The Role of Faith Traditions

We humans have begun asking questions about "sustainable development." This is an important question, but it does not go deep enough. We must also begin asking questions about "sustainable faith."

Is there a faith tradition in existence today that is practicing a way of life that provides "progress" for the whole community of life, not just the human species? Is there a faith tradition such that if everyone on Earth suddenly adopted it, the human future on Earth would be assured?

I do not know enough about the faith traditions of the world to provide a well-considered answer to this question, but on the basis of my limited personal experience, I doubt that there is a faith tradition on Earth today that can provide the moral foundation needed for the 21st century.

Specifically, I do not believe my own faith, Christianity, is a sustainable faith -- at least not as it is generally understood and practiced. The Bible, especially the New Testament, is a weak document on the subject of mutually enhancing human-Earth relations. Admittedly, there are a few scattered texts in the Bible (especially the Old Testament) that suggest "stewardship" of resources and concern for the land:

But if gathered together, such texts would scarcely cover a single page of the Bible. There is no unequivocal commandment, "Thou shalt not destroy Earth." Furthermore, the only biblical guidance on the stewardship of the gift of human fertility is: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28), and such limited and inappropriate guidance on this critical matter is not adequate for a sustainable faith.[*]

To make matters worse, the institutional manifestations of Christianity have shown little or no serious interest in a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship. With perhaps a few exceptions, churches are not prime examples of excellent stewardship of resources; they are generally as wasteful and environmentally thoughtless as any other human institution. Churches have no active environmental programs comparable with secular environmental groups. Churches do not use effectively what limited environmental guidance the Bible provides. The few Earth-sensitive texts in the Bible (such as those above) are not in the lectionary and as a result are almost never the subject of sermons and homilies. Seminaries teach the Bible, church history, theology, inter-human ethics, and homiletics, but do not provide even primer-level knowledge of Earth or inter-species ethics. Budgets and most major statements by Christian churches lack commitment and substance on human relations with Earth.

Why is this? The God I know cares a great deal about Earth and is not at all pleased with what we humans are doing to Earth and to each other. Why then is the sacred text of my faith such a weak source of inspiration and guidance on caring for Earth and on the stewardship of the gift of human fertility?

Personally, I suspect it is because the early Christian community understood that the second coming of Christ would be very soon, within their generation. They delayed decades before writing the gospels probably thinking Christ would return so soon that it would not be necessary to write for future generations. Three hundred years later, Christ had not returned, but at the Council of Nicea Christians closed their sacred text, the Bible, confident that they had all the revelation needed until Christ's return.

Now 1700 years later there still has been no second coming of Christ, and there have been no further revelations added to our sacred text to guide us in addressing the issues of the 21st century. We do have some "church tradition" that has evolved over the centuries, but it is not particularly helpful in dealing with many of the issues before us. I wonder if God has stopped speaking to us, or if we have stopped listening. [*]

Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth and Foreign Minister of Guyana, has implicitly raised this same question in the context of "the holy texts of many religions." He writes as follows in the official report prepared for the opening the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development:

In the language of the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian

Issues . . . , the holy texts of many religions, not to mention legal traditions,

philosophies, and custom " . . . abound in moral injunctions that imply an ethic of

human solidarity . . . . For centuries, the great religious texts have taught the

essential oneness of the human race." What scriptures have not always taught is

that nature is the loom on which is woven life's seamless fabric of which

humanity is a significant, but not unduly dominant, part.

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New Revelations

The God I know is still speaking, and there have been at least four new revelations.

First, it has been revealed that among the most destructive forces on Earth today is hatred between the followers of different faith traditions. Of the fifty plus armed conflicts in progress currently, the majority are motivated in significant part by hatred of the followers of one faith for the followers of another faith. The arms industry -- the largest industry in the world, larger even than illegal drugs and oil -- is supported in significant part by the hatred of the followers of one faith for the followers of another faith.

