Green Faith Raises Provocative Questions

Last Tuesday night’s panel discussion, Green Faith, drew over 100 people to discuss religiously inspired eco-consciousness and interfaith activism around environmental issues. A number of provocative questions were raised by both panelists and audience members throughout the two-hour event. Local media coverage provided a good summary of the themes covered for those unable to attend.

Panelists from Baha'i, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions spoke with Inside Islam Radio Show Host Jean Feraca at the Green Faith Conference this past Tuesday. Photo: Nayantara Mukherj.

The evening started out with a short video clip and discussion by UW-Madison Associate Professor Anna M. Gade on the tradition of Muslims conserving natural resources in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Gade highlighted models for embracing inter-religious cooperation that draw on the Qur’an (e.g. 49:13), values that are highly influential in Indonesia’s religiously pluralistic society today. She also spoke of faith-inspired environmental practices that emphasize loving-kindness and compassion, and reminded the audience that both Muslim and non-Muslims across Southeast Asia have transmitted these philosophies since long before the advent of the “environmental movement” in North America. Continue reading

TONIGHT: An Interfaith Conversation on Faith and Environmentalism

This is the last in our Green Faith series before tonight’s panel discussion in Madison, WI. Panelists will address the following the questions: What aspects of scripture and  practice support or challenge  environmentalism? With such a strong focus on the afterlife, why do Abrahamic faith traditions care about protecting the earth in this life? How can faith-based and non-faith-based organizations work together more effectively on environmental issues?

Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Baha’i perspectives as well as an Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.

Anna M. Gade is an Associate Professor at UW-Madison in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Religious Studies. She teaches courses on global Islam, Southeast Asia, and approaches to the study of religion.


K.H. Ahmad Yani is the “kiai,” spiritual and academic leader, of Darul Ulum Lido, an Islamic boarding school near Bogor, an hour’s drive from Jakarta, the capital of  Indonesia. Traditional and modern residential religious schools like Darul Ulum are known in Indonesia as “pondok pesantren,” and there are thousands of them across the vast archipelago of this Muslim-majority nation.

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Green Faith: A Baha’i Perspective

This is the latest in our Green Faith series leading up to a panel discussion tomorrow, March 6th, in Madison, WI. Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim, Christian, and Jewish perspectives as well as an Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.


Don Quintenz Photo: Canoecats

A practicing Baha’i, Don Quintenz has been involved in environmental education for over four decades. Quintenz has worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Humane Society, the Milwaukee Public Schools, and is currently the Director of Education and Land Management at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee.

In 1967 I came to recognize two goals that would ultimately dominate the rest of my life. My first realization was that I wanted somehow to inspire people to continually develop their spirituality. I didn’t feel that people could simply believe a particular doctrine and therefore realize all the potential benefits it could bestow. The second awareness I received was I wanted more than anything else to try to instill in people a love for the natural world. I feel these two goals are more related than you might suspect. Part of the reason for this is my belief in a Creator; and a necessary consequence of that belief is nature must be an expression of God’s will.

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Green Faith: A Jewish Perspective

This is the latest in our Green Faith series leading up to a panel discussion on March 6th in Madison, WI. Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim and Christian perspectives as well as the Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.


Laurie Zimmerman is the Rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim in Madison, Wisconsin. She is an avid lover of the outdoors and sees environmental conservation as an important component of a broader social justice movement.

The year after I graduated from college I set off on my own to hike the Appalachian Trail. During the day I slugged through the rain or sweltered in the scorching sun. At night I shivered in my sleeping bag or fought off mosquitoes. Never before had I experienced Mother Nature so intimately. It was both extraordinary and challenging. I had hoped that I would settle into a rhythm and achieve a meditative state as I gritted my way up each mountain. On most days, however, I struggled with boredom, loneliness, and exhaustion.

Nevertheless, I grew to love the rough, raw beauty of the wilderness. I felt at home on the trail. I was in awe of God’s glorious earth each day I climbed a mountain. Every morning I would begin my hike with prayers of gratitude for being alive, for the gift of walking through God’s majestic world. I developed a deep appreciation for the infinite wonder of the earth. This awe carried me through three months of intense hiking and comforted me when I felt depleted.

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Indonesia’s Islamic Environmental Boarding Schools

Today’s Inside Islam radio show, Green Faith, will preview the upcoming event Green Faith: An Interfaith Conversation on Eco-Consciousness and Activism, to be held at the Pyle Center at UW-Madison on Tuesday, March 6th. Jean Feraca will speak with Anna M. Gade, UW-Madison Associate Professor and expert on eco-Islam in Indonesia, and Cal DeWitt, UW-Madison Professor and author of Earthwise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues. (Broadcast details follow below.) In addition to today’s radio show, earlier posts here on the blog have explored Muslim and Christian perspectives.


Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country, with 205 million, or 13% of all Muslims worldwide. In addition to being the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is also one of the most eco-conscious places on the planet. We’ve talked about eco-Islam in Indonesia before and it is one of the foci of our Green Faith series because the country’s combination of biodiversity, religions, and cultural traditions have formed the basis for the unparalleled development of widespread integration of faith and environmentalism.

