[Episcopal News Service] Religious and indigenous leaders from across the globe launched an unprecedented initiative June 19 in Oslo, Norway, aimed at bringing “moral attention and spiritual commitment” to bear on global efforts to end deforestation and protect tropical rainforests—forests that are fundamental to human life, the planet’s health and reducing the emissions fueling climate change.
“The Norwegian government has made major investments in protecting the rainforest, but this is the first attempt to bring together religious leaders, scientists and indigenous peoples,” the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, said from Oslo in a telephone interview with Episcopal News Service.
Whalon helped organize the conference and was scheduled to speak during a June 19 dinner. Indigenous people from across Africa, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Indonesia have joined Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Daoist and Buddhist religious leaders for the June 19-21 launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative aimed at framing rainforest protection in moral terms.
The conference is meant to “change minds and hearts and get people working together,” said Whalon. The urgency is clear, he added, from the stories shared by indigenous people living in the rainforest and from satellite images.
“Rainforest destruction is not just tearing down all the trees and turning into soy fields. It’s literally ethnic cleansing,” said Whalon. There’s a real moral and spiritual imperative to protecting the rainforest. Conference organizers made sure to give indigenous peoples a chance to share their stories from the front lines, and what they have to say will “curl your hair,” he said.
Palm oil plantations; cattle, soy and other crop production, and illegal mining and logging operations are destroying tropical rainforests in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia at high rates. Rainforests are home to indigenous people;…