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Religious Witness for the Earth (RWE)

Abstract Religious Witness for the Earth (RWE) is an inter-religious grassroots network of clergy and laity whose members are committed to nonviolent public witness in defense of the Earth. Open to people of any spiritual persuasion or religious tradition, RWE carries out its role as “witness” through outdoor worship, civil disobedience, and political action. RWE’s efforts on behalf of the Earth include circulating petitions, testifying at state and federal hearings, meeting with members of Congress, and organizing nonviolent protests, conferences, and prayer services. Based in New England, RWE is currently working to expand its reach, forging alliances with other religious and secular environmental groups and encouraging the formation of local, state, and regional chapters nationwide.
Religion Inter-religious: Christianity
Geographic Location United States of America
Duration of Project 2001–Present
History Feeling “called” to embolden religious people to speak and act more strongly in defense the earth, Reverend Fred Small, pastor of First Unitarian Church in Littleton, Massachusetts, contacted Reverend Andrea Ayvazian, Dean of Religious Life at Mt. Holyoke College, in January of 2001 to discuss what might be done. Sharing a desire to mobilize the religious community around pressing environmental issues within a framework of non-violent public witness and civil disobedience, Small and Ayvazian met in February and established RWE. In March, they connected with long-standing environmental advocate Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, of the Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation of Bethesda, Maryland. Together these three individuals became the co-chairs of RWE. Since its founding, RWE has taken an impressive number of actions, particularly around the issues of climate change and oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In May of 2001, it held a prayer service and demonstration outside the United States Department of Energy in Washington D.C., where twenty-two individuals (including clergy) were arrested for engaging in civil disobedience. Through RWE, religious leaders have spoken with members of Congress and testified at hearings on wilderness protection and energy conservation. The organization co-sponsored Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) protests in Northampton, Massachusetts and Lynn, Massachusetts and held a conference in Northampton, Massachusetts called “Celebration, Prayer, and Planning” with a keynote presentation by Bill McKibbon. RWE has also issued an "Interfaith Call in support of the Climate Action Plan of New England" and has planned interfaith prayer and witness services at each state capital in New England. In November 2003, RWE haeld an inter-religious service of "repentance and renewal" at the United Nations (UN) to express regret for the failure of the United States RWE is currently planning an inter-religious service of "atonement" to be held at the United Nations (UN) to express regret for the failure of the United States (US) political leadership to join with other nations in addressing pressing environmental problems such as climate change. The event drew close to 300 people and clery from various religious traditions.
Mission Statement “Religious Witness for the Earth (RWE) is a national interfaith network dedicated to public witness in defense of Creation. Seeing climate change and environmental devastation as issues of justice, RWE invokes the loving spirit, selfless courage, and moral authority of the civil rights movement. Through prayer, education, and nonviolent action, we join hands to protect the Earth, our beloved home.”
Partner Organizations Clean Water Action
Massachusetts Climate Action Network
Massachusetts Climate Action Project
Massachusetts Interfaith Environmental Network
Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light
United States Climate Action Network
Long-Term Goals None Listed
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information Religious Witness for the Earth
P.O. Box 642
Littleton, MA 01460-2642
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)