„Which world do you leave behind?“
Laura Vargas of Religions for Peace on intergenerational dialogue, responsibility and fighting tropical deforestation.
The motto of this year’s Religions for Peace (RfP) conference was „Generations in Dialogue“. What does the dialogue mean to you?
I belong to the older generation and I believe we have a responsibility towards the younger generations. Considering crises like climate change, mass extinction of wildlife and Covid-19, we need to act. If we keep doing things the way we are, it will get a lot worse. Therefore, I think it is very important to have an intergenerational dialogue because young people are frightenend and keep asking the older generations: Which world are you leaving behind for us?
Which insights has the RfP conference provided?
The topics that have been discussed on the conference are very important. We’ve discussed, for instance, the implications of Covid-19 for future generations. Another topic was security and how to solve current security problems. And we had a conversation about the environment which we should respect and consider our mother and not a source of money and profit. We as believers see God as the creator of nature for all generations to come so it is our responsibility to preserve it.
The RfP conference took place in the German city of Lindau for the third time. What does Lindau mean to you?
Lindau is home to the Ring of Peace, a wooden sculpture embodying an inter-religious peace symbol. It is a very powerful symbol for us because peace is something that has to be built. In many parts of the world, peace is just an idea, not a reality. For many, peace means the possibility of living in a harmonious society where you are recognized as a human being and where you and your children have a future. It’s important to have a city where there is a symbol for that.
You work at a country facilitator for Peru for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative. It was launched in 2017 and works on ending deforestation. Plase tell us more about it.
The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative is a powerful platform. Among other things, we bring together religious leaders with indigineous people. The indigineous people have accumulated wisdom over a very long time and they live in harmony with nature. We need to learn from them. Our goal is ending deforestation because the tropical forest is fundamental for the planet. In Peru, for instance, 99% of the country’s water comes from the Amazonas region. If we keep destroying the forest, we will run out of water.
In many parts of the world, peace is just an idea, not a reality.
Which responsibilities does your role as a country facilitator for Peru include?
I coordinate all the work. Being an older person, I have very good connections to many people. It’s easy for me to open doors and call people I know to explain what we’re doing. Usually, the response is marvellous. Just this year we initiated the „Pact for the Amazon“ whithin which more than a hundred institutions are working together, trying to achieve a healthy, sustainable, productive and resilient Amazon.
On May 31, 2021, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States signed a Joint Declaration of Intent to futher support Peru in fighting forest ecosystem loss and degradation. What are your hopes with regard to this support?
I think this is a very important agreement because it supports us in defending the forest and nature as such. It is important to work with authorities at different levels, cooperating with states like Germany, for instance.
Laura Vargas Valcárcel is Executive Secretary of the Interreligious Council of Peru (IRC-Peru) since 2009. It forms part of Religions for Peace (RfP), an international non-governmental organization that aims to contribute to global peace through interreligious dialogue and cooperation. She also holds the position of country facilitator for Peru for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative which fights against tropical deforestation.