October 27, 2009
Baha’i World News Service
NEW YORK — The Baha'i International Community today announced that it has become a partner in a United Nations-sponsored program to promote "generational change" to address climate change and environmental sustainability.
The program, which is co-sponsored by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), seeks to promote lifestyle changes that will help slow global warming and other environmental problems during a seven-year period from 2010 to 2017.
"We are very pleased to join with other world religions and with the United Nations in this inspiring initiative to promote lasting change in the way people interact with the environment," said Tahirih Naylor, a representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.
"The significance of this effort is the manner in which it capitalizes on the strengths of faith communities – such as their strong grassroots network and the transformative power of religious belief – to address environmental problems at their foundation, which is human behavior.
"One of the long-term goals of the Baha'i Faith is to promote the positive transformation of individuals and communities, and to this end we already sponsor thousands of study circles, children's classes, devotional gatherings, and youth groups in more than 180 countries.
"We look forward to learning more about the efforts of other faith communities and are confident that we can make a useful contribution to this exciting program," she said.
Ms. Naylor will join representatives of the world's other religions next week at Windsor Castle when the ARC/UNDP program is formally launched. The event, scheduled for 2-4 November, will feature a keynote speech by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and will be hosted by HRH The Prince Philip.
More than 200 faith and secular leaders are expected to be present, and many faith groups will announce commitments to practical initiatives, like the Baha'i plan, to meet global environmental challenges. Joining Ms. Naylor as a Baha'i representative to the event will be Arthur Lyon Dahl, a former deputy assistant executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, an author, and a well-known specialist on coral reefs and biodiversity.
Ms. Naylor noted that the BIC has been a member of ARC since its founding, and has consistently sought to support its program of interfaith conservation efforts.
"The worldwide Baha'i community has long been involved in promoting sustainable development and in creating small-scale projects that include environmental conservation," she said. "And so this initiative is especially exciting because of the way it concretely addresses the underlying attitudes and values that are at the root of many of humanity's environmental problems."
Specifically, said Ms. Naylor, Baha'is around the world will be encouraged to explore the relationship of humans to the environment as articulated in the Baha'i sacred writings and to take action at the individual and community level.
"In our experience, connecting the hearts of people to sacred writings is the best way to provide the motivation for social change and action," she said. "As well, Baha'is will be encouraged to engage in acts of service related to environmental sustainability."
At the present time, Ms. Naylor said, many thousands of Baha'is in virtually every country are engaged in a coherent framework of action that promotes the spiritual development of the individual and channels the collective energies of its members towards service to humanity.
These activities include the systematic study of the Baha'i writings in small groups in order to build capacity for service; devotional gatherings aimed at connecting the hearts of participants with the Creator; neighborhood children's classes that offer lessons aimed at laying the foundations of a noble and upright character; and groups that strive to assist young teens to navigate a crucial stage of their lives and become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization.
The Baha'i International Community is an international nongovernmental organization that represents the worldwide Baha'i community, which has some five million members in 100,000 localities spread through virtually every country. Its members come from nearly every ethnic group, culture, profession, and social or economic background.
ARC is a secular body that helps the major religions of the world to develop their own environmental programs, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices. It was founded in 1995 by Prince Philip. Its members include 11 major world religions.