The video above is an environmentally focused religious song performed by students from Pondok Pesantren Al-Ittifaq, an Indonesian environmental boarding school, or pesantren. An expression of love for God, eco-consciousness, and artistry are all rolled into one, as students integrate the idea of environmentalism naturally with other aspects of their daily life.

Since the 1950s, Islamic environmental pesantren have been teaching students the importance of stewardship and the deepening of their faith through a higher level of environmental consciousness and activism. It’s also important to point out that “environmental activism” as seen in the U.S. may be understood differently in an Indonesian context. Environmental practices such as water conservation and the planting of trees are commonplace practices in Indonesia and not necessarily viewed as uniquely progressive, political, or radical acts.


Anna M. Gade, filmmaker of the clip above and Associate Professor in UW-Madison’s Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, has been studying the intersection of Islamic practices, community initiatives, and government policies in Indonesia for over a decade. Gade and renowned Evangelist environmental steward and scholar, Cal DeWitt, will speak to Jean on today’s Here on Earth radio broadcast about faith-based environmentalism, from both local and global perspectives.

How to Listen and Participate

Green Faith: A Christian Perspective

This is the second in a series related to our upcoming event, Green Faith: An Interfaith Conversation about Eco-Consciousness and Activism. If you missed the first post in the series, you can read it here and also see the end of this post for information on tomorrow’s related radio show.


Tim Mackie is a teaching pastor at Blackhawk Church in Middleton, Wisconsin, and a faculty member of the Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches Hebrew Bible.

I grew up in the heart of a large city, one which is surrounded by immense natural beauty. Portland, Oregon, sits at the convergence of two large river valleys (the Willamette and the Columbia) that join and head into the Pacific Ocean. My earliest memories of the city recall the majestic Mt. Hood, which stands like a sentinel looking out over the city. The coast is just 1.5 hours away, and there is green everywhere you go, all year round.

I took all this for granted growing up, as I got the best of both worlds: a large urban center surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of hiking and outdoor adventure. Growing up in that part of the country had a formative shaping influence on me, but there was one other key catalyst that revolutionized my relationship to the world of nature. When I was 20 years old I became a follower of Jesus, which forced me to rethink a great many things about my patterns of living. Continue reading

Green Faith: A Muslim Perspective

This is the first in a new series within Inside Islam that will explore the intersection of faith and environmentalism. Posts here on the blog by diverse religious leaders and community activists are leading up to an interfaith panel discussion (to be held in Madison on March 6th) and a radio show on the topic. Specifics on those events follow below.


Huda Alkaff is the founder and director of the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin (IEG) and president of Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light. She taught ecology at UW-Oshkosh and has spent over a decade working as an advocate for environmental justice, initiating Muslim and interfaith programs focused on energy, water, and land conservation. In addition to orchestrating the Green Ramadan project, Alkaff has also led IEG’s monthly environmental awareness campaign.

Huda Alkaff feeding a llama at the Eco-Justice Center in Racine, Wisconsin

Believe it or not, I have been an environmentalist since I was a child. Back then, I remember being asked the famous question from the adults in my family and my teachers, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Remember that question? To everyone’s surprise, my answer was “An ecologist, an environmentalist!” I was and still am fascinated by nature, the sea (my best friend) and all its inhabitants, the mountains, the stars, the trees, the birds, etc. And I wanted to learn more about them.

Ecology is the study of interconnections and interdependence among everything in space and in time. Systems Ecology interested me the most since it looks into the big picture and studies patterns, processes, and relationships among different parts. The continuous attempt at establishing connections is the driving force for my ongoing work to build strong and sustainable bridges between the environmental teachings in Islam and my university environmental training and education.

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Environmentalism, not Terrorism

Photo: Lila Garnett

Following his appearance on a recent Inside Islam Radio Show, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin–environmental activist and author of Green Deen–spoke to a large crowd at the University of Wisconsin-Madison about Islam’s obligation for Muslims to care for the planet. The event drew Muslims and non-Muslims of all ages, and Abdul-Matin’s presentation matched the practical approach of his book.

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Green Deen Radio Show

This Thursday, March 24th, Jean will talk with Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet. The show will explore how Islam instructs followers to be environmentally conscious and how this consciousness can be the foundation for interfaith environmental work.

Abdul-Matin’s central premise is that the world is a mosque, a house of God, and thus sacred. Therefore, we have a responsibility not only to take care of the environment but to protect it. He maintains there are Islamic teachings that instruct Muslims to live what he refers to as “Green Deen” (deen means religion in Arabic), which he maintains “is about transforming our public,  private, and civic sectors. It’s about bridging the innovation gap and moving all the world’s fundamental human connection to the environment.”

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Eco-Islam: Javanese Madrassahs Leading the Way

Only a short time ago, green was just another color in the crayon box. These days, saying “green” sparks images that go well beyond Christmas trees and the Green Bay Packers. Greenhouse gases, green technology, or simply “going green” are phrases that we now hear peppered in daily conversation. But “green-friendly” ideas are anything but new for the people of the Indonesian island of Java.

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