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We must aim for a new lifestyle

Culture / -

Yahya Pallavicini
Alessandro Cremasco © Expo 2015

If exterior deserts are multiplying across the world, because interior deserts have expanded so greatly, the ecological crisis represents a call for a profound interior conversion. This is what my father, sheikh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini, sustains, incorporating the words of Pope Benedict XVI

Authorities, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to accept the kind invitation extended by Monsignor Luca Bressan, director of Ecumenism and Dialogue in the diocese of Milan, and by ExpoNet, to represent the greetings and the adhesion of COREIS Italiana (Islamic Religious Community) and the al-Wahid Mosque in Via Meda in Milan, for the signing of the Milan Charter at Expo Milano 2015.
The contents of this Charter remind us of the teaching of the doctrine and the words of the masters concerning our shared and fraternal responsibilities as representatives of God on earth, and concerning the value of a healthy relationship between mankind and nature… the earth, the water and the sky, thirst and hunger, spiritual and material nourishment.
The last time I was a guest at Expo was during the month of Ramadan, invited by Commissioner Giuseppe Sala and Minister Bruno Pasquino, for an event involving all the Pavilions of the nations present in this edition of the Universal Exposition, and in particular dedicated to representatives of the Islamic world who at sunset were interrupting their ritual fasting.
This was an occasion for presenting the symbolism of abstaining from food and drink in order to share the benediction of conviviality interpreted with sensitivity towards the sacred, in memory of God who bestows life and renews creation in every instant. So I was able to present the authentic face of religious authorities and our attention to the ritual qualities of nourishment as a moment when grace descends and distributes its benefits on various planes of the mankind’s being.
This harmony, which every believer savors in the moment of their daily meal, is the fruit of a process which begins with the cycle of life and the convergence of many different cultivations, transformations and processes which allow various different ingredients and elements interacting to satisfy humanity’s hunger and thirst. But this same harmony must be recognized both in the richness of various different food traditions and in the extraordinary synthesis which every individual lives as a microcosm of humanity and the world compared to the macrocosm of God’s Universe.
All religions, including Islam, serve to remind believers of this primordial dimension of nature and the environment, which surrounds us and nourishes us in the measure to which mankind manages to fulfil his function of service, respect and connection between worlds.
It was during the month of Ramadan – when our community concentrates on prayer and fasting, without ever abandoning our daily responsibilities and our care for others – that we benefitted so much from reading and meditating upon the Encyclical, Praised Be, by Pope Francis. And I am happy to conclude now by reading some extracts from a letter sent to the Pope by my noble father and master sheikh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini.
“If exterior deserts are multiplying across the world, because interior deserts have expanded so greatly, the ecological crisis represents a call for a profound interior conversion.” We have been profoundly struck by the extraordinary synthesis of this phrase, which integrates a quotation by Benedict XVI from paragraph 217 on Ecological Conversion.
This synthesis, actually, can become – for every man and woman of good will – the spur for a providential and authentic conversion: the recognition of one’s crisis, the exterior and interior desert, and to reply with a vocation, “to aim for a different lifestyle”, to have the courage to change mentality towards a traditional reorientation of one’s being, in conformity with what you, Holiness, rightly call the “model of Saint Francis of Assisi, to propose a healthy relation with creation as one dimension of a person’s overall conversion.”
Our ritual space aims to be an Oasis, as Cardinal Archbishop Angel Scola would say, for meditation, theological exploration and confrontation, open to the city and its citizens. The hope is that from this Milan Charter, produced by Expo Milano 2015, a new oasis may be generated, capable of changing the mentality which violates and destroys natural resources, does not respect the identity of mankind and ignores the timeless call of religions. A truly ecumenical and interreligious oasis where we can eat and drink fraternally, both spiritually and practically, and pause to rediscover the correspondences with the dynamic of divine harmony, and inspire healthy consequences among the peoples of the earth.

We can’t make ourselves rich at the expense of others and of nature

Culture / -

richetti per discorso 21 maggio imm rif

God was perfectly clear when he put Adam in the Garden of Eden. He told him “This is what I have created. Use it but don’t destroy it.” This is why the Jews have a series of rules concerning food, in order to respect and not overexploit the plants and animals which nourish us.

