Recreating Paradise? Curry and climate discussions at interfaith event

People of all faiths and none gathered recently at Park campus to discuss the climate crisis and their responses to it.

The university’s annual interfaith event was held on Wednesday, November 13 in the lecture theatre and saw a wide range of spiritual and secular perspectives on the issue being shared.

The event, titled ‘Recreating Paradise?’, featured contributions from chaplains Simon Witcombe, Jo Parkin, Sarah Rogaly and Atique Miah, alongside the UoG Green Team and Gloucestershire Youth Climate Change Panel.

Also in attendance were members of Extinction Rebellion Cheltenham, Green Christian and Cheltenham Interfaith, as well as Edward Gillespie, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire.

Above: members of (l-r) Green Christian, Extinction Rebellion Cheltenham and Cheltenham Interfaith.

The structure of the evening was made up of three parts: Lament, Hope and Action. In the first of these, people discussed how the climate crisis made them feel. The answers given were mostly negative – feelings of fear and anger – yet Simon reminded us that we need to recognise and accept these feelings, saying “When we lament something, we stay with it no matter how hard it is.”

The second part of the evening saw people discussing where they find hope and inspiration amid the climate crisis, while the third part was about what had stuck with people from the evening and what they would do in response to it. This involved writing postcards to ourselves and planting seeds in cardboard bowls to represent the action that would grow from what had been shared during the evening.

A representative from Gloucestershire Youth Climate Change Panel addresses the event.

Mixed in with the discussions and contributions from the front were some clips from David Attenborough, illustrating the climate crisis and our responsibility to act on it. The event ended with Atique, the university’s Muslim chaplain, reciting Carl Sagan’s famous ‘Pale Blue Dot’ speech as a reminder to act with humility towards the planet.

Before the discussions began, there was a time to get to know the others at the event over some vegan curry and a selection of desserts.

“I was really pleased with how it went overall,” Jo, chaplain for Park campus, said afterwards. “I always get quite nervous beforehand because no one has to sign up to say whether they’re coming or not, so I never have any idea of whether we’re going to get ten people or 100 people. But actually the room was full [and] there was a really good buzz around the conversation.”

The chaplaincy team has been running annual interfaith events at the university for the last ten years, and while they had discussed covering the environment before, there had always been other issues coming up that felt more urgent to cover.

“It felt like this was the right year to do it, because we’d been thinking about doing something on the environment for several years, but actually now is the right year to be having some of these conversations,” said Jo.

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