Stories of interreligious hatred and violence are found on page after page of our history books and now almost daily in our newspapers. There are so many that it takes an extraordinary one to catch our attention. An extraordinary one appeared recently in the National Catholic Reporter under the headline "Torture, Rape, Murder Outlaw Love in Bosnia:"

You ask me my name? So the entire world can witness my shame? Just write:

female Muslim, 35 years old, professor of literature. As for my newborn son, I

have simply given him the name Jihad. The first time I ever nursed him I said, "If

you ever forget, may this milk curse you so help me God."

The Serbians have taught me to hate. For the last two months, within me I have

only hatred, no pain or bitterness. Emptiness.

Not so long ago I taught my students only love. But my Serbian neighbor's only

son, Zoran, who was also my pupil, urinated in my mouth. While wild-bearded

vagabonds were roaring with laughter, Zoran told me: "You are good for nothing,

you stinking Muslim woman."

I don't recall if I heard a scream or felt a blow to my body. This colleague, a

physics professor who yelled like a maniac at me, began to beat me continuously.

My mouth filled with blood.

There is nothing strange here; I have been deadened to the pain but my soul . . . it

hurts, oh how it hurts so much. I taught my students to love, and they were

preparing themselves, and even bringing up their children to slaughter all who are

not Orthodox Christian. Jihad, war! As simple as that!

Our best man at our wedding was even a Serbian! Poor me and my people. Leave

the fine words of love for someone else. You may talk about Muhammad and

Muslim goodness as much as you wish. Even if I lose another eye, I will walk

blind and curse every Muslim who speaks of "forgiveness."

You ask what they have done. They raped my mother before my eyes, my good-

beyond-beautiful-old mother.

I remember my childhood, the garden near the house, and my mother hesitating

beneath the trees. She would seek the blossoms where the fragrance was most

intense; she would spread the bed linen. Yes, she would bow to Allah and pray.

Wherever I turn now I smell my mother's fragrance. I wait for her footsteps, those soft, quiet steps and the rustling sounds from her Muslim robes.

I cannot forget the stench and roar of my neighbor Sava Pejic, whom my cousin once dated. As he jumped on my mother, I lost consciousness.

Blows to my body woke me. Her hand was still warm; lifeless, but warm. The heat still burns within me; so does regret, for just that same morning we quarreled. It was about Papa. She always worried about where he was.

That same day he had gone to his relatives in a village nearby, which saved his life, but not for long. People say when he heard about his wife he didn't cry. But he stood in silence all day. In the morning he was found hanging, facing the meadow where my mother saw him the very first time.

No, my husband doesn't know about our second child's birth and I don't know where he and my other son are. They assure me they are somewhere in Macedonia. What can I do? I have to believe if for the sake of Jihad.

Believe me, it's very hard to concentrate. They pulled me off from my dead mother and dragged me by my hair. They asked me, "Where is the gold?" Instinctively, I pointed at my pregnant stomach of eight months, but I suddenly remembered and I showed them.

On the way to headquarters in Vogosce, they spit on me and kicked me. I recognized the Duke of Chetniks, Jovan Tintor, who stood silent and watched. The others had been drinking. Tintor said, "Bring Janko!" He cut my hair so it formed a cross. On my hand with a knife he carved "S" (the sign of the Serbian Chetniks) four times.

"This is just the beginning if you don't tell us where the rest of your relatives are," Tintor yelled. They poured drinks over me and forced me to strip.

Nightmare was interrupted by the noise coming from the street. They took me outside, naked as I was. In the middle of the courtyard stood a girl. She was less than 10 years old. Naked and surrounded by a group of bearded beasts. There were plenty of onlookers from the neighboring windows. She stood silent, uncomprehending.

I stood there leaning against a steel monster -- it seemed to be a tank. I began to bang my head against the steel.

When I opened my eyes it was very dark. Apparently from the beatings I lost an eye. Where I went, what I did, whether I walked or crawled, I do not know. Some villagers found me by a brook near Ilidza two days later and informed the Territorial Defense (Bosnian defense forces).

