KEP participate in Conservation of Environment and Role of Religion conference
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The Department of Religious Studies Central University of Kashmir, orgainsed a two-day international conference on “Conservation of Environment and Role of Religion” from 5 to 6 July 2017. The conference was organised in collaboration with the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS), New Delhi and sponsored by Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation (NLCO), Srinagar,
the department had called for papers on the main and subthemes of the conference through the university website and local media. The response was overwhelming with the department receiving more than 60 abstracts from scholars and academics from across the country and abroad. The conference was spread over sixteen sessions including the inaugural and the valedictory sessions.

Some of the prominent participants included Leonard Swidler, Professor of Catholic Thought & Interreligious Dialogue at Temple University. He has published more than 300 articles and 75 books. Paul B. Mojzes is from Croatia (former Yugoslavia).and now a Naturalized citizen of the United States of America. He is a professor emeritus of religious studies and co-editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies with Leonard Swidler. Mustafa Ceric, is Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia and has studied at · University of Azhar, Cairo, 1978 (B.M.) before going to · University of Chicago, for his doctorate. Puninder Singh is a doctoral student in linguistic anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. His doctoral research focuses on religious language. Professor Dr. Siddharth Singh, is the Ex-Head, Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Faculty of Arts, Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.), Varanasi and about more than fifty other prominent scholars and researchers from the country and abroad. The representative of Knowledge Exchange Program(KEP) Shaikh Mustafa Ceric gave the following speech:
The Moral Crisis & Environment
Mustafa Ceric, Ph.D.
Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia
If you see the moon, you see the beauty of God… If you see the Sun, you see the power of God… If you seethe Mirror, you see the best Creation of God…But if you see the Nature that is polluted today, you see the worst of man’s behavior. Indeed, the humanity nowadays is in the worst moral crisis ever when we talk about the state of natural environment. This is stated in the Holy Qur’an in this way:

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ.

– Corruption or pollution emerged in land and in sea because of what human hands have done (to the Nature). God will make them all suffer because of what some people have done so that all people might come back to their senses (Qur’an, 30:41).
What is moral crisis? The moral crisis is a state of mind where man is fully aware that what he is doing is wrong, but he is doing it anyway. The question of environment is a case in point where every one is aware that our Planet Earth is in danger because of our dirty hands, but we still do what we believe we shouldn’t do. This is called a Great Moral Crisis of today. As we know, the religion, al-Din, has some ethical norms for the environment. Indeed, al-Din has accorded some moral significance to all creatures, and proposed some ethical responsibilities on the part of humans, although these ethical dimensions are usually secondary, or inferior, relative to responsibilities to other humans. Al-Din has understood the Earth to have some kind of divine message, or religious value, and that humans have some religious obligations to care for its creatures. It is greed and destruction that are strongly condemned by al-Din whereas restraint and protection of the Nature are affirmed by religious morality. Unfortunately, these religious concerns for the environment faded with the rise of modern philosophy, which has cancelled the idea of a Covenant with God or any responsibility before God. Man is thought to be responsible only to himself by himself. This idea made man selfish and negligent toward the needs and rights of future generations. Modern man is concerned only about himself and his temporal well being. He is careless about his offspring. The religious attitudes toward nature have largely disappeared in modern societies. It is in the past few decades, that some religious authorities have returned to their origins to recover their pre-modern religious environmental teachings to present them as religious environmental ethics – indeed, as a new Covenant with God in building the Noah Ark…
I believe that the first step we ought to make is to recognize that we are in a deep moral crisis about environment. This issue is not exclusive to any particular faith or nation. We are all in one boat and thus we will all be saved by the Noah Ark or none will be saved if any one of us rejects to participate in building the Noah Ark before the eyes of God for the sake of our salvation on Earth before our salvation in the Hereafter… It is time that the humanity make a New Covenant (al-Mithaq) with God which has been broken so far, namely, to preserve and conserve the Planet Earth from further deterioration, corruption, pollution and destruction… This Covenant must be sincere, honest and fulfilling…





    According to a report “scarcely a day passes without new reports of ominous scientific discoveries about the pace of environmental destruction. It is not too comforting to read that “in the middle latitudes of the Northern hemisphere, average temperatures are increasing at a rate that is equivalent to moving south about 10 meters (30) feet each day,” a rate “about 100 times faster than most climate change that we can observe in the geological record.”—perhaps, 1,000 times faster, according to other technical studies.