One premise: for the Hebrew faith all the most elevated teachings are expressed in the form of rules based more or less on the Bible. As far as producing food goes, we have a series of prohibitions which show us God’s thoughts. The prohibition for planting vines and wheat on the same land, for example, shows us that the soil must be respected, without over-stressing it or the species cultivated on it. And we are also taught to respect the animals which help us in our work, and respect the plants we cultivate… for example, it is forbidden to eat their first fruits, which gives the plants more time to reinforce themselves.
The sabbatical year and the jubilee also have the scope of not forcing nature’s rhythms. To work the Garden of Eden means improving it with our best abilities, through scientific development, to obtain optimal results from the soil, the crops and their products. How should we relate to scientific developments? Are they permissible? Do they violate nature? Will they make it possible for everyone to be nourished? Both those who have and those who do not have? This question doesn’t have a clear answer yet, because that must be formed in time through discussion and debate. There’s a good Jewish dictum that tells you the difference between paradise and hell: in paradise you can discuss things, in hell everything is already all too clear.
Still, for us anything that can contribute to improving is positive. God offers us possibilities because he has supplied us with intelligence. But one principle is always valid: when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden he said to him “This is what I have created. Use it but do not destroy it.” No one should get rich at the expense of others. On the contrary, we have a duty to give alms. Although really, this is not the point. Real alms are those which supply what is necessary for living with dignity. As for food, there is one very explicit prohibition: do not waste food. We have a duty to eat a little less than what we need, in order to give other people the chance to eat a little more.

Tenzin Khenze: We should respect and feel grateful to the living creatures and the fruits of the earth with which we nourish ourselves

Culture / -

Buddhista imm rif

These are the words of the Tibetan monk, Tenzin Khenze, interviewed during the inter-religious round table held in Milan on April 23 and focused on The Menu of Happiness and The Ethics of Food.

Tenzin Khenze is a Tibetan monk from the Ghe Pel Ling Study Institute on Tibetan Buddhism in Milan, delegated by the Venerable master Tenzin Khenrab Rinpoche to take his place in representing Buddhist tradition in inter-religious encounters.
In your religious beliefs, what is the definition of happiness and what kind of diet contributes to feeding it?
We understand happiness as freedom from suffering whether physical or mental. Suffering takes many forms and is inherent not only in mankind’s life but in the life of all sentient beings. This suffering comes about as a consequence of causes originating in our own ignorance. This ignorance prevents us from perceiving things clearly and leads us to thoughts or actions which are not virtuous but egoistic, even though they may seem neutral or advantageous to us: in reality they create the causes of our unhappiness. Buddhists consider that the best diet to adopt consists of reaching an awareness of our direct responsibility for our own suffering or happiness and for that of others, bound together as we all are by an unbreakable relationship of interdependence.
What significance does fasting have in your religion?
Buddhism doesn’t directly contemplate fasting, because we should provide our bodies with everything they need to work at their best. All excesses of any kind are strongly discouraged, and we are encouraged always to remember the impact our diet has on ourselves and in general on the ecosystem.
How is food represented, what are its most important characteristics, and what values is it connected with?
Generally speaking, food is not associated with specific values in Buddhism, other than the fact that it is necessary for our survival. The most important thing is to avoid becoming too attached to food and to be aware that the things we nourish ourselves with derive from other living creatures or from the fruits of the earth, so we should respect and feel grateful to them both.
Do you have a story or a tradition or an anecdote regarding food?
I was once invited to a dinner where an aging Master was also present. This took place in Liguria, and the hosts, wanting to offer something special, had decided to prepare a Ligurian specialty for the Lama, namely fried whitebait. For those who don’t know this dish, it is made of sprat and tiny fish just a few days old, so obviously it takes hundreds of tiny fish to prepare a single portion.
When he saw the dish, the Lama was horrified, saying “I couldn’t eat a dish which has cost so many lives. One piece of a large fish would have been much better: just one creature would have died and we could all have eaten.” This is food ethics.
Today’s agricultural systems for producing food threaten to severely damage the planet. How important is it for your religion that food be produced in an ethical manner or that it not be wasted?
The way that rich countries waste food and exploit the entire planet to satisfy their unjustified request for more food is as far away as you could get from ethical behavior or from awareness of the interdependence between all living creatures and the Planet which plays host to us. A change of mentality is necessary, indeed indispensable: a change of course towards an ethically sustainable use of the Planet’s resources. For example, more respect should be shown to the animals which undergo totally unjustifiable suffering in intensive livestock rearing… often being totally exploited simply to pander to petty human pleasures. Agriculture must find new ways to dialogue with the earth without violating it, because the terrible consequences which humanity pays for such mindless exploitation are there for all to see.

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