This week, four Hobart and William Smith faculty members are among 60 scholars participating in the international symposium, “Sacred Texts and Human Contexts: Nature and Environment in World Religions,” designed to explore issues relating to how religions have or should respond to the environmental crisis of the 21st century.
The participating HWS faculty are Associate Professor of Religious Studies Etin Anwar, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Shalahudin Kafrawi, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, P’15, and Professor of Geoscience Nan Crystal Arens. HWS, the HWS Religious Studies Department and the Brian and Jean Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College are sponsoring the gathering.
The conference intends to elaborate on how world religions have viewed and interpreted sacred texts throughout their respective histories – with particular reference to nature and the environment – and how some are reconsidering their religious and spiritual teachings about nature and the environment in light of the increasing threats to the environment. The topics are determined by attendees and panelists, with questions raised such as: “How do the religions integrate the discoveries of science with the teachings of the tradition with respect to issues of the environment?” and “Do the sacred texts declare any actions to be immoral regarding dealing with nature and environment?”
At the symposium, HWS Provost and Dean of Faculty Titi Ufomata gave a welcome address on behalf of the Colleges. Arens will deliver the address, “In the Beginning: Earth’s Early History and the Meaning of Environmental Change.”
On the second day of the conference, Salter will moderate the panel, “Critical Approaches to Environment and Faith Traditions I,” which will feature Kafrawi, who is presenting, “Subjection of Nature in the Medieval Commentaries of the Qur’an.” During another session, Anwar will moderate the panel, “Understanding the Relationship between Nature and Human,” which will include a presentation by Salter, “Voices on the Environment in the Hebrew Bible & New Testament.”
The conference’s third day will begin with a session on environmental ethics featuring a presentation by Anwar on the ethics of al-Wasatiyyah and climate change.
On the final day, 15 conference guests will visit HWS, Geneva and other local historic sites. At the Colleges, Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies Darrin Magee will offer a talk and lead a Seneca Lake excursion on the 65-foot William Scandling research vessel. There will also be a campus tour.
Religious Studies credits the Office of the Provost and William Scandling research vessel for their efforts.
Anwar, Salter and HWS Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski served on the Conference Planning Committee, along with administrators and faculty from Nazareth. The conference’s location in Western New York is of significance considering the area’s interfaith activity and residents’ interest in environmental preservation and commitment to sustainable practices.
For more information about the symposium, visit: https://www2.naz.edu/interfaith/programs/academic-conferences/sacred-texts-human-contexts/