Yesterday I was happy to attend Nazareth College’s “Mini-Chautauqua in Rochester,” invited by Executive Director of the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue Dr. Muhammad Shafiq who you met in Parliament of World’s Religions. (See Program at end.)
Designed as the first of a series of Mini-Chautauquas to be held around the nation, the conference marked a new partnership between the Chautauqua Institute and the Hickey Center. Titled “On a Planet in Peril and Our Moral Responsibility,” the conference highlighted nine different speakers all who taught us how we can transform the environment for a better world.
The fundamental feature of the conference was to bring together members from various faith communities to discuss how traditional practices provide a spiritual basis reminding us why we are responsible for nurturing the planet. And, as importantly, how that very nurturing can feed our own souls.
As Dr. Shafiq was clear to emphasize, while this is the first Mini-Chautauqua, the conference is only the beginning of the dialogue. Someday perhaps a “Major Chautauqua at Nazareth College.”
I ran into my friend George Payne, founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International, who you met in Broken Spear Vision. George, who has devoted his passion to environmental activism and non-violence offered his insights:
A conference like the “Mini-Chautauqua in Rochester” is so dynamic because it combines the knowledge of the natural sciences with the wisdom traditions of Eastern and Western religion. This rare blend of head and heart not only enabled participants to better understand the threat of climate change, it also helped them conceive of ways to respond to this challenge with love, compassion and resilience. As Rabbi Debbie Till shared in her reflection on the Talmud, “it is not our job to complete the task but neither are we free to desist from it.”
All of the distinguished speakers expressed the same moral imperative. We need to cure our addiction to consumerism, speciesism, and ecological warfare; and we need to cultivate a profound humility before whatever we call the divine. For in the end, what we are trying to sustain is ourselves.