Environment and Climate Change

The Three Dimensions of Islam and Islamic Environmental Economics

By Waleed El-Ansary

This paper suggests the need for a new economic paradigm in light of the current environmental crisis.  Conventional economic theory reduces values to tastes, and needs to wants, excluding a hierarchy of spiritual and other needs.  Responding to this lacuna in environmental economics requires more than the legal or ethical dimension of religion, however, since intellectual and esoteric dimensions are also necessary to restore equilibrium between man and nature.  This paper is therefore structured according to the famous Hadith of Gabriel that has been used as a model for discussing the essentials of Islam for over 1000 years.  It divides Islam into three dimensions: submission or “right action” (islām), faith or “right understanding” (imān), and virtue or “right intention” (ihsān).  The interconnections between these three dimensions reveal the intimate (but currently neglected) connection between the religious cosmological sciences on one hand and economic thought on the other, redefining the necessary conditions for equilibrium and efficiency.  The paper concludes that only this three-dimensional approach, which has a Christian analog, can offer a serious alternative to the prevailing economic paradigm and solution to the environmental crisis.


Environmentalism as Modern Religion & Climate Change as the Secular Apocalypse: Reassessing the Role of Religion in Environmental Decision-making

By Cinnamon Pinon Carlarne

In the 20th Century, environmentalism became a dominant form of secular religion. During this period environmentalism spawned powerful social movements, deriving much of their moral and political authority from a type of "environmental fundamentalism," which some commentators have referred to as “the fourth great religious awakening.” This environmental fundamentalism was a reaction to social optimism grounded in the gospel of economic prosperity and the powers of science. What we are now witnessing is an increasing number of people worldwide who are rejecting both secular environmentalism and conventional economic gospels and are, instead, calling for a more widespread discussion of how values – here, focusing on religious values –influence policy choices in the environmental sphere. For many, the secular religion of environmentalism fails to offer a satisfying response to the social, moral and physical dilemmas underlying the assignment of roles and responsibilities to address global climate change. Climate change requires us to re-examine the role of religion in informing environmental-decision-making, both in terms of how religion influences economic policy and how religion plays a role in the philosophical framing of the debate.


Nature and Christianity

 By Douglas MacLean

Environmental ethics in the English-speaking world is in large part a subject within philosophy, and philosophy in this context is largely a secular affair. This means that the question of our relationship to nature is seen in terms of duties, rights, and moral virtues. The main questions have been about the moral status of non-human entities including animals and plants, species and ecosystems. One theme within this tradition is the anthropocentrism of most moral philosophy. The idea that only human beings or the experiences of sentient creatures have intrinsic moral value, and that all other things have value only as means to the benefit or enrichment of humans is often charged with being a cause of our environmental problems by fostering an attitude of despotism over nature. Christianity has been accused of promoting this attitude and is thus also seen as a cause of our environmental problems. At the same time, writers and artists who try to capture the meaning of our experiences of nature often and naturally resort to religious or spiritual language and allusions. In this paper, I want to examine the charge that Christianity is a cause of environmental problems, and I argue that we should move beyond thinking about our relationship with nature in narrow ethical ways and welcome spiritual or religious images in helping us understand our reasons for and ways of valuing nature.


Human Rights and Ethics

A Common Word and Human Rights as Minimal Rules

Nicholas Adams

A Common Word displays two tendencies in relation to differences between religious traditions. It seeks a ‘unity in diversity’, signaled by its repeated claims that Islamic and Christian thought finds common ground on certain topics; it seeks a ‘partnership of differences’ in its identification of persistent disagreements of interpretation which nonetheless may foster fruitful forms of virtuous rivalry. Its method of scriptural juxtaposition, rather than strong interpretation, offers a model for how members of different traditions might reason together about human rights. Instead of adopting a conception of a single overarching ‘reason’ (understood in the modern philosophical sense) which governs both traditions, it implies a set of ‘minimal rules’ which govern the relations between traditions with respect to topics of shared concern. This paper argues that human rights can fruitfully be conceived as articulating certain minimal rules, adopted by different communities for different reasons, which might govern relations between traditions with respect to law.



A Common View of Development?

By David K. Linnan

We begin with a review of the traditional problems in measuring “development,” differentiating between economic (GDP), social (socio-economic indicators), and more recently environmental (sustainability) and composite indicators. The classic problem is determining what your goals (outputs) should be, and why and for whom are you measuring. We then advance to an examination of how religious viewpoints and generally recognized concepts like different varieties of human rights (civil and political rights, economic and social rights, and so-called third generation rights) may match up with the problems of measuring development. To a certain extent, the current question is whether development should serve traditional goals like modernization, or is aimed more at poverty alleviation or similar approaches (eg, the UN Millenium Development Goals). The second half of the paper turns to the problem of national, bilateral and multilateral development institutions in terms of strategies to achieve development, how they have changed over time, and have been relatively more successful in some areas of the world than others (eg, Asia versus Africa). We then look specifically at institutional development on the legal side in terms of approaches to development on the economic or institutional side versus open-ended concepts like governance that tend in practice to ideas about democracy. We then return to the issue of how religious viewpoints and generally recognized concepts like different varieties of human rights may be reflected in development concepts without necessarily running afoul of the traditional problem of whether development means Westernization.


