2-day Conference on Conservation of Environment and Role of Religion
July 5-6, 2017 at Central University of Kashmir - India
The Department of Religious Studies Central University of Kashmir, in collaboration with Institute of Objective Studies (IOS), New Delhi, organised a two-day international conference on “Conservation of Environment and Role of Religion” from 5 to 6 July 2017. The conference was sponsored by Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation (NLCO), Srinagar, Dr Naseer’s Group of Unani & Panchkarma Hospitals, Rahim Greens, Srinagar and Meezan Publications Srinagar Kashmir.
Earlier the department had called for papers on the main and sub-themes of the conference through the university website and local media. The response was overwhelming with the department receiving more than 60 abstracts from scholars and academics from across the country and abroad. The conference was spread over sixteen sessions including the inaugural and the valedictory sessions.
Some of the prominent participants included Leonard Swidler, professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University. He has published more than 300 articles and 75 books. Paul B. Mojzes, originally from Croatia (former Yugoslavia), and now a naturalised citizen of the United States of America, is a professor emeritus of religious studies and co-editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies with Leonard Swidler. Mustafa Ceric, is grand mufti emeritus of Bosnia and studied at • University of Azhar, Cairo, 1978 (B.M.) before going to • University of Chicago, for his doctorate. Puninder Singh is a doctoral student in linguistic anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. His doctoral research focuses on religious language. Professor Dr. Siddharth Singh, is the ex-head, department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Faculty of Arts, Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.), Varanasi. More than 50 other prominent scholars and researchers from the country and abroad participated.
The inaugural session began at 10:30 a.m. on 5 July with the head department of religious studies, Professor Hamidullah Marazi, welcoming the audience and distinguished guests. Professor Marazi also introduced various aspects of the broad theme of the conference. His welcome address was followed by a lecture by Mufti Nazir Ahmad Qasmi, Shaykh al-Hadith Dar al-Uloom Rahimiya, Bandipora, Kashmir on “The Conservation of Environment and Role of Islam” thereby setting the tone for scholarly deliberations on various dimensions of the theme of the conference. An English translation of this lecture was presented by Dr Nazir Ahmad Zargar, assistant professor, department of religious studies, Central University of Kashmir. Professor Leonard J. Swidler of Temple University, Philadelphia, U.S. delivered an exhaustive keynote address. It was followed by the address of Mufti Mustafa Ceric, grand mufti of Bosnia. Professor Z.M. Khan of Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) Delhi also delivered a lecture on the theme. On the occasion books by Professor Hamidullah Marazi, Dr Showkat Ahmad Shah, assistant professor, Department of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir and Mr. Maqbool Ferozi, former civil servant. Al-Haaj Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo, chairman, Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation (NLCO), Dr. Naseer’s Group of Unani and Panchkarma Hospitals, Srinagar, Mr. Abdul Hamid Bhat, Chairman, Rahim Greens, Srinagar, Dr. Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, RTI activist and Mr. Arif Shafi Wani, correspondent, Greater Kashmir, were felicitated for their commendable services towards environmental conservation. Professor Mehrajuddin Mir vice-chancellor, Central University of Kashmir, chairman of the session and patron of the conference, delivered the presidential address thanking the outstation participants and other guests and dignitaries present on the occasion for their support and cooperation. He extended good wishes to the department of religious studies of the university. The session concluded with a vote of thanks proposed by Dr. Mueid uz Zafar, assistant professor, department of religious studies of university. Dr Showkat Ahmad Shah conducted the proceedings.
Wednesday 5th July, 2017
After tea break, the first formal session comprised four parallel technical sessions.
