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April Newsletter

Greetings from FEN, the Faith Ecology Network, an Australian hub for strengthening an interfaith dialogue between science and religion.

Editorial

On March 22nd, Australia’s demand for ecological resources and services already overshot what Earth can regenerate this year. We are the 12th country to pass Earth Overshoot Day 2021. The independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation commissioned by our own Federal Government found that our environmental trajectory is currently unsustainable and made 38 urgent recommendations.  Research by a large group of scientists published Feb 26th shows the reality: 19 of Australia’s large ecosystems are collapsing. Hence, biodiversity is a key concern of FEN. Earth is crying out. We must listen to the voice of nature. We humans are the ones who must change.

Unfortunately, the UN Convention on Biodiversity Summit which was to have been held in Kunming in China in May has had to be postponed again because of COVID. It will now be held in October when countries are expected to reach an agreement over targets to protect the natural world, including proposals to conserve 30% of the world’s oceans and land by 2030, introduce controls on invasive species and reduce plastics pollution. In this time of rapid change, religions and the sciences have something positive to offer each other. So we in FEN are asking questions like: “How can we be regenerative? How can we share positivity? How can this transition time be inclusive and just for all of life?”
A quote from Pope Francis provides an interesting reflection: “We are not in an era of change, but a change of an era.” Having the theme of Seasons and Life Cycles for our events in 2021 offers our network a way into dialogue about something in common. Most religions have a heritage of rituals around seasons. In our collaboration with various groups this year we will try to incorporate this theme as we learn more about and act on protecting biodiversity in our faith groups and the wider community. Some of the proposed collaborations in the pipeline are a Festival of Regenerative Cultures with the University of Divinity; story-telling and sharing with students at the Kingswood Campus of Western Sydney University; a webinar with the Affinity Intercultural Foundation and an enrichment day with the Muslim Women's National Network of Australia.

To continue our important work in this change of an era, we rely totally on the generosity and willingness of people and faith groups to be part of this journey of ecological growth. We are delighted to share that, thanks to financial support from the Parramatta Sisters of Mercy, Jason John will be employed for this year as the website manager. Jason, previously involved in Uniting Church Earth Ministry, is dedicated to caring for Earth our common home.  We thank him for taking on this role and thank the Sisters for their commitment to FEN.  We invite you, dear people, to contribute to our network also in whatever way you can: with stories of your initiatives, your reflections, your initiatives, your financial support. Just email us at [email protected]
Anne Lanyon
Faith Ecology Network Co-ordinator

Find more 
age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features
 

Ways FEN Faith Groups are Caring for Biodiversity

FEN Members share here ways they are using the Ten Ways Faith Groups Care for Biodiversity resource. These are predominantly in New South Wales. We would love to hear from you in other places so we can share your stories too. Please email us at [email protected]

Sharing the Good News in their Newsletter: The Baha’i Community


When social activities at The Lakes of Cherrybrook retirement village were wound back during the 2020 COVID restrictions , the community garden became a safe source of outdoor activity. A weekly Gnome Newsletter was included in the regular village newsletter. Resident Baha'is took on this fun exercise. On INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY they shared this item: Women have always been associated with plants and nature. PACHAMAMA, the Andean Goddess presided over planting and harvesting and used her powers to sustain life on earth. DEMETER, the Greek Goddess presided over the grain harvest and fertility. CERES, the Roman Goddess ruler of all agriculture and plant fertility, and of course the most powerful of all, our Mother Earth, GAIA.
The official flower of International Women’s Day is MIMOSA the European name for our Wattle or Acacia. It’s encouraging to think that the soft yellow of our native Wattle has helped spread the message of equality around the world. “The world of humanity has two wings - one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly.   Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible.”  Abdu’l-Baha

Being an Active Voice: The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have a strong commitment to the Pacific Islands that are experiencing Climate Change. Our Sisters and friends in Kiribati keep us informed of conditions such as rising sea levels, decreasing fresh water supply and concern for water pollution due to disposal of rubbish thrown into the sea from faraway. People are moving from some of the smaller island atolls, which will soon be submerged, migrating to the main island of Tarawa leading to more overcrowding.
Sisters in Australia are connected to Pacific Calling Partnership, run through the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney. The aim is to raise awareness and to advocate for practical assistance for Kiribati and Tuvalu. The Partnership also sponsors youth from these Islands to come to Sydney for Leadership Courses and to have dialogue with the Federal Government about the effects climate change is having in their region.

