Friday, 12 October 2012

"Sharing Eden"

Three Festival of Literature events today: near my limit! Two of them were sponsored by the splendid Coexist Foundation. On the platform for the first of these, a discussion took place between followers of the three great Abrahamic faiths, pooling insights which could secure a better future for our planet. As Rabbi Nathan Levy (2nd from left in my photograph) said, "Even if we don't all share the same vision of heaven, we share the same Earth."

A common Earth manifesto subscribed to by the world's great religions? It could give people of faith that credibility they often lack within our sceptical yet green-inclined society; but how can we hope to achieve such a thing when within each of our faiths there are those who question any commitment to the importance of global stewardship?

This said, I bought the book after the event, the first time I'd succumbed this Festival: I usually buy more, but I'm in a mean streak.

Rabbi Nathan, a co-author of Sharing Eden, reminds us that people of faith are uniquely placed to speak truth to power about a concern for environmental justice. Politicians work to a five-year plan, business people may adopt a ten-year plan, but we are used to thinking longer-term: only after seven times seven years do we celebrate jubilee: "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

A lot – or sometimes very little – can change in 50 years. As I recorded last month, it’s that period since I started at university: had I instead, as destined, gone into articles in a solicitors’ firm in Birmingham, my life would have been very different. Yesterday was 50 years since the 2nd Vatican Council opened: some would say, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." More mundanely tomorrow will be 50 years since the last train went from Cheltenham to Kingham on the old Honeybourne Line, running 50 yards from our front gate: what would we now give to have back the comprehensive rail network, which Beeching axed?

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