Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies
The process of the Institute formation during the period of 12 years (2001 to 2012) has gone through a number of important steps. As a result of realization by CCEE (Council of European Bishops’ Conferences), a unique project (1999-2004), which goal was to study the issue of “ecological vocation” of Christians, Roman Catholic Bishops Conference of Ukraine in 2000 established Commission on Ecology and Migrants, and at Mukachevo Greek Catholic diocese (which has the status sui juris) in 2004 Commission on Environment was established. For organization of the above-mentioned commissions work and improving ties with academic and non-governmental organizations, government, environmental authorities in the same year (2004) we created Charity Foundation “Church and Environment.” During the last 12 years lasted heavy, but a continuous process of formation of Commissions on Ecology at Churches of Ukraine, the best experts were involved, directions of work were crystallized themselves, the objectives were set out, foundation for the formation of environmental library and video library was laid, a large number of conferences and international forums were held, relevant literature was published. As most of volunteers who have contributed to the development of environmental commissions in the Church of Ukraine, were employees of Uzhhorod National University (UzhNU), then it is logical namely at that university, for the better coordination of actions with LMU (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich) and support of DBU (German Federal Foundation for the Conservation of the Environment) Environmental Information Center (2009-2012 g), www.church-nature.ucoz.ru was created. Requests of community on the work of information centers and final resonance results of its operations led to the successful transformation of the Centre to the Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies at UzhNU and it is supported by RENOVABIS.
The objectives of Institute include effective use of intellectual potential, as well as financial, material, technical and human resources of Uzhhorod National University for improving the quality of training the scientific-pedagogical personnel in addressing pressing the environmental and environmental educational issues in Ukraine and in the former Soviet Union. The task of implementation the comprehensive research of problems of environmental attitudes of various religious traditions, the study of relationship between education, environment, religion, culture and environmental education for youth and adults, the impact of the content, forms and methods of training and education on the development of ecological consciousness and human general cultural context – as a personality integration with environmental, occupational and spiritual culture is assigned on Institute.
Among the main activities of Institute are the following:
– Development of priority research directions on the verge of ecology and religion;
– The study of inter-religious dialogue in issues of the environment conversation;
– Research of values ??and influence of religion in addressing global environmental challenges of the 21st century;
– Identify ways and opportunities for environmental education, training and education in the various social institutions (kindergartens, schools, universities, church, and community associations);
– Training, including highly qualified in the field of ecological theology;
– Research, ordering, distribution and use in training the ekotheological ideas of Christian and other religious thinkers;
– Identification in the sacred religious texts of various religious traditions ideas of conservation and environmental protection;
– Preparation and publication of joint research papers – articles, monographs, textbooks, manuals, specialized prayer books, programs of academic disciplines (print and electronic);
– Conducting the scientific conferences, symposia, seminars, schools and other academic forums on the subject of Institute;
– Implementation of the practical results of joint scientific and educational projects in public practice and teaching.
The objectives of Institute include also the support and development of scientific and business links with academic, scientific, educational institutions and community organizations, both in Ukraine and abroad.
Among the major achievements of the Institute team is to coordinate and support the successful work of Commission on Ecology and Migrants of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine and Commission on Environmental of Mukachevo Greek Catholic diocese. Specialists of Institute provide professional advices concerning the establishment of relevant environmental departments at the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine, Transcarpathian Reformed Church, the Chief Rabbinate of Progressive Judaism in Kiev and Ukraine and with other faith-based directions in Ukraine and Russia.
Start of Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies in Uzhgorod caused by the requirements of time, since, according to data of Institute of World Studies (World watch Institute), “change of course”, that is, the change in the policy of the international community towards sustainable development can only be successful when religion reconsider and justify their role and responsibility in their aspirations.
Five core values ??by Gardner (Gardner, 2010), can be created by religious institutions for a worthy contribution to sustainable development:
1. The ability to formulate new cosmology.
2. Moral authority.
3. A large circle of supporters.
4. Significant financial resources.
5. The ability to build a community.
Prof. Markus Vogt (Vogt, 2012) supplemented the list of Gardner values?? in terms of Catholic and secular points of view:
1. The Christian Church is the older global player on the Earth, it manages the influential international institutions and, thus, it has a special obligation and opportunity to fight for a globalization of solidarity.
2. Christian anthropology does not measure the value of a person by consumed or produced products. Therefore, it can direct people to a modest, fair and responsible handling of these products. In Asian religious traditions asceticism is even stronger than in the Christian tradition.
3. Belief in Creation aimed not only to appeal to morality, but also assist the media who wish to create and deliver the concept of moral values ??and perceived environmental responsibility as an integral part of the self-esteem of man. We need not just a call for morality, but the new cosmology.
4. The hallmark of the Christian point of view in environmental issues – is its roots in the cultural and social contexts. Environmental protection and the human protection make up the unity in Christian ethics.
The activities of Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies, primarily applies to the countries of East Europe, as here after the collapse of Soviet Union a significant increase in the number of believers and, accordingly, the influence of Church is marked. In contrast to West Europe, where Church is gradually losing its position in East Europe the level of religiosity is growing and today Church has one of the highest levels of trust in society. The church gradually recovering from the legacy of the totalitarian regime restores infrastructure, and most importantly – it revives the theological school and develop the ecological theology school. Therefore, the work of the Institute, to a large degree, is designed to help society in the transition to sustainable development, attracting powerful and influential institution in Ukraine and East 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, and also Information Center at Uzhhorod National University 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