Protecting Rainforests as a Moral and Spiritual Responsibility: Global Faith Leaders Stand Together Against Tropical Deforestation

(5 June 2020 | Global)

Today, on World Environment Day, we, leaders from all faith traditions: indigenous spiritualities, Jewish, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Sikh, and Bahá’í, stand together and commit to safeguarding our environment, particularly from the growing and urgent threat of tropical deforestation.

The world’s rainforests are a sacred trust, an irreplaceable gift and essential to life on Earth. They contain more than two thirds of plant and animal species on the planet and are a natural solution to climate change. The encroachment into wildlife habitat and the destruction of tropical rainforests is directly resulting in the emergence of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19. We also know that indigenous peoples and forest communities are particularly vulnerable to these external diseases.

Now, more than ever before, we recognize the need to join together across faiths to affirm that protecting rainforests is a spiritual imperative of the highest order.

Deeply concerned about the world’s rainforests and understanding that tropical deforestation drives climate change, species loss, disease outbreaks, poverty and human rights violations together, we commit to action.

We call upon faith leaders, faith communities, governments, civil society, the private sector, and all of humanity to unite with us in a commitment to halt and reverse the destruction of our planet’s magnificent rainforests and to stand in solidarity with the indigenous peoples and forest communities that serve as their guardians.

As the leaders of Religions for Peace, we urge all people, organizations and networks of faith to make use of and widely disseminate the educational materials produced by the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative. We hereby endorse the newly launched Resource Guide on Rainforest Protection for Religious Communities.

We invite all people of faith and good will globally to join us in raising awareness about the deforestation crisis within our communities and places of worship as an expression of our care for the Earth. We will advance religious teaching, education and action that reflects a moral commitment to protect rainforests. This is needed for us to create a sustainable and peaceful world where all living beings can exist in harmony with each other.


Religions for Peace World Council

Dr. Vinu Aram, Director, Shanti Ashram; Co-Moderator, RfP

Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, President, Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Abu Dhabi; Co-Moderator, RfP

H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, Metropolitan of France Ecumenical Patriarchate; CoModerator, RfP

Rev. Kosho Niwano, President-Designate, Rissho Kosei-Kai; Co-Moderator, RfP

Mr. Robert A. Boisture, President and CEO, The Fetzer Institute; Treasurer, RfP

Prof. Azza Karam, Secretary General, RfP

H.M. Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto, Sultanate of Sokoto; CoPresident, RfP

Hon. Mme. Layla Alkhafaji, Elected Member of Political Bureau-Alhikmah Movement; Former Member of Iraqi Council of Representatives – Parliament; Former International Relations Director
– Al Hakim Foundation; Co-President, RfP

Sheikh Usama Al-Sayed Al-Azhari, Al-Azhar Representative; Co-President, RfP

Mohammad Al-Sammak, Secretary General, Islamic Christian National Dialogue Committee CoPresident, RfP; Co-President, RfP

Swami Atmapriyananda, Vice Chancellor of Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University; CoPresident, RfP

H.H. Dah Couchoro Balogoun, President, National Voudon Council of Benin; Co-President, RfP

Most Ven. Phra Brahmapundit (Prayoon Dhammacitto), Former rector, Maha Chulalongkorn Buddhist University; Member, Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand; Co-President, RfP

H.E. Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar; Co-President, RfP

H.E. Archimandrite Philaret Bulekov, Vice Chairman, Department of External Church Relations, Russian Orthodox Church; Co-President, RfP

Most. Rev. Miguel Cabrejos, President, Latin American Catholic Episcopal Council; CoPresident, RfP

Sayadaw Dr. K. Dhammasami, Oxford Buddha Vihara; The International Association of Buddhist Universities; Co-President, RfP

Most Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa, Supreme Patriarch of Amarapura Nikaya; Co-President, RfP

Ayatollah Ahmad Moballeghi, Rector, University of Islamic Religions of Iran; Co-President, RfP

