmental experts took turns to explain how nature was interdependent on each other and the need to adhere to religious teachings of mutual benefit and interdependence.
They emphasised the need to also adhere to the teachings of restoration and conservation to save the environment and the world.
The guest lecturer, Mr Martin Palmer, Secretary General, Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), United Kingdom, called on religious leaders to appeal to the conscience of worshipers to correct ills destroying the environment.
Speaking on the topic “A Quiet Revolution – Faith and the Environment,” Palmer said that sacred places were the only places in the world that had biodiversity because of protection of the natural forests there.
He said consistent lamentation would not solve problems of environmental degradation and appealed to the hearts of the people through religion to make impact to save the environment.
“If we want to pass the truth, don’t pass it through data,” he said.
He advised the NCF to explore ways of changing attitudes towards the environment through the faith-based organisations which held the highest influence towards value reorientation.
He urged the Foundation to recognise the fact that religious bodies ran many education systems which could reorient the young towards environmental restoration.
He explained that the covenant of rainbow God gave to Noah recorded in the Islamic and Christian holy books was one way God brought to bare the need for conversation.
“We have allowed humancentric view to take over, it is time to stop being apart from nature and be a part of nature,” he said.
He stressed the need to be united on the diversity of the nation through religion to save the environment.
He said that in most parts of the world, only sacred places are usually protected, adding that monks, budists and other religions preserved original forests covers of their areas.
He added that “fusion of the religions and traditions” were reasons why some countries had original forest covers preserved in some sacred areas.
He said that, for over 2,000 years, religion has preserved nature, citing examples of teachings of Prophet Muhammad (swt) that forbids cutting of trees during wars and supports protection of springs.
Palmer also said Pope Benedict’s teachings that corrected degradation caused by the Roman Empire 1,400 years ago through a study that salvaged the situation through re-greening through agriculture.
He said in 1982, Islam preached against wildlife trade and burning of bush in Indonesia which led to revolutionary change that protected the environment.
He also gave example of the Methodist Church which, in 2017, issued a report on handing over forests to the church which made positive impact.
The Director General of NCF, Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano, said the Foundation identified the huge problem and saw the need to bring in faith organisations to appeal to hearts of Nigerians towards saving the environment.
Aminu-Kano said Nigerians were very religious and positive changes towards the environment could be achieved through their beliefs.
“We have been browning Nigeria and we need to re-green,” he said.
Chief Philip Asiodu, NCF’s President, said Chief S.L. Edu founded NCF about 38 years ago and the Foundation had been pursuing an agenda to recover the nation’s forest cover since 1988.
“The rate of consumption without restoration will bring a consequence that we will need more of four earth planets to survive,” he said.
A representative of Chevron said that the multinational has continued to award scholarships to doctoral degree candidates in environment since 2016.
Variuos perceptives were shared by the Christian, Islam and Buddhist groups present who took turns to espouse the virtues of how their religions supported the protection and preservation of the environment.
Two doctoral candidates received awards for their contributions to preservation of the environment.
They were Soberekon Afiesimama of the Department of Geography and Environment Management, University of Port Harcourt and Adeola Jude of the University of Ibadan.
By Grace Alegba and Chidinma Agu