On the small island of Heybeliada on the Sea of Marmara, just off the coast of Istanbul, at the Holy Theological School of Halki and Halki Palace Hotel, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church and a pioneer in the environmental movement, and Southern New Hampshire University, hosted a gathering from June 18-20, 2012 on global responsibility and environmental sustainability. These topics have taken the forefront of the world’s attention in recent years. This invitation-only meeting, however, was distinct from others in many ways.
First, the host: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, has become known as “the
Green Patriarch” first by the media and then by Al Gore, former Vice President of the US, for persistently proclaiming the primacy of spiritual values in determining environmental ethics and action. In 2008, His All-Holiness was listed in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for “defining environmentalism as a spiritual responsibility.” This event followed the rich involvement of His All-Holiness in environmental issues, with addresses at the European Parliament and the Elysée Palace, as well as the rich tradition of Religion, Science, and Environment Symposia organized by the Ecumenical Patriarch from 1995-2009. While the symposia took place in ecologically sensitive stretches of water as far away as Brazil and Greenland, this gathering had been a shorter and more concentrated meeting on the Patriarch’s home ground.
Second, the venue: Rich in history, The Holy Theological School of Halki hosted the opening of the Summit. Established in 1841 to fulfill educational needs of the Orthodox Church, it was closed by Turkish authorities in 1971. Numerous Orthodox scholars, theologians, priests, bishops, and patriarchs graduated from this international school, including Patriarch Bartholomew, and many patriarchs, bishops, and former teachers of the school are buried on the grounds. The magnificent 19th-century building houses a library of 40,000 books and manuscripts. While the Ecumenical Patriarchate has organized a number of ecumenical, ecological, and scholarly conferences at Halki, it has been his foremost desire and dream to convince the Turkish government to reopen the school.
After the opening remarks, the Summit took place and was hosted at the Halki (Heybeli) Palace, one of the oldest and finest hotels in vicinity of the Princess Islands. Thought to have been built between 1852-1862 it has always been regarded as unique for its period.
Third, the approach: We emphasize that this was a conversation, with participants
arriving at their worldview through different lenses. The conversation covered three topical and timely issues:
Biodiversity and Conservation
Energy and Climate Change
Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability
A prominent keynote speaker for each theme presented a 45 minute response to two to
three questions sent to them in advance, addressing future challenges and solutions. Keynote speakers include three prominent educators and authors:
Jane Goodall, Primatologist and Conservationist
Bill McKibben, Journalist and Environmentalist
Gary Hirshberg, Chairman and Co-Founder, Stonyfield Farm
Next, four invited participant scholars from different perspectives offer a response.
These participants were selected from around the world to present a global perspective.
Their viewpoints represent religion and spirituality, the corporate/private sector, science and research, ethics, community, and policy. For example, there were spiritual and religious figures discussing issues of the economy and technology, together with those from the corporate world and the field of environmental ethics. The discussion sessions were chaired by renowned broadcaster and author, Krista Tippett, while the closing session was chaired by Metropolitan John [Zizioulas] of Pergamon, the most prominent Orthodox spokesman on environmental issues.
The aim of the symposium: We believe that any real chance of reversing climate
change and the depletion of the earth’s resources requires a change in values and belief
systems. This gathering seeked to bring that dimension of culture change more firmly into the larger international dialogue on sustainability. Our hope was that the participants leave resolved to include the ethical and spiritual dimension of environmental sustainability in their work going forward.
Finally, the results: The conversation did not end when the conference is over. Participants were asked to prepare a short paper based on their responses and reflections. These papers form the basis of a publication with articles from speakers and panelists. In addition, as the conference was also be available live on the web, we continue conversations via the internet. We were intent on getting results from this meeting of the minds that will help advance the process of global responsibility and environmental sustainability.
Thanks to Our Sponsors
We would like to extend a very special thank you to the following Halki Summit sponsors:
The Ecumenical Patriarchate
Southern New Hampshire University
Mr. Peter Vlitas of Protravel
Mr Dean Becharas
Mr. Alexander Zagoreos
Mr. Leo and Mrs. Helen Boone