opening__ceremony2From December 3 to 9, 2009, around 6.000 people from 220 different faiths and all corners of the world celebrated the Parliament of the World’s Religions 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. Michael Slaby, Program Coordinator at the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values participated in the celebrations and helped to organize two panel events on the Earth Charter that were attended by around 50 and 150 participants respectively.

The first panel highlighted activities and projects of different faith communities that are inspired by the Earth Charter, such as the Seeds of Change exhibition organized by the lay Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International, campaigns on strengthening the inner foundations for sustainability put forth by the Brahma Kumaris from India, and education and training efforts within local communities in Sri Lanka. It started with showing Rabbi Soetendorp’s speech at TEDxAmsterdam, which set an inspirational tone for the whole event.

The second panel was chaired by Prof. Mary Evelyn Tucker, Professor of Religion at Yale University and founder of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale that gathers the findings of more than 30 years of scholarship on the intersections of religion and the environment. It also included the contributions of Earth Charter Commissioners Rick Clugston from the United States, Brendan Mackey from Australia, and Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne of Sri Lanka and thus included perspectives all major world’s regions except Africa.


In both panels, Michael outlined the Earth Charter Guide to Religion and Climate Change and distributed copies to interested individuals and organizations.


chief_oren_lyonsThis year’s Parliament of Religions put a strong emphasis on including the voices of indigenous and aboriginal elders. A special Parliament Assembly was held that brought together indigenous representatives from many different countries, who adopted a statement that calls for immediate action on climate change and urges people of faith to support the indigenous struggle for disavowing the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that can be traced back to Pope Nicholas who in 1452 authorized Western settlers to “take possession” of any lands “discovered” that were not “under the dominion of any Christian rulers”. This discriminating doctrine is still being applied in United States law and was brought to the attention of the Parliament by indigenous leaders such as Chief Oren Lyons, Faith Keeper of the Onondaga Nation in upstate New York.


Bishop Geoff Davies from South Africa drafted the Parliament’s call to the assembled leaders in Copenhagen to take bold measures for a binding climate treaty that gained much support from Parliament participants. It states:


“As people of faith, we believe we have a responsibility to the source of life and to future generations to care for this planet – our home. We therefore call on the governments of the world when they meet at the UNFCCC at Copenhagen to take urgent and meaningful action to stem climate change.


Following the latest scientific evidence we believe we cannot allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees. We therefore call for a reduction of CO2 emissions to a target of 350 ppm, ensuring that emissions will have peaked by 2015 in all countries, to then decline to at least 85% below 1990 levels by 2050.”


The full text can be found here.


Videos, photos, and news releases can be found at the Parliament of Religions’ website .

Watch Michael Slaby explain the history of the Parliament of Religions, Pt. 1:

Watch Michael Slaby explain the history of the Parliament of Religions Pt. 2:

Watch Michael Slaby introduce the Feather Project:

Watch Michael Slaby explain the background of the Earth Charter:

Prof. Mary Evelyn Tucker opens the Earth Charter panel at the Parliament of Religions:

Prof. Brendan Mackey speaks about Earth Charter + 10:

Bishop Geoff Davies speaks about Earth Charter activities in South Africa

The Soetendorp Institute


Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values
Van Wijngaerdenstraat 21
2596 TW The Hague
The Netherlands