In Panel 1, chaired by Professor Z.M. Khan and moderated by Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, four papers were presented. Paper readers included Ms. Maryam Meraj, research scholar from University of Kashmir, Mrs. Insah Nabi, research scholar Central University of Jammu, who talked about swachchta in religion to recognise self with a relationship with God. Professor Madhu Khanna, former director, Centre for Comparative Religion, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, quoted exhaustively from Hindu as well as Islamic sources as she did from Buddhist sources regarding environment and its religious sanctity. Professor Paul Mojzes from Pennsylvania discussed human environment in the light of four sources: scripture, tradition, reason and experience to deal with the issue.
Panel II was chaired by Professor Shashi Bala and moderated by Professor Abdul Rashid Bhat in which three papers were presented, including a paper by Asif Mohiuddin, research scholar and Mr. Nazar Muhammad, research scholar, both from University of Kashmir.
Panel III was chaired by Professor Siddharth Singh and moderated by Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Nikka DSW, CUK. Four papers were presented in this panel. The paper readers included Prof. Gautam Chatterjee, President Abhinavgupta Academy, Varanasi and Muhammad Ashraf Malik, research scholar, KU, Mr. Abdul Manan Khan, KU and M.H. Zafar, head department of religion and civilisations, Central University of Jammu. It was followed by lunch break.
Panel I in this session was chaired by Prof. Abdul Ali, department of Islamic Studies, AMU Aligarh, and professor of emeritus, and moderated by M. Afzal Wani. Paper readers included: Dr Siddarth Singh, Avneet Kour, Hadia Habib from BGSB University, Rajouri, and Prof. Abdul Ali. In the end M. Afzal Wani concluded the session by highlighting the main points touched by the presenters and iterated that despite the differences the world religions had to make something out of these differences and all commonalities were necessary for sustaining life.
Panel I1 was chaired and moderated by Prof. Madhu Khanna. Paper presenters included: Sutinder Singh, research scholar from University of Ujjain, Dr Aamir Riyaz, assistant professor, Hansraj College Delhi and Prof. Hamidullah Marazi.
Theme: Environmental Ethics and Religion
Chairperson: Prof. Shashi Bala
Moderator: Ms Ishārāt
This session began at 02:00 in the afternoon on 5 July with the Prof. Shashi Bala as the chairperson of the session. The session began with the paper of Asif Mohiuddin, research scholar from Kashmir University, on the theme of “Global Environmental Crisis and Islam: An Ethico-Theological Appraisal. The second paper was presented by Nazr Muhammad and Ahmed Ishfaq on the theme of “Environmental Challenges and Islamic Ethics”. The third paper dealt with “The Need for Environmental Ethics: Our Environmental Concern” which was sent by Prof. Ganga Dhar of Banaras Hindu University. The session was concluded by the inputs and comments by the chairperson of the session, Prof. Shashi Bala.
Theme: Environment and the Prospect of Conservation
Chairman: Prof. Abdul Rashid
Moderator: Dr. Jameil Ali
The session began with the chaired by Prof. Abdul Rashid Bhat. The first paper was presented by Prof. Shashi Bala, Former Dean Faculty of Humanities, Religious Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar titled “Environmental Ethics in Religious Perspective”. The second paper was presented, sent by Mohammad Yaseen Gadda, research scholar, AMU, titled “Understanding Environmental Preservation through the Paradigm of Islamic Ethics”. The third paper was presented by Dr. Mohabat Singh of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, “Environmental Ethics in Spiritual ballads of Bhai Gurdas (A Great Sikh Theologian)”. The fourth paper was presented by Dr. Sheikh Jameil Ali asstt. professor, IUST, entitled “Religion and Materialism vis-à-vis Environment, with Special Reference to Teachings of Islam”. The session was followed by a discussion on the papers presented. The session concluded with comments of the chairman.
