World religions pledge action on conservation - WWF and ARC celebrate "Sacred Gifts"

Posted on 15 November 2000

WWF, the international conservation organization, and ARC today unveiled 26 "Sacred Gifts for a Living Planet" in the first ever partnership of its kind linking the world's major religions.
Kathmandu, Nepal - WWF, the international conservation organization, and ARC today unveiled 26 "Sacred Gifts for a Living Planet" in the first ever partnership of its kind linking the world's major religions. The Gifts are ground-breaking actions pledged by the faiths to combat forest and marine destruction, climate change and a wide range of other environmental issues.

The Gifts come as a result of a year-long initiative led by WWF and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC). The eleven faiths taking part include Baha'is, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Shinto, Sikhs, Taoists and Zoroastrians.

These initiatives include a drive by the Methodist Church worldwide to develop an ethical investment framework for up to US$30 billion of church assets, to support environmental and social justice, through shareholder action, engagement with corporate heads and consumer choice. The gifts range from the restoration of sacred forests in India, to the reinstatement of a Buddhist hunting ban that will help protect Mongolia's endangered snow leopard. Leaders of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations�together representing some 80 percent of US Jews� are launching an environmental audit in a conservation programme which emphasises action to counter climate change, and consumer preference for sustainably-managed forests under the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). The China Taoist Association, the umbrella organisation for all 40 million Taoists in China, is calling on its members to stop using endangered wildlife in traditional medicine products.

"Through these Gifts we're reaching out to huge new constituencies�to the 4 to 5 billion people that these faiths represent�to work with them for the conservation of our living world," said Dr. Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. "Sacred Gifts are catalysts for action. They are conservation templates for religious followers around the world-a community that has influence over 5 percent of the planet's landmass and is capable of having an incredible impact on efforts to save the natural world."

Other Gift pledges include Muslim fishermen helping to save turtle nesting sites in Zanzibar and the Islamic government of Saudi Arabia establishing the country's first ever biosphere reserve. Japan's Shinto community is vowing to purchase only sustainably grown wood for their 80,000+ shrines and Catholic Benedictine Sisters are doubling their school programmes geared toward reducing the toxic waste in Lake Eire on the Great Lakes in North America.

"Most people assume the differences between religions are only a source of strife," said Martin Palmer, General Secretary of ARC. "In devising new ways of protecting nature, religious diversity may be the secret to how to live differently and more caringly with nature. All faiths have environmental teachings. What we see in these 26 Sacred Gifts are these teachings becoming real, changing lives and our relationship with nature."

The initiative for Sacred Gifts follows a more than decade-long involvement of WWF with religious communities stemming from a 1986 meeting in Assisi, Italy where leaders of the world's major faiths were invited to join conservationists to explore religious views on the environment.


Liz Foley, WWF-International, in Nepal at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza, Tel: +977 1 272 555, Mobile: 981031949

Kathleen LaCamera Loughlin, ARC, in Nepal at the Shangrila Hotel, Tel: +977 412 999, Fax: +977 1 420 239


TELEVISION: A VNR with footage from the celebration and b-roll of key "Sacred Gifts" will be available via satellite immediately following the celebrations. Contact APTV in London, Tel. +44 2074827600.

WEB: A live webcast of thepress event and Bhaktapur celebrations will be carried on and