They are the only ones who visit me now. They call me "little sister" because of

the pain we all share. Also because of our goal, Jihad. Misery makes us brothers

and sisters. [82]

This story happens to be about Christians -- people of my faith -- hating, raping, and killing people because they are Muslims. But in the same area during the 1389 battle of Kosovo, it was Muslims hating and killings Orthodox Serbs, and the Serbs still have not forgotten. Nor have they forgotten when, during the Nazi-supported Croat regime, Roman Catholic priests forcibly baptized thousands of Orthodox Serbs living there. And now, how long will it be before little Jihad, if he still lives, forgets or forgives what happened to his grandmother, grandfather, and mother.

And this story has many other applications. Change the faith names to Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, indigenous peoples, . . . and this same story would apply in India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Nigeria, Senegal, Iraq, Israel, Sudan, Algeria . . . . What faith is now not involved in acts of hatred and violence in one or more of the 48 religious and ethnic wars now in progress? [83] What a revelation we have of the destructive hatred between followers of different faith traditions!

The second revelation comes from a meditation on Earth that has been continuing for about 1500 years, a meditation we usually call "science." From this meditation we know that Earth is the product of a 15-billion year journey from the first burst of creative energy. We know that we humans and all other life on Earth are intimately connected through a single, integral, and continuing creation journey and that we humans are related genetically to everything that contains the DNA molecule: to eagles, apes, snakes, frogs, trees, grasses, molds, bacteria . . . . We are all distant cousins. And we all depend on each other through the complex bio-geo-chemical cycles of Earth. Earth is not just our home; we are Earth. Our entire physical being is made up of bits and pieces of Earth -- water, air, rice, potatoes, etc. -- all of which are products of countless deaths. Life, at a point, concedes itself to death, and all new life has its origins in death. Collectively, we humans are an important part (but not the only part) of the consciousness of Earth. [84]

A third revelation derives in part from the second: we know now that the characterizations of man and woman, male and female, in the origin stories and traditions of many faiths are factually wrong and socially destructive. Sexual differentiation occurred very early in the continuing evolution and continuing creation of Earth, long before there was a human species, and the human female certainly has nothing to do with the origin or the perpetuation of a "dark side" of human nature. There is no defensible justification for any faith tradition perpetuating the pernicious falsehood that woman is the source of "evil" and "death" in human society. There is no justification for any man or for any male-dominated institution or faith defining man as superior to woman and normative for society.

The fourth revelation is that we humans have become co-creators of the future with the Divine. We humans -- not as individuals, but as a species -- will exercise an enormous influence on the future of Earth. Five billion of us individual humans, both poor and affluent, are acting today in ways that are destroying the life-sustaining capabilities of Earth and thereby destroying our own prospects. There is little question that we humans can destroy our species and many others with us. We can create an Earth future without humans. Now, nothing survives -- no person, no species, no lake, no river, no ocean, no forest, no soil, no mountain, not even the atmosphere -- unless we humans will it to survive. We can create a wasteland Earth-future or we can create a rich, vital Earth-future. We humans as a species will decide which way to go, for we have become co-creators with the Divine Earth-future.

This fourth revelation is of some considerable import, but to my knowledge, no faith tradition has prepared us for it. No faith anticipated the development of human power over Earth's future, this enormous responsibility. To my knowledge, no faith tradition has prepared us to know ourselves not as individuals but as a species. To my knowledge, no faith tradition has provided moral precepts to guide inter-species behavior, to decide which species should cease to exist, to understand which new species should be created through genetic engineering (and then patented), and to judge the alternative futures humans are considering for Earth. [85]

Where can we turn with questions about what to do, with questions that deal with matters of ultimate meaning and direction, with cherished beliefs, with fears and insecurities about the future? Where can we turn to learn to act responsibly as a species? Where can we turn for insights as to what possibilities there might be for a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship in the future? Where can we turn for insights into what the original creative energy might desire our species -- humans collectively -- to make of Earth?