Theme: Environmental Conservation and Religions
Chairman: Prof. Siddharth Singh
Moderator: Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Nikka
The session commenced at 2 pm in the afternoon. The session began with the research paper “Man-Environment Interrelationship: A Religious Perspective” of Prof. Gautam Chatterjee, president, Abhinavagupta Academy, Varanasi. Muhammad Ashraf Malik, doctoral candidate, Shah-i-Hamadan institute of Islamic Studies, Kashmir University, presented his research paper on “Environmental Conservation and the Role of Religious Scriptures”. The third research paper was presented by Prof. M. A. Zafar entitled “Kashmir Mystic Traditions and Environment”. The fourth research paper entitled “Relation between Man and Environment: An Islamic Approach” by Mr. Abdul Manan Khan, research scholar, Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies, Kashmir University. The session evoked some discussion among the participants and concluded with observations of chairman Prof. Siddharth Singh at 3pm.
Theme: Ethical and Religious Perspectives on Environment
Chairman: Prof. Ab. Rashid Bhat
Moderator: Dr. Zia ul Haq
The session commenced at 3:00 pm. The first paper was presented by Dr. Khan Asiya and other research scholars, University of Kashmir, presented papers entitled “Environmental conservation in light of the Qur’an”. The second paper was presented by Mr. Shahzad Bashir, Research Scholar, S.H. Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir, entitled “Prophetic Ethical Philosophy and The Environmental Awareness”. The third paper was presented by Dr. Naseem Gul Dar and others, asst. professor, S.H. Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir, titled “Religion: A Saviour For Environment with Particular Emphasis on Islam”. The forth paper was presented by Mr. Azad Ahmad Akhoon research scholar, S.H. Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir. Debating Man, Environment and the Religion; from Ethical Perspective. The session was followed by a discussion and concluded with the remarks of chairman of the session.
Theme: Environment and the Prospects of Conservation
Chairman: Dr. Gautam Chatterjee
Moderator: Suhail Shaukeen
The session commenced at 04:30 pm. The first paper was presented by Dr. Syed Naseem Gilani and others on “Awareness and Attitude among University Students of Kashmir Valley towards Environmental Conservation in the light of Islam: A Sample Survey”. The second paper was presented by Dr. R. Anthony Raj, assistant professor L.N. Govt. College, Ponneri, Tamil Nadu titled Role of Christianity in Environmental Conservation. The third paper was presented by Sunmeet Kaur, research scholar of Kashmir University, on “An Exploration of the Symptoms of Stress, Anxiety and Depression among Children Exposed to the Devastating Floods of Kashmir”. The fifth paper was presented by Dr. Tahseeen Gul, research scholar of University of Kashmir in the department of biotechnology, on “Combating the Environmental Crisis by Understanding the Cross Talk between Religion and Science”. The session evoked some discussion and finally concluded with comments of the chairperson.
After the sessions the delegates were invited to dinner which was arranged by Mr. Mahmood Ahmad Shah, director tourism, J&K at Nigeen Club. Several power point presentations, including those of Dr Naseer Ahmad of Dr Naseer’s Group of Unani and Panchkarma Hospitals, Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, an environmental activist, Dr. Farooq Ahmad Kaloo, patron Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation (NLCO) were made on the occasion before the lunch was served. Ahmad Mustafa, a young student from Bilaliya Educational Institute, Lal Bazar gave a lecture on environment and Islam. He along with Al-Hajj Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo, Chairman NLCO was felicitated on the occasion. Professor Mehrajud Din Mir, Professor Ashok Aima, vice chancellor Central University, Jammu, Mahmood Ahmad Shah, director tourism, J&K, Al-Hajj Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo, and other dignitaries from India and outside India were also present on the occasion.
Thursday 6th July, 2017
Theme: Sufi/ Reshi Traditions and Environment
Chairman: Prof. Paul Mojzes
Moderator: Mr. Zahoor Ahmad Najar
The first paper was presented by Ms. Hena Bashir and others from University of Kashmir titled “Eco-Friendly Practices in Sufi Traditions: Green Beliefs of Sufis”. The second paper was presented by Sayid Tawfiq Sarfaraz on behalf of Ms. Zeenat Akhter and others of Deptt. of environmental science, University of Kashmir titled “Eco-Friendly Practices Depicted in the Poetry of Shaikh ul Aalam”. The second paper was presented by Dr. Manvinder Singh asstt. professor deptt. of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, “Fauna and Flora: Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Bani”. The third paper was presented by Muhammad Shafi Bhat research scholar, S.H. Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir, on “Islamic Spiritual Traditions: An Environmental Conservation in Contemporary Times”.
