The Salvation Army was represented at an international environmental conference which addressed how people of faith can better care for the environment. Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant, Director of The Salvation Army's International Social Justice Commission, joined delegates representing 24 faith traditions from all corners of the world at 'Faith in the Future', a two-day event in Bristol, UK.
This was the first time The Salvation Army has attended an Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC) meeting after an invitation was sent by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to General André Cox. ARC and UNDP have worked together since 2009, when HRH Prince Philip hosted a meeting at Windsor Castle with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The prince also sent a message of welcome to the delegates who met in Bristol, saying: 'I am confident that the members of ARC, acting in collaboration, can save the natural world from unintended destruction by thoughtless human activities.'
Some of the faith leaders pledged far-reaching practical action over the next 10 years to help the world’s poorest people. Action plans, called the Bristol Commitments, included pledges to develop microcredit schemes for the poor, increase access to education, plant trees, invest in clean energy and green pilgrimage. The faith leaders declared they would do all they could to support the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aimed at lifting millions of people out of poverty and creating a more sustainable planet. The 17 goals will set the direction of development work worldwide for the next 15 years and will be adopted by UN member states during the Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September in New York, USA.
Martin Palmer (ARC Secretary General) said sustainable development was not a new idea to the faiths: 'They have been working on many aspects of the SDGs for centuries, whether that’s feeding millions of people, caring for them through schools, managing the land, or simply seeking to be a compassionate presence in a world that for many is extraordinarily tough.
'For the faiths it is very important that our contribution has been recognised. We are being asked to help and we are also being challenged to live up to our own words. The UN and national governments should know that we will work with you to deliver these goals.' UNDP Director Paul Ladd added: 'More than 80 per cent of the world’s people express a religious affiliation. Knowing this, it becomes clear that the UN needs to work closely with faith communities over the next 15 years if the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development are to be achieved.'
After the conference, Lieut-Colonel Pallant reflected: 'The Salvation Army is already engaged in many projects and programmes that care for the planet. However, we must do more. There is much we can learn from other churches and other faiths in how we can do this better.'
For more information visit newly updated ISJC website: www.salvationarmy.org/isjc.