These are fundamentally spiritual questions, and they are being raised openly today in many communities, by scientists and economists, by philosophers and theologians, by historians and anthropologists, by religious and secular leaders alike. [86] Such questions are in the hearts of ordinary men and women who wonder about the future for all life and wonder how to answer their children's questions.

The questions being raised are unique to the experience and consciousness of peoples of our times, peoples who have looked into the farthest reaches of space, seen back in time to the very origins of the cosmos, have come to know Earth to be a relatively small planet in a galaxy of billions of stars and planets in a cosmos of billions of galaxies; people who have probed the core of the atom, lived with the prospect of nuclear annihilation, and now face the possibility of ecological annihilation. The questions are welling up from the human spirit struggling to be faithful to the moment, and a faith tradition, if it is to remain viable and relevant, must have answers to the ultimate questions welling up in the human spirit. So, in hope and trust, we turn to you, the carriers of our spiritual wisdom, with our questions.

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What Shall We Do?

1. What are the traditional teachings -- and the range of other opinions -- within your faith on how to meet the legitimate needs of the growing human community without destroying the ability of Earth to support the community of all life?


How does your faith tradition view the global trends that face us today? Does your faith tradition have people who monitor and understand global trends? How is information about global trends shared with the followers of your faith tradition?


What does your faith tradition teach about how the needs of the poor and the wants of the rich are to be met as human numbers continue to grow? What trends and prospects do you see for the poor? What is the cause of poverty? Of greed?


How are the needs and wants of humans to be weighed relative to the survival of other forms of life? What trends and prospects do you see for other forms of life? Does Earth exist for the human species to use in any way humans wish, independent of the welfare of other species? Is the human species justified in efforts to destroy species that limit the human food supply or the growth of human numbers?


What does your faith tradition teach concerning the proper relationship between the human species and all other species? Can the concepts of justice, unity, and peace be extended beyond the human community to the whole community of life?


What does your tradition teach about the taking of life? What does your tradition teach about humans killing humans? About humans killing members of other species -- animals, plants? What teachings of your tradition might bear on the killing of all members of a species, the extinction of a species? What wisdom can you offer on the ethics of our species genetically modifying other species to create new races or even new species?


The origin stories of many faith traditions provide a basis for the human community valuing the whole community of life. Does your faith tradition have an origin story? If so, how does it place the human species relative to the whole community of life?


In addition to stories about the origin of life, there are stories about the continuation of life, about fertility. How do the fertility stories of your faith relate to its teachings on human procreation? How important are high fertility rates of the followers of your faith to the perpetuation of your tradition? How are its teachings to be understood today in light of the rapidly growing human population and the threat that even the present human population poses to the whole community of life? What norms are to be applied to the stewardship of the gift of human fertility? What cultural practices and technologies are appropriate for individuals to employ in regulating their own fertility?


There are also stories about abundance and fruitfulness of Earth and about human greed. What are human needs? When do needs become wants? How much is enough?


How are we to "value" the future in decisions we make today? What ethical and moral standards should be brought to "discounting" the interests of future generations in economic and other decisions made by us today? What does your faith tradition tell us about issues of intergenerational equity?

2. What are the traditional teachings -- and the range of other opinions -- within your faith on the meaning of "progress" and how it is to be achieved?


What dreams and hopes does your tradition inspire in young people?


What does your faith tradition offer as a vision for the future of Earth? For example, is the future of Earth viewed as a glorious climax, or a terrifying catastrophe, or something else entirely?


Is there some expectation in your tradition that humankind progresses through history toward some goal? If so, what is that understanding?


What does your faith tradition teach about the human destiny? Is the human destiny separable from that of Earth?


What is your destiny, the destiny of the followers of your faith tradition? What does your tradition teach concerning the destiny of followers of other traditions?