Chairman: Prof. Ghulam Mustafa Khawaja
Moderator: Bilal Ahmad Ganai
The first paper was presented by Dr. Iqbal Qureshi/ Sabreen Javid, Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora, on “Environment As Depicted in the Poetry of Shaikh ul Aalam”. The second paper was presented by Ms. Humera Qadri, lecture, Hr. Sec School, Srinagar, on “Role of Religion For The Protection of Environment: A Study and Treatment of Environment In Islam”. The third paper was presented by Riyaz Ahmad Sheikh senior research fellow, Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir, entitled “Role of Islamic Education in Environmentalism: Promotion and Preservation”. The fourth paper was presented by Dr. Ashaq Hussain post-doc fellow, Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir, entitled “Environmental Ethics: An Islamic Perspective”. Ishfaq Amin Parrey research scholar S.H. Institute of Islamic Studies, Kashmir University, Srinagar titled “The Culture of Consumerism vis-à-vis Environmental Ecology: An Islamic Perspective”. The last paper was presented by Dr. Rafiuddin, titled “Islamic Studies and Environmental Pollution”.
Technical Session I
Theme: Religion and Its Role for Preserving Environment
Chairman: Prof. N. A. Nadeem
Moderator: Dr. Muhammad Sayid Bhat
The first paper was presented by Dr. Suhail/B. A. Ganai, research scholar from the University of Kashmir, titled “Macro invertebrates As Bio indicators and Role of Islam in Biodiversity Conservation”. The second paper was presented by Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Nika on “Social Entrepreneurship and Islam”. The third paper was presented by Uqab Ali and others research scholars, University of Kashmir, entitled “Environmental Degradation with Special reference to Kashmir and Man’s Responsibility Summarised by the Quran”. The fourth paper was presented by Dr. Farooq Ahmad Rather and others, deptt. of environmental sciences, University of Kashmir on “Role of Religion in Preserving Environment: A Study of Major Religions in India”. A brief discussion followed and the session concluded with the remarks of the chairman.
Technical Session II
Theme: Materialism, Consumerism and Environmental Degradation
Chairman: Dr. Manvinder Singh
Moderator: Sheikh Jameil Ali
Miss Mehnaz Hassan, research scholar Kashmir University, presented her paper titled “Materialism, Consumerism and Environmental Degradation: An Islamic Perspective”. The second paper was presented by Mrs. Sukhwant Kaur, asst. professor, deptt. of music, Govt Women’s College, Srinagar, on “Sikhism and Environment”. The third paper was presented by Dr. Aquil Ahmad, asstt. professor, deptt. of philosophy, AMU, Aligarh, titled “Gandhi and Conservation of Environment; an Evaluation”. The fourth paper was presented by Dr. Bilal Ahmad Sheikh, titled “Analysis of Water Conservation: An Islamic Perspective”. The last paper, presented by Dr. Syed Zahoor Ahmad Gilani and others was “Eco-friendly Teachings of Reshism in Kashmir with special reference to Sheikh Noor-ud-din (RA)”. The session generated a healthy discussion followed by the valuable suggestions and comments by the chairman.
The conference concluded on 6 July, 2017 in the afternoon with the valedictory session in which Professor Khursheed Andrabi, Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir, Srinagar was the special guest. Prof. Z. M. Khan, Secretary General, Institute of Objective Studies was the chief guest while Prof. Swidler was the guests of honour. Prof. Meraj ud-Din Mir, vice-chancellor Central University of Kashmir was the chairperson of the session.