    While alluding to the environmental vulnerabilities in modern times, Edward O. Wilson warns that each step for technological advancement at the cost of environment “added its own, long term risk” …
    He says further: “Human history can be viewed through the lens of ecology as the accumulation of environmental prostheses. As the man made procedures thicken and inter lock, they enlarge the carrying capacity of the planet. Human beings, being typical organisms in reproductive response, expand to fill the added capacity. The spiral continues. The environment, increasingly rigged and strutted to meet the new demands, turns ever more delicate”.
    The destruction is caused to environment by the fear of systematic risk in the financial system arising out of the vandalizing of natural resources by business leaders of the world who are “conducting propaganda campaigning to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax. Almost all the Republicans are climate deniers as they have already cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe”. And according to Noam Chomsky if such things had happened in some small and remote country, there might have been scope for “laugh”, but these were happening in the richest country in the world.”
    Moreover, in the face of Republican opposition to environmental protection “a major American utility is shelving the nation’s most prominent effort to capture carbon dioxide from an existing coal –burning power plant, dealing a severe blow to efforts to rein in emissions responsible for global warming, “the New York Times reports.
    The condition of Environment in Kashmir is not different in any sense. I will give only one example for understanding the degradation and its pace in the context of paradise on earth.
    In recent years significant encroachments have been noticed within famous Kashmiri Dal lake. According to Lawrence the area of the lake in 1893-1894 was 19.54 Km2. It has now been reduced hardly to 6.8km2 of which 3.6 Km2 are marsh. Unabated encroachments still continue at alarming rate. The rate of encroachment in the Anchar Lake till 2000 has been estimated 0.184 km2/year.
    Had the matter remained to this level of human caprice in case of this vandalisation, it was still understandable but sometimes even religious sanction is being sought for such a horrendous catastrophe. There are some who claim to be “true believers and one of them, the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood”.
    Therefore, in such a mosaic, we need to bring to fore the actual teachings of religion, which are supporting conservative drives about environment in unequivocal terms. As we know that religions have a central role in the formulation of worldviews that orient us to the natural world and the articulation of ethics that guide human behavior. The size and complexity of the problems we face require collaborative efforts both among the religions and in dialogue with other key domains of human endeavor. Religions, thus, need to be in conversation with sectors—science, economics, education, and public policy—that have addressed environmental issues. Environmental changes will be motivated by these disciplines in very specific ways: namely, economic incentives will be central to adequate distribution of resources, scientific analysis will be critical to understanding nature’s economy, educational awareness will be indispensable to creating modes of sustainable life, public policy recommendations will be invaluable in shaping national and international priorities, and moral and spiritual values will be crucial for the transformations required for life in an ecological age.
    This is a very good question that “religious traditions need to examine their own role in creating the disaster, rethinking the anthropocentrism of all our major religious traditions. Further, it must be admitted that whatever their theological attitude toward the earth, religious traditions were pretty much blind to the environmental crisis until it was pointed out to them by others.
    As have the rise of science, the struggle for democracy, and recent challenges to racism etc., the environmental crisis will alter religious sensibilities. It has already called forth explicit proclamations from almost every established religion. Whether nature is considered valuable in itself or as a part of God’s creation, most religious authorities now see it as deserving of care, stewardship, and respect. In this way traditional religions are making (perhaps unconscious) common cause with deep ecologists and their kindred: radical environmentalists, ecofeminists, witches, and various tree-huggers of indeterminate self-description. An alliance between deep ecology (or, more broadly, any serious environmental philosophy) and world religion may thus have some quite significant political effects. The kind of energy religious institutions invested in the civil rights and anti-war movements, for instance, could be manifested in support of endangered species, clean energy sources, and World Bank “development” loans that don’t destroy the rain forest. Religious institutions could look inward as well: making their buildings energy efficient and nontoxic, using recycled paper, and asking serious questions about where their own endowments are invested and how their wealthy secular leaders make their money.