How are we to measure "progress?" Can there be progress for the human community without progress for the whole community of life?


How does your faith tradition relate personal "success" to "progress" for the whole? What is your image of a life well lived and how does that image relate to progress for the whole?


What does your faith tradition teach about human nature? What human qualities (sinfulness, fate, karma, freedom, greed, imagination, creativity) either limit or enhance what is possible for the individual or for society? What does your tradition teach with respect to fate, freedom of will, choice, and human responsibility? Is there a limit to how good humans can be? Or to how evil we can be?


How does your tradition respond to the suggestion that we humans are now capable of annihilating all life on Earth? Is the development of such a capability by humans anticipated in your faith tradition?


What is a "developed" country? What standards are to be applied in gauging the true state of development for a country? For example, is the United States a fully "developed" country? Is Haiti? Is India?


What does your tradition have to say about the scope of legitimate power of the nation-state? For example, is sovereignty a valid concept? Is any nation, institution, or group of people truly independent, subject to no other power on Earth?


What does your tradition teach about the ethics and morality of war? Under what circumstances are nations justified in going to war, declared or undeclared? How does your faith tradition value enmity versus solidarity?


When, if ever, is an individual entitled to kill for his or her country? When is an individual entitled to die for his or her country? When, if ever, is it appropriate to swear to kill upon order of an appointed officer? When is an individual, man or woman, entitled to design, manufacture, sell, or transport equipment for killing -weapons? What ethical and moral limitations, if any, does your tradition recognize on the types of weapons that individuals and nations may use to kill? How do the environmental consequences of war bear on the ethics and morality of using particular weapons or of warfare generally? What special moral considerations are associated with the use of "smart" weapons and other types of weapons that separate and distance the person using the weapon from the reality of his or her actions?

I, __________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

The enlistment oath, United States military forces


What teachings of your tradition bear on the establishment and control of the associations and corporations, which nation-states, under their laws, give the same legal status as people? What are the implications for faith and for society of creating such "fictitious persons" that are neither mortal nor concerned with ultimacy?


What does your faith tradition have to say about consumerism, about the manipulation and stimulation of desire, about advertising? Under what circumstances does one have enough?

3. What are the traditional teachings -- and the range of other opinions -- within your faith tradition concerning a proper relationship with those who differ in race or gender (conditions one cannot change), or culture, politics, or faith?


Much hatred and violence is carried out in the name of religion. What teachings of your faith tradition have been used -- correctly or not -- in an attempt to justify such practices?


What can individuals or groups within your tradition do to reduce hatred and violence toward those who differ in race, gender, culture, politics, or faith?


What does your faith tradition teach -- and practice -- concerning the struggles of minorities (and even majorities) for freedom, both political and economic?


Discrimination and even violence by men toward women is often justified in the name of religion. Which, if any, of the teachings of your faith have been used -- correctly or incorrectly -- in this way?


Many faith traditions are singled out by women today as examples of "patriarchy." By "patriarchy," women refer to institutions or traditions that have defined man as superior to woman and normative for society. In your tradition, how long ago were the roles, rights, and responsibilities of men and women defined? What do your definitions imply about the superiority of men relative to women?


Are the current teachings of your tradition about the roles, rights, and responsibilities of women and men changing? If so, how? To what degree are women participating in the change process?


What does your faith tradition teach about the origin of truth and wisdom? For example, is your faith tradition the holder of the only divinely revealed truth?


How does your faith tradition characterize the teachings and followers of other faiths? Do some adherents of your tradition hold that the teachings and followers of other faiths are evil, dangerous, misguided? Is there any possibility that your faith tradition can derive wisdom, truth, or insight from the teachings of another faith?


Is it the responsibility of your faith tradition to bring your divinely revealed truth to the whole world? Are you to share your faith by example -- by living it? Are you to ensure the future of your faith by producing children -- more children than produced by the followers of other faiths? Are you to share your faith by teaching? By compelled conversion under threat of death, "ethnic cleansing," crusades, or war? Does your divine truth allow or encourage followers of your faith tradition to kill others who know a different divine truth?

