The Peat and Mangrove Restoration Agency (BRGM) in partnership with the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI) Indonesia is collaborating with 34 representatives of religious institutions in strengthening environmental protection education.

The engagement took place at an environmental journalism workshop themed “Writing for Nature, Voicing the Environment”, held at the Mercure Hotel and Mangrove Nature Park (TWA), Pantai Indah Kapuk, North Jakarta, September 26-27, 2023.

Suwignya Utama, head of BRGM’s education and socialization working group, explained that the workshop aimed to collaborate with religious stakeholders to accelerate environmental protection for future sustainability.

Utama believes that engaging religious leaders and communities is becoming increasingly important because the environmental crisis concerns humans’ sustainability on earth.

Through journalism training, he continued, participants are expected to communicate about environmental conservation in a way that can be understood by religious communities.

“Religious leaders have critical roles and contributions to protecting nature, including being role models in educating the people,” Utama said on Thursday (27/9/2023).

Joni Aswira, chairman of the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) also believes that interfaith organizations have a strategic role in building awareness among religious communities and making climate topics relevant to everyday life.

“At a time when the climate crisis narrative is still very distant and public awareness, in general, is still low, these interfaith organizations have an important role in bringing the science-based climate narratives closer to everyday life,” Aswira explained while adding that the earth’s condition is currently in a critical state.

Aswira believes that environmental actions and narratives require multi-stakeholder engagement to be impactful and this means involving the government, civil society, the press, environmental organizations, and influential figures.

Aswira welcomes and appreciates such efforts and hopes they will create more collaboration for a better environment.

Religion, people, and the environment

Hayu Prabowo, the national facilitator of IRI Indonesia, underlines a common teaching in all religions — that human life has three aspects: harmonious relations with God, human relations with humans, and human relations with nature.

Prabowo believes these relationships must be in line with religious leaders’ obligations to educate, build awareness of environmental protection, and become mediators in religious movements. “IRI Indonesia has three main missions: education, action, and advocacy,” said Prabowo.

IRI is an international interfaith alliance formed in Oslo, Norway, in 2017, that brings moral influence and faith-based leadership to efforts to end tropical deforestation

Religious leaders have critical roles and contributions to protecting nature, including being role models in educating the people.

Suwignya Utama, Head of BRGM Education and Socialization Working Group

They believe that forest protection is an ethical priority for the world’s religious communities. In its development, the interfaith alliance has programs in Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, and Peru — home of 70% of the world’s remaining tropical forests.

Philip Widjaja, chairman of the Indonesian Buddhist Association, explained that harmony between humans and nature is also a commandment of Buddhism. This is because humans are part of and live in nature.

The act of destroying the environment has a domino effect that affects all aspects, from individuals to society. “This is in line with the Buddhist motto, sustainability and awareness start from oneself,” Philip said.

Read also: SIEJ: Strengthening journalists in environmental reporting is paramount

Interfaith action

A number of religious organizations have carried out environmental protection actions and campaigns, which are carried out by making policies and programs that target followers of their respective religions.

Prabowo, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council’s (MUI) Environmental and Natural Resources Conservation Institute, explained that MUI is drafting a fatwa on the climate crisis based on the importance of addressing the climate crisis through a religious approach.

In 2022, MUI held a national environmentally-friendly mosque conference, discussing the development of green mosques — equipped with waste and water management systems and disaster resilience.

“MUI has presented an Environmentally Friendly Mosque and drafted a Fatwa on climate change. It represents the community’s interests but also the country’s vision and mission,” he said.

Church institutions also show commitment to environmental restoration. Linda Bangun, a representative of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) pointed out that churches have implemented plastic waste reduction and spread eco-enzymes in contaminated environments every three months.

KWI itself, she continued, has a Rumah Sinergi (Synergy House) program where waste sorting and management is adopted, creating an economic return to support waste pickers through scholarships.

About the writer

Themmy Doaly

Themmy Doaly has been working as Mongabay-Indonesia contributor for North Sulawesi region since 2013. While in the last nine years he has also been writing for a number of news sites in Indonesia, including...

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