    Religions need to face how the environmental crisis changes certain basic facts about the spiritual meaning of the world around us. Considered as God’s creation, nature—at least in the form of the ecosystems that make up this current phase of earth’s biological development—is now subject to human intervention, alteration, and (to some extent, at least) control.
    Perhaps most painfully, the natural world is no longer an unclouded source of calm and peace, no longer a pure promise of goodness and happiness. All the religious poems and prayers that counsel us to find God in forest or field, to celebrate the simple beauty of flower or sunset, must now reckon with the toxic chemicals that permeate flora and fauna, with the increased certainty that sunshine causes skin cancer, with trees that are dying from acid rain and flowers that have strange new growing seasons because of global warming. And this new awareness might be extended to religious practices that do not explicitly concern “nature.”
    It is the task of any world religion worth its salt to act openly, honestly, contritely, and (paradoxically) joyously in the face of the environmental crisis. Deep ecology critiques the dominant political agenda for implementing sustainable practices only for human welfare while other species continually lose habitat toward possible extinction. In opposing this commercialization beyond the commons, deep ecology focuses on wilderness as an ideal conservation ethic. This position echoes Henry David Thoreau’s thought when he wrote: What I have been preparing to say is this, in wildness is the preservation of the world. . .. Life consists of wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. . .. When I would re-create myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable and to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter as a sacred place, a Sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow, of Nature. In short, all good things are wild and free.
    Religious perspectives direct us toward what theologian Paul Tillich called “ultimate significance.” They seek to orient us to that which is of compelling importance beyond, beneath, or within our day to- day concerns with making money, getting famous, or having immediate pleasures. At the same time, however, religion also seeks to orient us to the familiar interpersonal world of family, community, and global connections, providing guidance that seeks to root everyday moral teachings in the ultimate nature or significance of a spiritual truth about who we really are. Religions necessarily direct us toward particular ways of living with other people and with the world. Finally, religions provide rituals—acts of prayer, meditation, collective contrition, or celebration—whose goal is to awaken and reinforce an immediate and personal sense of our connection to the Sacred. These practices aim at a transformation of consciousness, to cultivate within the heart an impassioned clarity of connection to spiritual sensibility.
    There is an emphasis on the sacrality and transcendence of God, in Islam, who alone has ultimate spiritual value. Nature is neither sacred nor profane but reflects God’s sacredness as Creation. Thus Islam like other Semitic religions is theocentric. Humans have a special role in creation, with moral knowledge and thus responsibility to treat nature with care. The command to avoid evil and do good involves our relationship with the earth, which we must not use excessively or destructively. The natural world is for our use and fulfilment, but only when used kindly, sharing what we have and conserving what we can. This is not a mere environmental ethic but a call for devotional action that participates in Creation. Thus, Muslims might criticize deep ecology for attempting to separate humans from a supposedly pure wilderness. Deep ecologists, on the other hand, might well criticize such a stewardship view as retaining too much anthropocentrism.
    But the similarities are worth noting. Both Islam and deep ecology affirm that the natural world is an integrated whole (as Creation, for Muslims), with humans an inextricable part of that whole. Nature is not to be exploited but responded to with contemplation, appreciation, and protection.
    Central University of Kashmir came into existence by an Act passed in the Parliament in 2009 with President of India as its Visitor. Starting its operations from 2010 it established Department of Religious Studies in 2015 with an experienced faculty. So far the Department has four permanent faculty members and two contractual. The Department organised a one-day Syllabus framing and Curriculum devising workshop and discussed draft proposals for innovative inter disciplinary and transdisciplinary course like Ecology and Religions, Gender and Religion, Social Justice, Human Rights and religion apart from other such courses. The Department is shortly going to publish its journal “Revelation” and is also preparing to enter into MouS with various national and International institutions of repute and Universities for academic and research exchange programme.
    Our prominent participants among others are:
    Leonard Swidler, Professor of Catholic Thought & Interreligious Dialogue at Temple University since 1966, who is the Founder/Editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, He is also the Founder/Director of the Dialogue Institute (1978), and holds degrees in History, Philosophy, and Theology from St. Norbet College (BA), Marquette University (MA), University of Wisconsin (Ph.D.) and Tübingen University, Germany (S.T.L.).
