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What is the mission of the Religion and Environment Initiative?

Please see our Mission Statement.

Why do we need a Religion and Environment Initiative?

  1. We have an environmental crisis.
  2. That crisis is at least partly a crisis of values.
  3. Religious communities and organizations are prime custodians of values.
  4. Many people of faith have yet to link their spiritual and environmental values.
  5. University students are uniquely positioned to serve as mentors and exemplars for those seeking to combine their spiritual and environmental values.

Is the environment really a religious issue?

Absolutely. Religious leaders around the world, from Pope John Paul II to the Dalai Lama, have affirmed that care for the Earth is a central tenet of their spiritual traditions. Sacred texts and indigenous religions typically express similar values, regarding humans as stewards of creation, responsible for treating the Earth and all living beings with respect and concern.

Should people of faith speak out on environmental issues? Isn't that mixing religion and politics?

Each individual's religious and ethical beliefs guide their actions, in public and in private. Therefore, when a person of faith considers a topic of public concern, such as the environment, their religious beliefs will crucially affect how they approach that topic. Furthermore, all citizens, whether they identify themselves as people of faith or not, have a civic duty to speak out on issues that affect the public good. The question, then, is not so much whether people of faith should speak out on environmental issues--they certainly should. The question, instead, is whether it is appropriate to do so in specific religious language, which might alienate others. This is a decision that each individual must make for her- or himself, depending on the specific audience and context.

Can you recommend some good sources on religion and the environment?

Please see our Resource Guide at

What kinds of activities does or might REI organize?

  • Lectures and discussions on religion/nature/culture.
  • Reading or study groups on religion and environment, whether in congregational or interfaith settings.
  • Helping religious communities “green” their houses of worship; for example, by increasing energy efficiency and moving to renewable energy sources.
  • Planting and tending the Native Plant Garden behind Rockefeller Chapel.
  • Developing and teaching Sunday School classes with environmental themes.
  • Organizing an Interfaith Earth Day celebration in Hyde Park.
  • Partnering with citywide interfaith groups such as Faith in Place or Earth Charter Chicago on projects of shared interest.

How can I get involved with REI?

Contact us at


rei: religion and environment initiative
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