4. What are the traditional teachings -- and the range of other opinions -- within your faith on the possibility of criticism, correction, reinterpretation, and even rejection of ancient traditional assumptions and "truth" in light of new understandings or revelations?[*]


Does your faith tradition envision new revelation, new understanding, new interpretation, new wisdom, and new truth concerning human activity affecting the future of Earth? [*]


What are the most recent revelations in your faith concerning: the human community's relations with the whole community of life on Earth; the disparities of poverty and affluence within the human community; the human concept of progress; the superiority of men over women; and the use of violence toward those of a different faith, culture, race, or gender?


How does your tradition respond to the revelation from the past 1,500 years of meditation on Earth and its origins -- a revelation we usually call "science?" How will the disciplines of religious and scientific inquiry relate to each other in the future? Can science be a source of new inspiration for understanding and interpreting religious traditions? Can science provide new understanding of the primary, original source of religious insight -- the universe itself?


Changing Course

In a sense, Earth is no longer orbiting peacefully about the Sun. Earth is careening toward the spiritual equivalent of a massive stone wall.

The brutality of humans to each other -- the "ethnic cleansing," the ignoring of hunger and poverty, the acts of terrorism -- and the environmental destruction and loss of natural beauty are already draining us of the spiritual and emotional energy we need to change course, and the situation is growing worse daily. We are becoming numb, unable to feel and react as we must if we are to put Earth back into a peaceful orbit.

Changing course will require an immense amount of energy. Not the energy that comes from coal, gas, oil, or even nuclear fuel, but rather spiritual and emotional energy, enough to change the thinking and lives of more than 5 billion people.

Can so much energy be generated? Can so many people become empowered to think and live differently? Maybe.

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An Invitation to Help

It is the conviction of the Trustees and staff of the MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE that a unique opportunity to set Earth on a new course is offered by the 1999-2001 period, and we are working steadily to make the most of this opportunity. We invite spiritual leaders, and others, too, to join us in this effort.

The opportunity relates to the fact that deep in the human psyche is a compulsion to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and other recurring dates. [88] The entry into the 21st century and the third millennium will be a psychological experience vastly more profound than any anniversary we humans have yet experienced. Already hotel ballrooms are being booked along the Greenwich meridian by people who want to be the first to enter the 21st century. Concord supersonic jets are being chartered to fly people across time zones so that they can attend parties and celebrate the entry into the new millennium twice .[89] These are just the beginning signs of the emotional energies that will be released during the 1999-2001 period. [90]

This occasion, the entry into the new millennium, has special significance for Christians as the approximate bimillennium (2000th anniversary) of Christianity, and there is danger that it could come to be seen as an exclusively Christian event. The Gregorian calendar, however, never was an exclusively Christian calendar. Beginning the year at 1 January was a pagan Roman custom resisted by the Church, and most scholars now agree that the Nativity of Christ did not occur in 0 (or 1) A.D. but rather before Herod's death in 4 "B.C." Furthermore, the Gregorian calendar has become the calendar of commerce and science throughout the world. [91] The entry into the new millennium must be understood to be an anniversary of Earth to be enjoyed and celebrated by peoples of all faiths.

Earth's entry into the next millennium is a planetary "transitional" event, [92] and as a "mega anniversary" it has potential for reinforcing the identity of human beings, first and foremost, as citizens of Earth, as "Earthlings." This potential must be developed and utilized.

In most cultures, the transition from an old state to a new one (birthdays, graduations, marriages, funerals) is marked by celebrations having three elements. The first element is a period of preparation and grieving. During this period, we prepare to give up our past condition or to "die" to our old state. For our entry into the new millennium, we must prepare to give up our old, 20th century ways of thinking and living.

