Spiritual Perspectives for a New Normal : Brahma Kumaris Address The IUCN Virtual Dialogue

People of faith and spirituality are all thinking about, and offering guidance on, what an earth-centered [1], new normal, might look like, and how we can practically contribute to it.

To help and guide The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and broader community as it thinks through other visions for a new post-2020 world, the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP), its Specialist Group on Religions, Spirituality, Environmental Conservation and Climate Justice (ReSpECC) and the IUCN Nature-Culture Initiative, held a virtual dialogue on June 25, 2020, to talk with some of IUCN’s faith-based member organizations, members of the ReSpECC Specialist Group and others.

As the UN Secretary General stated, the current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call (message on International Mother Earth Day). Our mother earth is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility (HH Dalai Lama), and it is the responsibility of each one of us to learn from it and grow in our humanity and in our compassion.

Fostering shared responsibilities to rebuild our troubled relationship with nature is a cause that is uniting people around the world (Rev. James Shri Baghwan, Pacific Council of Churches).

No, we don’t want to go back to normal (Pujya Sadhvi Bhagavati Saraswati) – but what does a new normal look like? How do we emerge from our homes, from this time under lockdown, and be part of creating a new, earth-centered, normal, based on the values and ethics of our diverse faiths and spiritualities? As His Holy Father Pope Francis asked, How can we restore a harmonious relationship with the earth and with the rest of humanity?
And what does this mean for IUCN? What’s IUCN’s role in building a new normal? And what will conservation look like post-2020?

To talk about all this and more, some of IUCN’s faith-based member organizations, members of the ReSpECC Specialist Group, and others, including: A Rocha International, Brahma Kumaris, UNEP Faith for Earth, Quaker Institute for the Future, Gaia Foundation, Pacific Conference of Churches, Soka Gakkai International, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences participated in this IUCN Virtual Dialogue and CESP members were invited to join the dialogue.

The discussion was moderated by Jessica Sweidan, IUCN Patron of Nature, and hosted by Dr. Grethel Aguilar, IUCN’s Acting Director General; Kristen Walker-Painemilla, Chair of UCN CEESP; and Liza Zogib, Chair of IUCN CEESP – ReSpECC.
Speakers included:

  • Dr. Fazlun Khalid, Founder, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science
  • Valériane Bernard and Sonja Ohlsson, Brahma Kumaris
  • Reweaving our Ecological Mat in the Pacific (Rev. James Bhagwan)
  • Dave Bookless, Director of Theology at A Rocha International, IUCN member
  • Alexandra Masako Goossens-Ishii, Soka Gakkai International (Buddhist network)
  • Lindsey Fielder Cook and Sara Jolena Sequoia Wolcott, Quaker UN office and Sequoia Samanvaya
  • Iyad Abu Moghli, Director of Faith for Earth, UNEP

Valériane Bernard, Brahma Kumaris Representative to the  United Nations, Geneva, focused on the values of Respect, Self Empowerment and Living your dream. She defined “New Normal” as the condition in which human being finds it easier and possible to function, strive and live. The disruption of sense of normality creates fear and anxiety. But for a resilient person it can also initiate adaptability, creativity and the desire to strive, help and care. She encouraged two things needed in human family and work, one is self empowerment. One needs to learn the art of nurturing the self, and be strong, only then can they uplift others and have Quality of relationships with others and the environment. A Winner is a dreamer who never gives up, sharing the vision with joy and hope. She spoke about creating a relationship with mother nature and serving the five elements with vibrations, paying attention to quality of mind in each and every interaction.

Sonja Ohlsson, National Coordinator of Brahma Kumaris, Denmark, spoke about the value of being ‘Unlimited’ – to expand consciousness – and that we include each and every element of matter, environment in our consciousness. To use good wishes and vibrations to stay interconnected all times, it needs pure heart and pure mind. Open the heart,  and have love as mercy, forgiveness, compassion, caring and sharing.

More than ever before, we need Solidarity, Unity, and Change.

Below is the link for the dialogue:


[1] Many faith traditions would say all our thinking should be God-centered, but in terms of our practical decisions we acknowledge speaking of being earth-centered is important to highlight as opposed to being human-centered.

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