The Danube
Danube and Europe
Living Force

The Religion, Science and Environment Symposia are a continuing voyage of discovery. The first symposium in the Aegean Sea established the intellectual territory of the voyage - the troubled interface of science and religion and its impact on our environment. The second symposium applied the lessons learnt in the context of the Black Sea in Crisis. The third symposium, held between the 17th and the 26th of October 1999, turned attention to the Danube River at a moment of turbulence, tragedy and new opportunities. Three months after the bombing by NATO, His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke on the banks of the Danube at Novi Sad. A great Habsburg fortress at his back, monuments to a massacre of the Jews and Serbs in the Second World War at his feet, with the debris of bombed bridges blocking passage in the Danube and the sombre faces of all Yugoslavia's faith communities as his audience. This dramatic tableau gave reality to the powerful assertion by the Bishop of London that "the two halves of Europe's brain were re-connecting".

Laurence Mee, former coordinator of the Black Sea Environmental Programme, has spoken with passion of the way in which the symposium on the Black Sea increased individual and collective commitment towards that threatened water. He told the story of how individuals inspired by the symposium played a key role in strengthening two Commissions for the Danube and the Black Sea. They gained World Bank support, and, ultimately, very substantial funding from the Global Environment Facility. There was also good news in the establishment of training for clergy, teachers and journalists in environmental matters that led to vigorous campaigns to defend endangered nature reserves. The spotlight of publicity attracted research proposals into the region. Documentaries made at the time of the symposium maintained international interest and support.

His All Holiness followed the Danube Symposium by joining in co-operation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Danube Carpathian Programme to establish a network of focal points along the river. This endeavour, entitled "The Danube - a network for a living river", has sought to link the faith communities and environmentalists with each other, from the river source, across Europe and down to the Danube Delta. In the meantime, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) is working to assure pollution control and sustainable management of water resources.

On 1 September 2001, the day set aside annually by the Orthodox Church to focus on concern for the environment, His All Holiness announced three new initiatives: Symposium IV in the Adriatic in June 2002, Symposium V in the Baltic in June 2003 and the establishment of a shore-based centre for Religion, Science and Environment. Taken together, these three new ventures will consolidate and bring to the attention of the wider world the Ecumenical Patriarch's message that urgent action to safeguard the treasure of our natural heritage is needed.