Patmos Proposals

Theme 1
Defining what is at stake

It is difficult to avoid pointing out the conjuncture that brought all the participants together in this symposium: it is the coincidence of the sense of urgency for the state of the environment, the immense progress of science and technology and the current spiritual vacuum that corresponds perhaps to the end of the cold war. The words of St John summarise it well: 'Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand' (Revelation 1:3)...
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Theme 2
Improving the state of our knowledge
We explored the status of water and how it is held in the consciousness of different traditions as a body of knowledge that can be drawn on when seeking solutions to environmental destruction...
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Theme 3
Valuing the environment
Humans have a special facility of assigning functions to things. Rather than seeing physical objects as merely being, we place them within a context of purposes and ends. In doing so we implicitly value phenomena. Trees are seen to be good for furniture and shade; rivers provide the joys of fishing, they offer a source of irrigation and are used as an assimilator of waste; oceans sustain life forms, provide transport routes as well as wave energy, and regulate the natural environment. In a more religious vein, we may value nature and its creatures as being sacred or providing an image of their 'Creator'...
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Theme 4
Managing in an era of uncertainty

A major challenge today is managing human activities to achieve desirable goals, such as the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources, under conditions of scientific uncertainty, inherent variability of ecological and social systems and conflicting perceptions of problems and solutions. Few, if any, social institutions today are prepared to manage in a sustainable manner. Experience has taught us that both ecological and social systems are inherently more complex, more dynamic and unpredictable than we have previously imagined. We know that free markets acting alone cannot achieve socially desirable results since not all of the products and services of coastal and marine areas can be expressed in monetary terms. Institutional arrangements that recognise 'common stewardship' responsibilities must be found...
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Theme 5
Defining what is possible
We are not an ecological or inter-faith conference of a general nature for the protection of the environment. The point of reference for our discussions and attempts to find solutions for problems is a particular text of the Christian Bible, the Revelation to John - a text of a religious tradition that has endowed the foundations of our modern Western European culture, the culture of the pollution and destruction of the environment, with its conceptual structure...
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Theme 6
The role of religious institutions
The institutional embodiment of religious traditions has often excited impatience and suspicion even among those who have counted themselves devoted explorers of the intellectual and mystical aspects of religion. It must be confessed that there is sometimes a degree of corruption of an original inspiration in the process of institutionalisation. The competition for power among religious institutions has in the past evidently damaged their spiritual authority and has been a potent ingredient in some of the most sanguinary conflicts of history. This has contributed to the pervasive feeling noticed by Professor Thurman in his concluding piece that 'religion is part of the problem'...
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Theme 7
What can the Churches offer?
I believe that it is important to cultivate the consciences of our people and that the church should become increasingly sensitive to issues concerning he environment. In order to have our people participating in the discussion of these issues, we have to find a common language, a common code of eference. That will be challenging for the people of the church, but I think that we have already begun the process...
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Theme 8
Facing the future with hope: a discussion from an American perspective
There are some interesting similarities between the Apocalypse and the Buddhist Kalachakra Tantra. Kalachakra is a Sanskrit term meaning the wheel of time or the wheel of history. It refers to the notion of time as a kind of machine or wheel in which things are being developed to their own highest potential. This is as close as you could get to the monotheistic notion that history is God's crucible, within which beings are developed to the point of recognising their oneness with God...

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