Institute of Ecological and Religious Studios
The process of establishing the Institute over 12 years (from 2001 to 2012) went through a number of important stages. As a result of the implementation of the CCEE (Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe) a unique project (1999-2004), the purpose of which was to study the issue of the “ecological vocation” of Christians, the Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops of Ukraine in 2000 created the Commission on Ecology and Migrants, and under the Mukachevo Greek -Catholic diocese (having the status of sui juris) was established in 2004 by the Commission on Ecology. To organize the work of the aforementioned commissions and improve relations with scientific and public organizations, authorities, environmental authorities, in the same 2004 we created the Church and the Environment Charitable Foundation. Over the past 12 years, the difficult, but continuous process of the formation of the Commissions on Ecology at the churches of Ukraine lasted, the best experts were attracted, the directions of work crystallized, the tasks were determined, the foundations for the formation of an ecological library and video library were laid, a significant number of conferences and international forums were held, and the corresponding literature was issued. … Since most of the volunteers, who contributed to the development of the work of environmental commissions at the Church in Ukraine, were employees of Uzhgorod National University (UzhNU), it is logical at this university, for better coordination of actions, with the help of LMU (Louis Maximilian University, Munich) and support from DBU (German Federal Fund for Environmental Conservation), the Ecological Information Center was created (2009-2012), www.church-nature.ucoz.ru. Public inquiries for the work of the Information Center and the resulting resonance of the results of its activities led to the successful transformation of the Center into the Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies at UzhNU with the support of Renovabis.
Among the tasks of the Institute is the effective use of intellectual potential, as well as financial, material, technical and labor resources of Uzhgorod National University to help improve the quality of training of specialists and scientific and pedagogical personnel in solving urgent environmental, environmental, educational and environmental and educational problems, as in Ukraine and in the post-Soviet space. The Institute is also entrusted with the tasks of carrying out comprehensive studies of the problems of environmental views of various religious traditions, conducting research on the relationship between education, ecology, religion, culture and environmental education of youth and adults, the influence of content, forms, methods of teaching and education on the development and formation of human environmental consciousness in general cultural context – as the integration of the individual with the ecological, professional and spiritual culture.
Among the main activities of the Institute are the following:
– Development of priority research areas on the verge of ecology and religion;
– Study of interfaith dialogue in environmental conservation issues;
– Research into the issues of the meaning and influence of religion in solving global environmental challenges of the 21st century;
– Identification of ways and opportunities for environmental education, training and education in various social institutions (preschool institutions, schools, universities, Church, public associations);
– Training of personnel, including the highest qualifications, in the field of environmental theology;
– Research, systematization, dissemination and use in teaching ecotheological ideas of Christian and other spiritual thinkers;
– Revealing ideas of nature conservation and environmental protection in sacred religious texts of different religious traditions;
– Preparation and publication of joint scientific works – articles, monographs, textbooks, manuals, specialized prayer books, curricula of academic disciplines (in printed and electronic form);
– Conducting scientific conferences, symposia, seminars, schools and other scientific forums on the subject of the Institute;
– Implementation of the practical results of joint scientific and scientific and educational projects in public practice and the educational process.
The tasks of the Institute also include support and development of scientific and business ties with scientific, scientific and educational institutions and public organizations, both in Ukraine and foreign countries.
Among the main achievements of the Institute’s team is the successful coordination and support of the work of the Commission on the Environment and Migrants of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine and the Commission on the Environment of the Mukachevo Greek Catholic Diocese. Thanks to our efforts, the Ecology Committee of the Mukachevo Orthodox Diocese began its work. The Institute’s specialists provide professional advice on the creation of appropriate environmental units under the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine; Transcarpathian Reformed Church; Chief Rabbinate of Progressive Judaism in Kiev and Ukraine and in other confessional directions in Ukraine and Russia.
The start of the work of the Institute of Ecological and Religious Studios in Uzhgorod is largely due to the requirements of the time, since, according to the World Watch Institute, a “change of course”, that is, a change in the policy of the world community towards sustainable development, can only be successful when religions reconsider and justify their role and responsibility in their aspirations.
The five core values, according to Gardner (Gardner, 2010), can be created by religious institutions to make a worthy contribution to sustainable development:
- Ability to formulate new cosmologies.
- Moral authority.
- Large circle of supporters.
- Significant material resources.
- Community building ability.
Prof. Marcus Vogt (Vogt, 2012) expanded Gardner’s list of values from a Catholic and secular perspective:
- The Christian Church is the most global player (global prayer) on Earth, it runs an influential world institution and structure, thus it has a special responsibility and ability to fight for the globalization of solidarity.
- Christian anthropology does not measure the value of a person by the products consumed or produced. Therefore, it can guide people to handle these products with humility, fairness and responsibility. Asceticism is even stronger in Asian religious traditions than in Christian tradition.
- Belief in Creation aims not only to appeal to morality, but also to promote the media that seek to create and convey concepts of moral values, and also perceive environmental responsibility as an integral part of human self-esteem. We need not just a call to morality, but a new cosmology.
- The hallmark of the Christian perspective on environmental issues is its cultural and social roots. The protection of the environment and the protection of man constitute a unity in Christian ethics.
The activities of the Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies, first of all, extend to the territory of the countries of Eastern Europe, since here after the collapse of the Soviet Union there is a noticeable significant increase in the number of believers and, accordingly, the influence of the Church is growing. In contrast to Western Europe, where the Church is gradually losing ground, in Eastern Europe the level of religiosity is growing and today the Church has one of the highest levels of trust in society. The Church is gradually recovering from the heritage of the totalitarian regime, restoring infrastructure, and most importantly, reviving theological schools and developing a school of environmental theology. Therefore, the work of the institute, to a large extent, is designed to help society on the path to sustainable development, attracting a powerful and influential institution in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
The important contribution to the formation and development of Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies of Professor Markus Vogt (LMU, Munich), who together with his team, during this period, provided practical help in the work of Commissions on the Ecology in Churches of Ukraine, should be noted. Note also that all of this aid is based on a volunteer basis and deserves our deep gratitude.
PhD. Alexander Bokotey, co-founder and executive director of Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies, Ukraine.