Dr. Souraya Bechealany, General Secretary, Middle East Council of Churches; Co-President, RfP

Ms. Bani Dugal, Principal Representative to the United Nations, Bahá’í International Community; Co-President, RfP

Mr. Claudio Epelman, Commissioner for Interfaith Relations, World Jewish Congress; CoPresident, RfP

Hon. Ela Gandhi, Trustee, Gandhi Development Trust; Co-President, RfP

Mr. Homi Gandhi, President, Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America; CoPresident, RfP

H.E. Dr. Nedzad Grabus, Mufti of Ljubjana; Co-President, RfP

Ven. Li Guangfu, President, Chinese Taoist Association; Co-President, RfP

Sheikh Muhammed Yusuf Hallar, Secretary General, Islamic Organization for Latin America and the Caribbean; Co-President, RfP
Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Founder, Zaytuna Institute; Co-President, RfP

Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelen, Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala; Primate of the Church of Sweden; CoPresident, RfP

Bishop Margot Kässmann, Former Chairperson, Evangelical Church of Germany; CoPresident, RfP

Ven. Hyo Chul Kim, Chairperson, Won Dharma Center in New York; Co-President, RfP

Hon. Mehrezia Labidi-Maiza, First Vice-President, Constitutional Assembly; Secretary,Association for Women’s Progress; Co-President, RfP

Imam Mohamed Magid, Executive Imam, All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center; Chairman, International Interfaith Peace Corps; Co-President, RfP

Prof. Dr. Haedar Nashir, Chair, Muhammadiyah, Indonesia; Co-President, RfP

H.E. Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic; CoPresident, RfP

Mrs. Aruna Oswal, Vice President, World Jain Confederation; Co-President, RfP

H.E. Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo, President, Symposium of African and Madagascar Bishops’ Conferences (SECAM); Archbishop of Ouagadougou; Co-President, RfP

Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Director, Initiative on Religion, Law and Diplomacy, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Co-President, RfP

Prof. Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion, St. Olaf College; Co-President, RfP

Grand-Father Dominique Rankin, Algonquin Hereditary Grand Chief; Co-President, RfP

Chief Rabbi David Rosen, KSG CBE, International Director, Department of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee; Co-President, RfP

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, OBE KSG, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha; CoPresident, RfP

Prof. Dr. Said Aqil Sirad, Chairman, Nahdlatul Ulama; Co-President, RfP

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Bishop, United Methodist Church; Co-President, RfP

Serigne Mansour Sy, President, Federation of Islamic Associations of Senegal; Co-President, RfP

Dr. Nayla Tabbara, Co-Founder, Adyan Foundation; Co-President, RfP

H.E. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines; President, Caritas; CoPresident, RfP

H.H. Shri Shri Sugunendra Teertha Swamiji, Abbot, Sri Puthige Matha Monastery; CoPresident, RfP

H.H. Samdech Tep Vong, Great Supreme Patriarch, Kingdom of Cambodia; Co-President, RfP

Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary General, World Evangelical Alliance; Co-President, RfP

Master Ven. Yanjue, Executive Vice President, China Buddhist Association; Co-President, RfP

Ms. Maria Lia Zervino, President General, World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations; CoPresident, RfP

Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General Emeritus, RfP

H.E. Raymundo Cardinal Damasceno Assis, Archbishop Emeritus of Aparecida, Sao Paulo; Moderator, RfP – Latin America and Caribbean Council of Religious Leaders

H.E. Sheikh Shaban Mubaje, Grand Mufti, Uganda Muslim Supreme Council; CoModerator, RfP – African Council of Religious Leaders

Prof. Dr. Din Syamsuddin, Chairman, Advisory Council of Indonesian Council of Ulama; Moderator, Asian Conference of RfP

Rev. Dr. Thomas Wipf, President, Community of Protestant Churches in Europe; Moderator, RfP – European Council of Religious Leaders

