Faith groups support Peterborough’s Environment Capital aspiration…

Innovative ‘Faith in the Environment’ project culminates in exhibition at Peterborough Museum.

Green charity Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) is celebrating the successful delivery of their innovative Faith in the Environment project. This is the third and final year of the DFID (Department for International Development) funded project which has seen 200 local people from five different faith groups in Peterborough learn about climate change and how to reduce their impact on the environment.

Since 2010 the five faith groups, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Buddhist, have been taking part in a range of interactive, hands-on workshops about the environment. They have also been attending green events to share eco-friendly tips with other members of their communities, and creating art to showcase what they have learnt.

This art-work, which ranges from paintings and poetry to sculptures made of materials that would otherwise have ended up in landfill, is now going on display at Peterborough Museum. The ‘Keeping the Faith, Saving the Planet, exhibition runs between 21st July and 16th September in the Museum’s community gallery in the cafe.

A report published last year by national sustainability organisation Forum for the Future concluded that ‘religious leaders and groups can be critical intermediaries in the promotion of environmental messages’. PECT is recognised nationally for its cutting edge work in the practical application of environmental research. The Faith project explored how to reach a diverse range of people with an environmental message and how to get that message passed from person to person within a faith community.

Project Officer from PECT, Karen Lawrence has led the delivery of the project. She has also just been appointed as the first environmental representative on Peterborough’s Inter-Faiths council. She said: “Most faiths have religious teachings about preserving the environment and this project helped people to practically apply those teachings and make a difference.

“It’s usually the poorest people of the world who are hit first and hardest by the effects of climate change, for example by extreme weather conditions like flooding and drought. The everyday actions of people living in richer parts of the world directly contribute towards climate change and impact on those living in the poorest parts of the world. Raising awareness of this fact has encouraged faith groups in Peterborough to change their behaviour to live in a greener way.”

Students from Peterborough’s independent Islamic secondary school for girls, Iqra Academy, have been taking part in the project. Teachers at the school have seen students use their initiative to make the school more sustainable, for example by ensuring the school stocks Fairtrade goods. The environment is also now a key part of the Academy’s curriculum.

Aishah Ali (17) from, Iqra Academy, credits her participation in the project with broadening her horizons and empowering her to take action. “It’s been great taking part, I’ve learnt so much and I’ve made sure I’ve passed the green message onto my family and friends. The project has given me so many ideas and the confidence to encourage other people to live in a more environmentally friendly way too. I’m excited to see my eco-art on display at the museum. I now feel very much involved in the programme to make Peterborough the greenest city – a great place for us all to live.”

Mrs Devinder Kaur is a member of the local Sikh place of worship, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sahib. She has also been taking part in the project: “I’ve learnt a lot about the environment, how to live in a greener way, and how all this links directly to my faith. I’d heard a bit about Peterborough’s Environment Capital work before, but never had the opportunity to get involved. This project has broken down barriers and given a more diverse range of people the chance to contribute.”

Councillor Nigel North, Peterborough City Council’s Cabinet Advisor for Environment Capital is impressed with the far-reaching impact that PECT’s Faith in the Environment project has had. He commented: “Pioneering projects like Faith in the Environment demonstrate why Peterborough’s growing reputation for environmental innovation is well deserved.”

Devinder Kaur with young members of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sahib, the Sikh place of worship, who participated in the Faith in the Environment project – pictured here with their artwork which is being featured in the Keeping the Faith, Saving the Planet exhibition at Peterborough museum.