How do you care for the earth? Student interfaith panel discusses environmental issues

January 29th, 2015


In keeping with the 2015 Ignatian Heritage Week’s sustainability theme, John Carroll University Campus Ministry and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion joined forces to host the fifth interfaith student panel on Monday, Jan. 26. This panel focused on how each represented faith tradition cares for the Earth. During the discussion, it was apparent there are more commonalities than differences across dogmatic lines.


Vice President for University Mission and Identity Edward Peck began the conversation with a welcome message uniting the panel with their common background. “They speak not as theologians,” said Peck, “but as people, as students who are trying to live out their faith and chosen mission.”


Peck also introduced the moderator, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, an internationally respected leader in inter-religious dialogue and new resident theologian at JCU.


The panel consisted of students who aligned themselves with five different religious traditions and one student who is a secular humanist. Each student began by sharing a thought or prayer from his or her tradition that tied in to environmental issues. After coming together in prayer, the students introduced their personal religious (or secular) backgrounds and explained what “caring for the Earth” meant to them.


Junior Josh Krach, a Lutheran, explained his views on environmentalism by using a Psalm that is pertinent to his faith. “The Lutheran Church stresses responsibility,”


Krach said. “We have been given this Earth and these animals, and we are supposed to be stewards of the gifts we have been given. While they are gifts, they are to be used responsibly and if we use them up or kill up animals, we are destroying what God has given us.”


Junior Tyler Potts explained a commitment to the earth from a secular humanist view. “As a secular humanist, I feel a responsibility and a duty to keep the earth as healthy as possible because it is the only place that we know where we will live,” said Potts. “It is really important to be sustainable to keep the Earth healthy for people now and in the future. We [secular humanists] generally embrace the scientific realm. While there is not one specific doctrine, getting close to nature is really important.”


Junior Nicolle Simonovic, a Modern Orthodox Jew, shared her thoughts from her point of view. “In Judaism, we believe that God created the world and in that sense, we must maintain what he created,” said Simonovic. “There is an understanding that we are temporary dwellers of the land, so in that sense, we must leave the earth in the same state as how we entered it.”


Junior Mark Smithhisler represented Roman Catholicism. “God created all things in this world, so we can see all things in this world as good,” Smithhisler said. “Because of that, we must protect them. We need to be responsible with how we use the resources of the Earth so that future generations can use them too.”


Junior Ghada Abu-Shaweesh represented the religion of Islam. “God created the Earth for us to take care of and we believe this is our temporary home,” said Abu-Shaweesh. “Before prayer, Muslims purify themselves before showing ourselves before God. Washing yourself takes a lot of water, but Muhammad said that you can use just one handful as to not waste water. That goes along with what I do on a daily basis, which is conserve water and take care of our resources given to us.”


Lastly, junior Emily Tusick, a Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Christian, gave her take on environmental issues. “God is in all things. And, if God is all things, we must treat everything with respect,” said Tusick. “The Orthodox faith states that we shouldn’t necessarily be stewards but priests, and be that mediator between the earth and the creator.”


The students discussed a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to, fracking, how environmental issues effect the poor  the most and coping with a growing population and environmental efforts that each faith practices on a regular basis.


Junior Angelica Carrino, a student who attended the event, said, “I would have never thought to put religion and the environment together. It was cool to hear how people coped with environmental problems in their faith.”