Prof. Mehrajuddin Mir, in his address, said the university was ready to accept and support any proposal for any joint academic venture that might come from any corner of the country or the world for the growth and benefit of students of the varsity. He expressed satisfaction over the successful completion of the conference and thanked the dignitaries from different parts of the country and from outside the country who participated in the conference. Prof Mir insisted that the suggestions and conclusions arrived at during the conference should be acted upon in letter and spirit so that conservation of environment becomes a reality and we be able to hand over a better legacy to the generations to follow.
Some important resolutions (given in detail below) which were adopted at the conference with consensus, mentioned that universities and other organisations could be approached to initiate special programmes and research projects on different aspects of religion and environment with special reference to the state of J&K. Researchers who aspired to take up research in areas of religion and environment may be considered for award of research fellowships and grants and concerned funding agencies may be approached in initiating such programmes. Serious efforts needed to be made to initiate inter-community and inter-faith dialogue for creating awareness on different aspects of religion and environment issues. The Institute of Objective Studies offered to provide special space for publication of issues of religion and environment that might also entertain research proposals of relevant themes, community participation and active involvement of different voluntary and non-voluntary organisations may be encouraged by concerned quarters, religious institutions and personalities should be approached to join the campaign on improvement of environment around us, religious studies programmes should be started at school, college and university levels to impart environmental conservation and value education, special courses on ecology and religion should be started from elementary level. Colleges and universities should come forward to encourage organisations working for the promotion of environment and students should be encouraged to work as volunteers for these organisations periodically.
On the occasion, Prof Lenord Swedler, Prof Z M Khan, Prof Madhu Khanna, Prof Shashi Bala, Prof Manvinder Singh, Prof Hamidullah Marazi and Prof Abdul Gani shared their thoughts and gave suggestions to implement the recommendations made by experts during the conference and act upon the resolutions adopted at the end of the conference.
The programme was conducted by Mr. Amir Habib Habibullah, assistant professor Department of religious studies, as Dr. Showkat Ahmad Shah, assistant professor, Department of Religious Studies, proposed the vote of thanks.
In the programme several films and PPT were screened and represented on themes of environment, like “Saving the Saviour”, on Wular Conservation, (which has bagged seven international awards) apart from a detailed presentation on Tosa Maidan, J&K tourism potential, environment friendly Unani medication, and Nigeen conservation etc.
The important resolutions that were passed after deliberations and thorough discussion were:
1. The universities and other organisations may be approached to initiate special programmes and research on different aspects of religion and environment with special reference to the state of J&K.
2. Those researchers who aspire to take up research in areas of religion and environment may be considered for award of research fellowships and grants. Concerned funding agencies may be approached in initiating such programmes.
3. Serious efforts need to be made to initiate inter-community and inter-faith dialogue for creating awareness on different aspects of religion and environment issues.
4. The Institute of Objective Studies (IOS), Delhi offers to provide special space for publication of issues of religion and environment. It may also entertain research proposals of relevant themes.
5. Community participation and active involvement of different voluntary and non-voluntary organisations may be encouraged by concerned quarters.
6. Religious institutions and personalities should be approached to join the campaign on improvement of environment around us.
7. Religious studies programmes should be started at school, college and university levels to impart environmental conservation and value education.
8. Special course on ecology and religion should be started from elementary level. The department of religious studies Central University of Kashmir may provide help in this direction.
9. Colleges and universities should come forward to encourage all organisations working for the promotion of environment and students should be encouraged to work as volunteers for these organisations.
Some of the key questions that were considered and deliberated on in the conference were:
- What do religions tell us about environment?
- What influence religion can have on perhaps the most pressing issue in the 21st century, namely, our ecology, our earth, for she is under massive attack?
- Environmental crisis has become highly dangerous for the existence of life. But the same industrial progress, which has so far been the major factor responsible for this crisis, is necessary and inevitable. What role can religions play towards minimisation of environmental degradation without hindering industrial growth?