Sr. Agatha Chikelue, Co-Chair, Nigerian Women of Faith Network, Nigeria; Secretary of the Interreligious Dialogue Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja; Chair, International Women’s Coordinating Committee, RfP

Rev. Megumi Wada, Director, International Interreligious Cooperation, Rissho Kosei-kai, Japan; Former Director of General Affairs, RfP Japan; Deputy Chair, International Women’s Coordinating Committee, RfP

Mr. Renz Argao, Community Development Coordinator, University of Santo Tomas Graduate School; Coordinator, International Youth Committee, RfP

Ms. Ana-Maria Daou, Interreligious Dialogue Mapping, Adyan Foundation; Deputy Coordinator, International Youth Committee, RfP

Religions for Peace Honorary Presidents Sheikh Majid Al-Hafeed, Imam of the Big Mosque-Sulaimaniya, The Islamic Scholars Union of Kurdistam; Honorary President, RfP

His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop, Tirana, Durrës and All Albania; Honorary President, RfP

Ms. Rajni Bakshi, Prominent Hindu Author and Journalist; Honorary President, RfP

Dr. Georgette F. Bennett, President and Founder, Tanenbaum Center for InterreligiousUnderstanding; Honorary President, RfP

Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Raisu-L-Ulama Emeritus, Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Honorary President, RfP

Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad, Dean, Department of Islamic Studies, The Academy of Sciences of Iran; Honorary President, RfP

Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor, High Priest, Iranshah Atash Behram, Udvada; Honorary President, RfP

Ven. Bhikkhuni Dhammakamala, Songkhla Province in the South; Honorary President, RfP

Mr. Jakob Finci, President, Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Honorary President, RfP

Shrivatsa Goswami, Acharya, Sri Radharaman Mandir; Honorary President, RfP

H.G. Metropolitan of Dabar-Bosna Hrizostom, Metropolitan of Dabar-Bosna; Honorary President, RfP

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism; Honorary President, RfP

H.H. Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Armenian Apostolic Church; Honorary President, RfP

The Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director, United Religions Initiative; Honorary President, RfP

Ms. Audrey Kitagawa, Chair, Board of Trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions; Honorary President, RfP

Mr. Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman: Integrated Research LTD.; Charitable Foundation; Institute for Economics and Peace; Honorary President, RfP

Chief Raoni Metuktire, Chief of the Kayapo People; Honorary President, RfP

H.E. Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, Secretary General, KAICIID; Honorary President, RfP

President Pagbalha Geleg Namgyae, Honorary President, China Buddhist Association; President, China Conference on Religions and Peace; Honorary President, RfP

Rev. Nichiko Niwano, President, Rissho Kosei-kai; Honorary President, RfP

Most Rev. Koshin Ohtani, Monshu (Head Priest) Emeritus, Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha; Honorary President, RfP

H.E. John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, Archdiocese of Abuja; Honorary  President, RfP

H.E. Amb. Marie-Therese Pictet-Althann, Order of Malta Permanent Observer to the UN Geneva; Honorary President, RfP

H.E. Vinko Cardinal Puljic, Archbishop, Archbishop of Vrhbosna; Honorary President, RfP

Priestess Beatriz Schulthess, President, Indigenous Peoples Ancestral Spiritual Council; Honorary President, RfP

Prof. em. Dr. h.c. Wolfgang Schürer, Chairman, Foundation Peace Dialogue of the World Religions and Civil Society; Honorary President, RfP

Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa, Founder, International Network of Engaged Buddhists; Honorary
President, RfP

Mufti Husein Smajić, Islamic Community of Bosnia- Herzegovina; Honorary President, RfP

Mme. Cissé Hadja Mariama Sow, President, Muslim Women of Guinea; Honorary President, RfP

Bishop Gunnar J. Stålsett, Bishop Emeritus of Oslo, Church of Norway; Honorary President, RfP

Emmaus Maria Voce, President, Movimento Dei Focolari; Honorary President, RfP

Bishop Munib Younan, Bishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; Honorary President, RfP