With great anticipation, the WWF sponsored a Summit on Religions and Conservation at Windsor Castle. Invited were leaders from the Bahai Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, and Taoism. Representing two billion adherents! The Summit was hosted by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband to HM Queen Elizabeth II. The Duke was then international President of WWF.
And the results! Oh boy. Better than anyone expected… “a dramatic degree of commitment”, “a new level of interfaith cooperation and concurrence”! UNEP to be involved and the World Bank to become “more sensitive to local concerns and spiritual values as they fund development projects”! An agreement by the BBC to host a meeting between religious leaders and major satellite television executives to “open corridors of communication” about the values transmitted by satellite programming! See here
And wait…there is more… The Windsor Summit was designed as a follow-up meeting to the 1986 gathering of religious leaders at Assisi, Italy, also called by WWF. That gathering, which led to the creation of the Network on Conservation and Religion, was perhaps the first major international interfaith meeting on environmental issues. And then … “But, and this was something we had hoped for but could not plan for, what emerged [in this meeting] quite substantially was also a willingness of the major faiths to work collaboratively on conservation projects, in relation to the major secular institutions we had invited.”
And in conclusion a comment by Lawrence Arturo, Director of the Bahai Community Office of the Environment: “For us, the Summit was enormously significant,” said Mr. Arturo. “Clearly, the world’s religions are becoming conscious of the common spiritual threads that run through them. At the same time, we are beginning to understand that it is the moral and spiritual force of religious teachings, when coupled with practical and scientific measures, that will ultimately solve the world’s problems.” Well said Mr Arturo.
Sorry, for your hope, but this happened 16 years ago…
Oh, I forgot to tell you something important. The meeting ended on 4 May, 1995. So tomorrow, or today depending on where you are, is the 16th anniversary of the meeting.
So, WWF, what happened? Surely everyone attending had nice meals and accommodations and airline seats, but where are we now? BBC? World Bank? Anyone? It could have been great. It could have meant a lot. At the end of the day more empty promises but full bellies after receptions and a lovely visit to Windsor.
It all comes down to one thing really. People will say what they might truly feel and hope for at a meeting. After all they are all there in one room? WWF is great at organizing those, and can take pride at having brought so many people together. But after their plane ride back, the attendees will have been caught up in the, shall we say, more pressing aspects and realities of their jobs and lives? A meeting does not end on the day everyone goes home, and perhaps WWF donors might have expected some better progress over the intervening 16 years since May 4, 1995? Some post-meeting phone calls and further organization?
When you have a bird in the hand, so they say, it is worth two in the bush. Seems they have all flown away over the 16 years since WWF arranged the Windsor Castle meeting.
LionAid will meanwhile move forward on this important but seemingly stalled issue.
Small picture credit as deserved: http://www.onecountry.org/oc71/oc7101as.html