On Sunday 3rd February the Mayor’s Call to Prayer Meeting took place at the Guildhall in Bath. This has been an annual interfaith event for the past 19 years, and the Bath Group has been involved right from the beginning. The theme changes every year, and this time it was quite aptly about the environment.
It is worthwhile reproducing what the Mayor had written to the representatives of the nine faiths who took part in the event:
“My theme for the year is Environment. Not one of you is unaware of what is going on in the natural world; the news media feeds us constant stories of disastrous change. Human society is living far beyond its means. The oceans are rising and the global temperature is getting warmer. Species are succumbing.
Something is going wrong and our stewardship of nature is being called into question. We are justifying overexploitation of the natural environment by calling it wealth creation but this equation is false. We are systematically destroying something whose value lies far beyond the limitations of human understanding. As Mayor I will take every opportunity to promote the central role of sustainability and environmental responsibility. I will do my best to encourage the next generations to develop resilient, ethical codes of conduct that respect all life on the planet”.
Each faith was given five minutes to interpret the Mayor’s theme according to their particular religious or spiritual viewpoint.
In his introduction, the Mayor paraphrased a quote from Voltaire:
“When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion” to “When it is a question of the environment, everybody is of the same religion”.
The Christian faith was the first to speak. It exhorts us to love Creation. We cannot save what we do not love. It emphasises that the Earth is the Lord’s.
The Baha’i emphasise the Unity of Humankind. Unity promotes Love, which in turn promotes Peace, which in turn leads to Prosperity.
The Sikh representative gave us a saying from Guru Nanak:
“Air is the Guru, Water the Father, and the Earth is the Great Mother”.
A non-meat diet is more environmentally-friendly. They have been using metal trays at their meetings for a long time, washed and re-used.
The Muslim faith stressed the importance of gratitude.
The Druids came next, then the Jewish faith, whose speaker talked about Tikkun Olam, a Jewish concept defined by acts of loving kindness, justice and righteousness performed to perfect or repair the world. Humanity has to take the responsibility to change, improve and fix its earthly environment for its sake and that of future generations.
The Buddhist speaker took the angle that we create our environment with our thoughts. Our thoughts and feelings create our mental weather. We should cultivate mindfulness, which is awareness of the present moment.
The Hindu delegate said that the environmental crisis we are experiencing is essentially a crisis of values. The Earth is a Goddess and the five elements form the foundation for the interconnectedness of the web of Life.
The Sathya Sai International Organisation came last.
Sathya Sai Baba says that Nature is Divine.
“Nature is continually proclaiming its inherent and real role of preacher of spiritual truths. Consider, for instance, a tree. It puts up with heat and rain, summer and winter, and all the harm inflicted on it. It offers shade and distributes fruits to whoever approaches it. It has no feelings of hatred or vengeance towards those who cause it injuries. It seeks no return from those who benefit from it. Everyone should learn this lesson in selfless, patient service from the tree.”
“Today, the entire environment is polluted by evil things which offend the ears, eyes and the tongue: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the sounds which are jarring to the ears and the food we consume. How is purity of the environment to be achieved? Fill your minds with thoughts of God, dedicate all your actions to God and consider God as the inner motivator. To purify the atmosphere, chant the Lord’s name and sanctify the radio waves.”
“Put a ceiling on desires. Don’t waste food, money, time or energy.”
Information pertaining to the Serve the Planet project was also distributed.
We finished with the song:
Let the Love we’re sharing spread its wing, Fly across the Earth and bring new Joy to every soul that is alive. Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu. May all the beings in all the worlds be happy.
The afternoon ended with a delicious vegetarian buffet!