Being an Active Voice: Public Meditation

As part of the Sacred Earth, Sacred People day of action a group of Buddhist organisations joined with the Contemplative Rebels and a group of Christian meditators to meditate in Macquarie St opposite Parliament House. A good turn out and very good vibes.


Building Eco Citizens: The Brahma Kumaris
A Green Review will soon be launched in Asian Brahma Kumaris centres, similar to the one carried out in Australian BK centres recently. The review comprises a series of questions on a wide range of ‘green’ topics from energy usage, personal care products, shopping, eating and waste etc. The idea is to promote environmental awareness and encourage green practices in Asian BK centres. The centres with a good performance will receive a Green FootPrint Certificate.

Encountering God in Nature: The Jesuit Reconciliation with Nature Group ran a webinar on sharing wisdom from Dr Peter Saunders and Fr Rajesh Punchathalackal on encountering God with nature. For opportunities to experience being with God in Nature visit https://jisa.org.au/being-with-god-in-nature/



Supporting Indigenous Voices in Caring for Country: The Sisters of Mercy in Bathurst

The Sisters of Mercy in Bathurst are supporting their Wiradyuri Aboriginal friends and other local concerned citizens in a campaign to protect a sacred women’s site at the top of Mount Panorama/Wahluu from being turned into a go-kart track. The Bathurst Wiradjuri Elders have identified and informed the broader community about the importance of Wahluu/Mt Panorama as a site of significant cultural importance, both in the past and continuing today.

Working with Local Care Groups: The Wollongong Environment Network (WEN) within Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong (CEDoW) aims to support school communities with their ecological conversion journey and respond to Laudato Si' with the implementation of environmental stewardship and sustainability actions. One such action involving school communities was the recent nation wide Clean Up Australia Day when a number of schools participated in Clean Up events.
 


Celebrating Nature in Faith Services:

For those in Sydney, On Good Friday, 26th March, 6pm, the Grail Centre, 22 McHatton Street, North Sydney, will be holding the third of three evening sessions under the title A 2021 Lenten Pilgrimage:  Walking the Labyrinth. The theme is UNIVERSAL PAIN. All welcome. RSVP [email protected] (02)9955 3053.
 


Seeking Wisdom from the Elders: The Dances of Universal Peace/Sufi community

The Dances of Universal Peace/Sufi community has just participated in a 7-day Aboriginal training retreat with Uncle Noel Butler, who created a centre for Aboriginal studies near Ulladulla, called Jamanee Gunya. Our Sydney dances group have been doing annual retreats on his land and receiving Aboriginal teachings from him and his family.
 
Although his land and centre were devastated by bushfire last January, he has returned to begin a long healing process on his land, as well as organising this training process to create Ambassadors for Country. At the retreat we had 35 participants and some 10 people facilitating the activities as well as several members of his extended Budawang and Yuin family. It was a very powerful and confronting experience, to hear the stories of dispossession and oppression that his family endured, but also some very valuable teachings around reconnecting to nature and how we need to heal what he called 240 years of mismanagement of our forests that led to such a disaster.
http://nuragunyu.com.au/Home/Aboutnuragunyu.aspx
 
Contemplative Responses: The Christian Meditation Australia (NSW) Group is having a Community Day on Contemplative Responses to the Climate Emergency for Earth Day 2021 on Saturday April 24th, 10.30 am to 2.00 pm (AEST). The Zoom room opens at 10.20am. For reservations and queries contact Janet O’Sullivan [email protected]

 

See the December 2020 e-news