The second element is a moment of transition, the actual giving up of the old state and the entry into the new. It requires a symbolic act of change, such as the embrace or kiss at a wedding, the movement of the tassels at a graduation, the closing of the casket or the lighting of the pyre at a funeral. For our entry into the 21st century, we need a new symbol, perhaps crossing a stream or river to a new place and a new way of being.

The third element is the celebration of the new and its possibilities. Music, dance, song, and other forms of celebration are appropriate and needed. Gifts are an essential part of the celebration. Gifts are our way of expressing our good wishes and support for the new, and also a means of helping to ensure that something good and enduring comes of the new. For our entry into the new millennium, we must celebrate the opportunities and possibilities of the new era not only with music and joy, but also with generous gifts for the poor, for our enemies, and for Earth on this most extraordinary occasion.

Earth's entry into the next millennium cannot be just another major event. It cannot even be just the event of a lifetime. Or of a hundred years. Or even of a thousand years. That would not be enough. This must be the event of the whole Earth-time, the whole history of Earth. This must be the moment when humans interchange bad and good, unreal and real, and set themselves and Earth on a new course.

Over the next five years all 5 billion plus of us humans must prepare to die to 20th century ways of thinking and being. We must also prepare to see the possibilities and opportunities in our new condition in our new millennium.

To make these preparations, all 5 billion of us must devote the next five years to learning from each other about Earth and how to live sustainably and peacefully on Earth. Every person must learn to think in a way that leaves room in one's mind for the thoughts of others. Every person must come to understand much better how Earth's natural systems function and how human institutions, governments, political systems, social systems, international organizations, corporations, and spiritual institutions operate and influence the future of Earth. Every person must learn again the immense power and value of life. (Does all the money or wisdom in the whole world have the power to restore a single life?) Every person must learn to think like Earth, to act like Earth, to be Earth.

As a part of this learning process, we must all think through how our part of Earth can contribute to the new. Each person, each family, each corporate institution, each community, each country, each faith needs a plan to contribute to the new. What laws must be changed, what traditions, what beliefs, what institutions?

We also need ideas of appropriate gifts for Earth on this anniversary. What gift can a person give? What can a family, a corporate institution, a community, a country, a faith give to Earth on this momentous anniversary?

For this event to do what it must, the spiritual leaders of Earth must help lead the way and help plan the events. We humans, all five billion of us, depend on our spiritual leaders to make this all happen. Only the spiritual leaders of Earth -- the recognized and the not-yet recognized -- command the emotional energies needed to move heads of state, leaders of corporations and other institutions, and ordinary citizens to the acts of generosity and changed thinking and living that must occur.

We need you to lead us in teaching each other about Earth and how to live sustainably on Earth. We need you to help us all design a once-in-an-Earth-time celebration of Earth's entry into a new era. We need you to bring every person, every community, and every country to the celebration with their gifts. And most importantly, we need you to bring to the celebration a gift from your own faith tradition, a gift that will help change the course of Earth. What gift could your faith give Earth?

To do what must be done, Earth's spiritual leaders of all faiths and all traditions must work together in ways previously unimagined and unimaginable. We must count on you to develop a community of Earth's faith traditions that is an example of the kind of open communication, mutual respect, acceptance, cooperation, and good will that should characterize the emerging global community of nations and peoples. Each tradition has at its core a vision of Divine harmony that it urges its followers to embody in the social sphere. These visions have evolved in distinct historical and geographic contexts. The religions have not successfully been able to transcend their own historical origins so as to express their visions of unity in a fashion appropriate to the needs of the pluralistic global society that is taking form at the beginning of the new millennium. [*] The greatest single scandal in which Earth's faith traditions are now involved is their failure to practice their highest ethical ideals in their relations with one another.

As soon as we humans learn to think like Earth, we together will see a new future for Earth. Then we can die in peace, all 5 billion of us, to our old ways of thinking. We can cross the waters together. And we can celebrate Earth's safe arrival in a new era in a way that will be remembered forever.

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