COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths share more than a common founder -- Abraham. They share, Greg Hitzhusen says, a concern for the planet.
He hopes people see that in “Abrahamic Faiths and the Environment,” a free community forum series that starts March 30 in Columbus.
The series highlights religious perspectives that are sparking new ethical responses to care of creation, said Hitzhusen, who’s an Ohio State University natural resources lecturer, a Yale Divinity School graduate and one of the series organizers. It leads up to Earth Day, which is April 22.
“There is impressive common ground among faiths about issues of Earth care,” Hitzhusen said. “Some people perceive that there’s mainly conflict within and between religious groups regarding the environment. But that’s mostly a false impression.”
The series aims to correct that. Three programs -- the one this Wednesday (3/30) and on April 5 and April 12 -- will look at the traditions’ roots in, views on and engagement with stewardship, with an emphasis on their connections.
Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), the Ohio Council of Churches, and Ohio Interfaith Power and Light are the series sponsors.
Other supporters include the Gretel Bloch Fund of the Melton Center for Jewish Studies, Hillel, the Muslim Students’ Association, and the Facilities Operations and Development department, all at Ohio State; the Vineyard Columbus ECO Group; the Noor Islamic Cultural Center (NICC); and the St. Thomas More Newman Center Environmental Stewardship Committee.
“We’ve been fortunate to attract some renowned speakers whose work and teaching have had a national impact, together with local experts and community members who can highlight some of the exciting work going on around Columbus,” said Ohio State philosophy professor Tamar Rudavsky, who will moderate the first forum.
Food, Faith, a Sustainable Future
“Food, Faith and a Sustainable Future: Eco-Judaism from the Ground Up” features Jewish environmental educator Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of Bethesda, Md., and Rabbi Benjamin Berger of OSU Hillel.
Hours are 7-9 p.m. this Wednesday in the Barbara Tootle Room (3156) of Ohio State’s Ohio Union, 1739 N. High St., Columbus. There will be free organic tapas and local samples at 6:30 p.m. plus free tomato and lettuce plants for participating.
Care in God’s Garden
The Rev. Ken Wilson will keynote the April 5 program with “The Well-Placed and Well-Connected Human: Creation Care in God’s Garden.” Wilson is senior pastor of the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor (Mich.), a member of the National Association of Evangelicals Creation Care Committee and a co-founder of the Friendship Collaborative, which connects evangelical pastors and climate scientists for dialogue.
Stephen Ahearne-Kroll, New Testament professor at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and Richard Moore, assistant director of SENR and director of Ohio State’s Environmental Sciences Graduate Program, will be the respondents.
Hours are 8:30-10 p.m. at the Holy Grounds of St. Thomas More Newman Center, 64 W. Lane Ave., Columbus, with coffee and refreshments at 8 p.m.
Earth as Mosque
Two talks will take place April 12: Yosef Khan of Ohio State’s colleges of Medicine and Public Health on “Cleanliness = 1/2 of Faith: Islamic Perspectives on the Environment and Public Health” and Taymour El-Hosseiny of Evans, Mechwart, Hambleton and Tilton, “Earth Has Been Devoted to Me as a Mosque (Masjid).” NICC’s Azeez Haque will moderate.
Hours are 7-9 p.m. in the Ohio Union’s Great Hall Meeting Room.
Said Hitzhusen: “My larger hope is that this series will empower participants to think about their own commitments to Earth stewardship, generate more interfaith dialogue and collaboration toward goals of sustainability, and be a fun and inspiring way to explore a range of religious environmental perspectives as we move toward Earth Day 2011.”
SENR is part of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Hitzhusen’s interests and specialties at Ohio State include the theory and practice of faith-community environmental education and ethics, religious influences on environmental attitudes and behavior, environmental ethics, ecotheology, and religion and ecology.
He’s also board chair for Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, which works with Ohio congregations to respond to climate change through energy conservation. His past experience includes serving as national coordinator of the National Wildlife Federation’s NatureLink program.
He holds a Ph.D. in faith-based environmental education from Cornell University, a master's degree concentrating in ecotheology from Yale Divinity School and a bachelor's degree in ecology, also from Cornell.
- 30 -