Religious and Indigenous leaders in Indonesia unite to protect forests

Must reach people through values and ethics to end deforestation, U.N. says
Interfaith Rainforest Initiative launch in Jakarta. Interfaith Rainforest Initiative

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More than 250 religious leaders descended upon Jakarta in January pledging to prioritize protection of the world’s third largest tropical rainforest area and launching the Indonesian chapter of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative  (IRI).

The two-day IRI event united religious leaders and Indigenous representatives from major forest areas throughout Indonesia. Scientists, government leaders and representatives from non-governmental organizations and the United Nations were also on hand.

“The event inspired a whole new vision for collaboration among all faith traditions to end tropical deforestation and defend the rights of indigenous peoples,” said Joseph Corcoran, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) coordinator for the initiative.

In 2017, UNEP led the initial launch of the international initiative, a multi-faith alliance working to end tropical deforestation. Through it, religious leaders and faith communities from a range of denominations have committed to support the protection of tropical forests.

Forest conservation is considered a key strategy to contribute toward meeting U.N. Paris Agreement goals on climate change, which aim to stop post-industrial average temperatures from rising to 1.5 degrees Celsius or more to prevent catastrophic climate change.

At the Jakarta event, religious leaders and the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago made a joint declaration at the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

“The destruction and loss of tropical forests is not consistent with the teachings and principles of religion, traditional beliefs and values, nor the state constitution, which mandates that every human being maintain the integrity of nature and social justice,” the leaders stated.

In December 2019, IRI also launched a program in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We need to build and cultivate a massive social movement to end deforestation that reaches people on the level of values and ethics, and we realize we cannot solve this challenge without the help of our religious leaders and communities,” said Anita Nirody, U.N. Resident Coordinator of Indonesia, who attended the event.

UNEP provides the secretariat for IRI, which has nine partners in all. A major part of its work is equipping religious leaders with the latest data, science and research on forests, so they can ultimately serve as informed and powerful partners in global protection and restoration efforts.

Read the full UNEP story here.

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