The Common Word, Development, and Human Rights: African and Catholic Perspectives

By Joseph M. Isanga

Religion is often linked with violence in Africa (armed conflict).  The question becomes whether religion is just incidental and tribalism is at stake, or how religion may be actively misused.  There is also a basic moral or ethical question surrounding development.  Is development really about poverty alleviation (think of feeding the poor in religious terms), or is it about something else, whether material improvement (if not economic wealth, perhaps things like healthcare and education, which may affect poverty but are not purely for "fighting poverty") versus somehow producing more enlightened people (perhaps sophisticated enough not to fall victim to people using religion to engender armed conflict, hate their neighbors, etc.). What does the Catholic church say about development, bearing in mind that some of the most active areas in Christianity are in the developing world?  If development is not just about feeding the poor and avoiding armed conflict, what else is it about in Africa and in the Catholic church's eyes?


The Role of Islam in Developing the National Law of the Republic of Indonesia

By Marsudi Triatmodjo & Abdul Ghofur Anshori

The Republic of Indonesia is not an Islamic State, because there is no single article in the Indonesian constitution that says so. But Indonesia is also not a secular state. This is explicitly mentioned in the third and fourth paragraph s of the Preamble of the Constitution 1945 which acknowledge that national independence comes from the blessing of God Almighty. In the Indonesian legal system, there are essential values which come from the Indonesian people themselves. These values are the basis which give s direction to the laws. These values are th os e contained in the Pancasila (the Five Principles; belief in one God, humanity, unity, deliberative democracy and social justice) and the 1945 Constitution . Efforts to develop the Indonesian legal system have been conducted continu ousl y. The Indonesian legal system was constructed with reference to the Indonesian people wh o believe in unity through diversity . With respect to this relation ship , law, morality and religion are very closely linked. The Indonesian legal system is develop ed and extracted from local wisdom, local genius, and of course, without disregard to changes in the international world. Therefore, Western law, a dat l aw ( c ustomary law), and Islamic law, each can be the raw materials for the formation of national law. Instead of polarizing these three laws, they are s ynergied as national law within the legal system of Indonesia.



Mutual Theological Hospitality – Doing theology in the presence of the ‘other’

By Father Daniel Madigan

The publication of A Common Word between Us and You has raised anew the issue of whether it is even possible to have a theological dialogue between Muslims and Christians. This paper begins with a conviction, born of experience, that theological dialogue between Muslims and Christians is not only possible but also, in spite of its undoubted difficulties, essential. Historically speaking, what theological dialogue there has been among these three traditions has been a boundary discourse—defining, disputing and policing the borders that separate us. More recently however, we have witnessed between a different kind of discourse emerging—one that cautiously, and perhaps over-politely recognizes that we both inhabit a common theological space. That is to say, our respective God-talks are not foreign languages to one another.



Spirituality and Other Religions: Meditations Upon Some Deeper Dimensions of A Common Word

By Caner Dagli

Mystics and their writings provide rich sources in the realm of communications between faiths, providing invaluable keys to those who are serious about interfaith dialogue. This is why it is frustrating that the very insights which are potentially most fruitful must often be left out, should such dialogue have any chance of bearing fruit or even getting off the ground at all. A Common Word was imagined and executed largely by individuals of a very spiritual and mystical inclination, often standing firmly within the Sufi tradition, but the depth and breadth of their personal conviction was not on display in the document and its associated initiatives. Far from being hypocritical, this reserved and taciturn approach in spiritual matters and mystical interpretation is demanded by the nature of Sufism and its place within Islam. Sufis and their counterparts in other religions should be content to engage upon the basis of what is true, but not upon everything that is true.


Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Interfaith Dialogue: Mystical Principles, Practical Initiatives

By John Chryssavgis

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, "first among equals” of Orthodox bishops worldwide and spiritual leader to 300 million faithful, has made interfaith dialogue and religious freedom central aspects of his vision and life. Building bridges between religions, races and cultures is a foremost priority in his theology and ministry. We explore the fundamental mystical principles (human rights, fundamentalism, and absolutism) in the effort to promote understanding, tolerance and compassion through interfaith dialogue.



What of the Word is Common?

By Joseph Lumbard

This paper examines the understanding of “God’s word” in Islamic theology and the manner in which the Islamic understanding of God’s uncreated word provides an opening within Islamic theology to a fuller understanding of the Christian concept of Jesus as Divine Word.  It then proposes ways in which Quranic passages regarding the nature of Jesus can be understood when read in relation to Christian theology rather than in opposition to it.  The objective is not to provide conclusive arguments, but to examine ways in which Islamic theology can understand Christian teachings within the structure of Christianity itself.


Disagreeing to Agree: A Christian Response to A Common Word

By James Cutsinger

We often hear people say that they have “agreed to disagree”. The aim of this paper is to reverse that proposition. Written by an Eastern Orthodox Christian, it responds to A Common Word Between Us and You by arguing that the profoundest form of unity between Christians and Muslim can be achieved if, and only if, one first acknowledges the radical disparity that exists between their traditions on a doctrinal or theological level. The paper begins by examining the historical context in which Christians were first invited by Muslims to a “common word” or agreement concerning man’s relation with God, and the question is raised to what extent that context is germane for contemporary interfaith dialogue. Then the theological differences between Christianity and Islam are examined in some detail. The author points out that differing views about Jesus Christ—was He the divine Son of God or just a human prophet?—are only the tip of the iceberg, since Christians believe that the whole point of the incarnation was the eventual deification of man.  In the final section of the paper, a metaphysical—and “three-dimensional”—resolution is proposed. The Christian conviction that “God became man in order that man might become God” is brought into direct contact with the Muslim conviction that “there is no god but God” in such a way as to show how these apparently contradictory claims can help both Christians and Muslims come to a deeper understanding of their own beliefs.