Wishing you a clean Christmas and a neat New Year !

As we approach Christmas, I have been thinking about how the various faiths of the world regard litter and the desirability of living in a pleasant, clean environment. And I realise that I really don’t know what the answer is.

I remember from the wonderful New Testament story of the “Feeding of the Five Thousand” that, following Jesus’s address to the assembled multitude and the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the disciples went round and litter-picked the venue : “they took up 12 baskets full of what was left over” (St Matthew’s Gospel, Ch14, v 20). The disciples showed what we might consider a surprising regard for the cleanliness of their environment (and also, of course, a reluctance to waste good food). I am delighted to say that such a concern has been mirrored recently by the Hope 08 organisation which has been taking part in Keep Britain Tidy’s “Big Tidy Up” campaign. I also recently joined a group from the New Wine Christian movement on a litter pick in Shepton Mallet as part of their summer conference activities.

But is there particular regard to a clean and tidy environment in other faiths ? My honest answer is that I don’t know. So here are a few observations and then a question for you.

I often read about the communities who worship at particular mosques organising a cleanup of the area around the mosque. Recent examples include members of the Jamia Masjid Minhaj-ul-Qur’an mosque (at Nelson in Lancashire) and the Liaqat Hussain mosque in Bradford.

I was in Bolton recently talking with some really dynamic Asian ladies who have started up their own group to help keep their community tidy. They call themselves “Masala Chai” after the delicious spiced tea that they drink when they meet. One of them reminded me of that lovely quotation “cleanliness is next to godliness”. I have since discovered that these words of wisdom come from one of John Wesley’s sermons but isn’t it wonderful how such a thought can so easily cross religious boundaries ?

So – the question : do different faiths have different attitudes to caring for the environment ? In fact, do different faiths have specific environmental responsibilities inbuilt in their faith systems ? Or is faith, in fact, irrelevant and care for one’s environment a purely individual or secular matter ?

Please don’t write your answer on a postcard and mail it to our address – but please do register your comments and ideas on this blog so that we can all learn from each other and make our particular corner of the world a better place for us all to live in.

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