Patmos Proposals

This, the first of the Symposia, was held as part of the celebration of the 1900th anniversary of the composition by St John the Theologian of the Book of Revelation, also known as 'The Apocalypse' and the last book of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The symposium was held aboard the Greek car ferry F/B Preveli that transported participants from 20th to 27th September 1995 among the Greek and Turkish ports of Piraeus, Istanbul and Kusadasi. The journey ended on Patmos, the small Aegean island to which St John had been banished from Ephesus and where, according to legend, while living in a hillside cave, he composed the Book of Revelation.

Organised under the aegis of the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew, and the International President of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, His Royal Highness Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, the symposium brought together about 200 scientists, religious leaders, philosophers, economists, artists and policy makers to examine the nexus of religion and the environment. Thinkers and doers from 32 countries and representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Jainist, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Bahai religions participated actively in the discussions. The event was an important step in the long-running effort to find common ground among religious and scientific leaders who share similar concerns about the environment, but whose historical antagonism has often blocked collaboration.

In his opening remarks to the symposium, The Ecumenical Patriarch pointed out:

The Book of Revelation is full of references to the consequences of evil for the natural environment. The ecological crisis, more than any other problem of humanity, reveals the truth that the world forms one unity and one community and that even the slightest violation of nature in one part of the world leads inevitably to consequences affecting the rest of the world.

Metropolitan John of Pergamon set the stage of the symposium when he declared in his opening statement: We are used to regarding sin mainly in anthropological or social terms, but there is also sin against nature, since evil upsets the created order as a whole. The solution of the ecological problem is not simply a matter of management and technicalities, important as these may be. It is a matter of changing our very world view. For it is a certain world view that has created and continues to sustain the ecological crisis.

These insights by religious leaders go hand in hand with a new awareness affecting science. Despite incontestable evidence of the worsening state of our environment and its grim implications for the future, scientific discourse appears insufficient to produce personal or social action on a significantly large scale. To the extent that religion, with its millennial tradition of access to moral and symbolic dimensions of humans, can espouse the accompanying imperative of scientific observation, it can endow society with a new vision that can lift science from its isolation as a social force and promote it into a materially-based pillar of moral and spiritual existence.

The symposium recommended seven 'Patmos Proposals' to guide future actions and initiatives taken by individual participants.

It was no coincidence that the symposium was held at sea. Today's environmental crisis is nowhere more apparent than in the present state of the world's oceans. Covering about 70% of the world's surface, the oceans are a rich source of food, energy, minerals and medicines, which is growing in importance as terrestrial resources are becoming more scarce. The scientific evidence shows clearly that human influence on the marine environment is both extensive and increasing. The influence of human activities is felt in all parts of the oceans, from the most isolated beaches contaminated with oil and plastic litter to the ocean depths, which are used as dumping grounds for wastes we cannot or will not dispose of on land. In his Book of Revelation, St John urges humanity to 'hurt not the earth, neither the seas' (Revelation, 7:3). The anniversary of its composition provided a historic occasion to integrate current scientific knowledge about the oceans with the spiritual approach of the world's religions to water, particularly the world's oceans.