    He has published more than 300 articles and 75 books, including:
    • Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue (1978), •After the Absolute: The Dialogical Future of Religious Reflection (1990), A Bridge to Buddhist-Christian Dialogue (1990), Muslims in Dialogue (1992), For All Life: Toward a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic. An Interreligious Dialogue (1998), The Study of Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue (2000), Dialogue in Malaysia and the Globe (2004), Trialogue. Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue (2007) etc.
    Paul B. Mojzes is from Croatia (former Yugoslavia).and now a Naturalized citizen of the United States of America. He is a professor emeritus of religious studies and co-editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies with Leonard Swidler. He has joined us from Pennsylvania USA.He participated in the Jewish-Christian-Muslim trialogue on Religion and Business in Amman, Jordan, May 26–30, 2008. He was Invited as an Observer to the, “Dialogue and Its Role in Defending Prophet Muhammad” Conference, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 10-11, 2013.He is also the Co-author with Leonard Swidler, of The Study of Religion in an Age of Global Dialogue (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000). He authored Balkan Genocides: Holocaust and Ethnic Cleansing in the Twentieth Century (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011). 299pp. Published as paper back in 2015.
    Dr. Abdullah Alleheedan, Prof. & dean of King Fahd University, Riyadh, Dr Abdullah Allheedan, is also the Adviser to the Minister of Islamic Affairs and Supervisor of Knowledge Exchange Program Saudi Arabia.
    Mustafa Ceric, is Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia and has studied at · University of Azhar, Cairo, 1978 (B.M.) before going to · University of Chicago, for his doctorate in 1987 on: “A Study of the Theology of Abu Mansur al-Māturīdī. His mentor has been the famous scholars of international repute Prof.Fazlur Rahman. He has worked as an Imam in Islamic Cultural Center, Northbrook, Chicago, 1981-1986 and as Professor in Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), Kuala Lumpur, 1991-1993.He has been designated as Raisu-l-ulama (“Grand Mufti of Bosnia”) 1993-2012.He has memberships of European Council for Fatwa and Research, Dublin; the Fiqh Academy in Mecca, and was the · Honorary President of the WCRP International, New York .He is the Recipient of the Award of the 2003 Felix Xouphouet –Boigny Peace Prize Unesco , for the Co-recipient of 2003 Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize UNESCO for distinguished contribution to interfaith dialogue, tolerance and peace, Paris .
    Puninder Singh is a doctoral student in linguistic anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. His doctoral research focuses on religious language.
    Professor Dr. Siddharth Singh, is the Ex-Head, Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Faculty of Arts, Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.),
    Varanasi-221005, U.P, India.He is Full Professor of the Department of Pali & Buddhist Studies, Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.), Varanasi, India. He has been honored by prestigious Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, USA (Year 2011-2012), Vadrayana Vyas President Award, India (Year 2005) and Japan Foundation Fellowship, Japan (Year 2003-2004) for his contribution to the Pali & Buddhist Studies. He has published two books namely Saddhammasangaho (History of Buddhism till 13th Century) and Jinacarita (a biography of the Buddha) and has delivered lectures and presented several National and International papers on the different occasions in India and countries like USA, Japan, China, Sweden, Estonia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Vietnam etc.
    Dr. Siddharth has been Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies and Indian Studies in Uppsala University, Sweden (October, 2014-March, 2015), Karlstad University, Sweden (Aug. – Sept. in 2006 and 2008), Hyderabad Central University, India (Dec. 2012 -Jan., 2013) too. Dr. Singh’s major interest area is Pali literature, Theravada Buddhism and Applied aspects of Indian Religions. He is an activist also who began a movement to protect Buddhist Studies in India through his Facebook group “Save Pali and Buddhist Studies in India”. He is also the Member of BHU Court.,

    Prof. Abdul Ali received his higher education at the University of Allahabad (1962-66) where he did his graduation in English, Arabic and Political Science and post-graduation in Arabic. He obtained the degrees of Ph.D. and D.Litt. in Arabic from Lucknow University, Lucknow. He served as Assistant Professor of Arabic at the Government Post-Graduate Hamidia Arts & Commerce College, Bhopal (M.P.) for 20 years. Then he joined the Aligarh Muslim University in 1988, and served this Institution as Reader and Professor of Islamic Studies. He worked as Chairman and Director, Department and Institute of Islamic Studies, A.M.U., Aligarh. He is author of sixteen books. He has also published 130 articles and research papers in Journals and Seminar Proceedings of national and international repute both at home and abroad. He was awarded four UGC research projects in Islamic Studies including UGC Emeritus Fellowship two times which he successfully completed. He was also awarded the Presidential Certificate of Honour for excellence in teaching and research in Arabic.
