Organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the 5th International Conference on Ecological Theology and Environmental Ethics (ECOTHEE-17) brought together people from diverse nations and faith traditions to reflect on the theology of Oikos and indigenous spirituality.
The event took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Kolymbari, 23-27 August.
Participants stated how threats continue to undermine biodiversity, how unlimited greed has led to natural resources depletion and poverty, how species continue to disappear, and how the increase of the force and frequency of droughts, floods, hurricanes, as well as the increase in global average temperature and CO2 emissions reflect the reality of climate change.
“Together with interfaith cooperation, multidisciplinary approaches including natural and social sciences, psychology, philosophy and religious studies become indispensable for developing eco-theology and environmental ethics”, said Dr Louk Andrianos, coordinator of the event and WCC consultant for Care of Creation.
Various presentations on Orthodox and Eastern Christian theology portrayed the ecological thought of the early fathers of the church, especially Saint John Damascene, unfolding concepts such as “oikos” and “icon”, and relating them with concepts such as incarnation, cosmos, peacebuilding and sustainability.
Traditional and indigenous beliefs and spiritualities were addressed through the study of First Nations artistic expressions from an ethnic-aesthetic perspective, conveying a message of hope.
Interventions made by Muslim and Jewish participants showed how interpretation of the Quran and the Hebrew Bible can deepen the understanding of Christian eco-theology and how interfaith cooperation is needed in the world of eco-justice.
For Andrianos, eco-justice is at the core of sustainability and work on the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). “It can only be achieved if there is clear understanding of the meaning of the common ‘home’ and therefore a peaceful collaboration of all stakeholders: faith communities, scientists, politicians and indigenous leaders”, he said.
At the opening of the conference, Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC advisor and former programme executive for Economic and Ecological Justice, reflected that ECOTHEE-17 is part of a series of biennial conferences that started in 2008 to promote the interfaith and interdisciplinary search of solutions to important environmental problems of our time.
A children’s art exhibition with the theme “The future of our common home – oikos” was organized in conjunction with the conference.