    Dr. Gautam Chatterjee is a Banaras based philosopher, art scholar and artiste. Academically he has made researches in various walks of scholarly life, explored new vistas in art and philosophy with original notes, prodigiously influential, gives rise to a comprehensive re-thinking. His oft-quoted book is ‘White Shadow of Consciousness’. He has translated voluminous ancient texts like Tantraloka and Tantrasara by Abhinavagupta into English for the first time in seven volumes and Gyanganj direct from classical Sanskrit and Bengali, respectively. At present, he is the president of Abhinavagupta Academy, a Centre for consciousness studies in Varanasi.
    Prof. Shashi Bala, is former Prof. & Head Dept. of Guru Nanak Studies Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. and Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Religious Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. She remained Coordinator of U.G.C. SAP (DRS-II) till Nov. 2016.She served in the department since 1986 and has thirty years teaching and research experience. She has been the Editor of Journals; ‘Perspectives on Guru Granth Sahib ‘(from 2006 to 2008), Journal of Sikh Studies (from 2006 to 2008 & 2012 to 2016.) and Dharam Adhiyan Patrika (from 2012 till 2015). Her field of Specialization is Indian Philosophy, Sikh Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion and Comparative Religion. She has published eight books and more than seven dozen papers in Journals of National and International repute. She organized 17 National/ International Seminars/ Conferences in the university campus of GNDU. She organized Philosophy Teachers Meet for North Western Zone, Sponsored by Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi) from 29th Dec to 31st Dec. 2015.
    Dr. Mnavinder Singh is a senior faculty at Deptt. of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. He has published several books including: Gurbalis Patshahi Dasmin (by Sukha Singh) Editing and Textual Analysis, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, 2016, Prof. Sahib Singh Sandarbh Kosh, Vigiyan Bharti, Amritsar, 1999, p.269.
    Gur-Ratnawali by Tola Singh Bhalla, Edited, Lakat Printers, Amritsar, 1995, p.190.
    We have very prominent scholars and professors from Delhi, who are representing Institute of Objective Studies, Prof .Z M Khan ,who has been the head Department of Political science Jamia Millia Islamia,Prof .Mohd Afzal Wani Dean Faculty of Law Indraprastha University and is also the member Indian Law Commission ,Prof.Ishtiyaqh Danish ,Professor and Former Head Department of Islamic studies Jamia Hamdard apart from Mr. Ataurehaman .Due to some sudden health problem ,Dr. Manzoor Alam Chairman IOS New Delhi could not join us but he has sent us his good wishes .Our Hon’ble Registrar Prof. Mohd Afzal Zargar who was one of the great inspirations for us to organize this Conference also had to attend a very important assignment at Deli and has sent his good wishes to the participants of the conference .We are extremely very thankful to our dynamic worthy Vice chancellor who has been a source of encouragement to us for organizing this conference and other events ,the Advisory committee of the Conference including deans of Science ,Social science ,Engineering ,Management ,law and Student Welfare etc. who have guided us during all the stages of preparations for the conference. We have special thanks for Prof. Mir Mohd Aslam, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee who has guided and helped us at every step. We are very thankful to all other Departs of the university, FO, Assistant Registrars of Estates, and IT etc., who have given us full support for the conference. Last but not the least we feel indebted to our sponsors: NELCO, Naseer’s Group of Unani and Punch Karma Hospitals, Rahim Greens, Meezan publications, Department of Tourism and Greeter Kashmir for their generous support in cash and kind. We are also thankful to electronic and print media for coverage of the event.

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