Food Faith is a world-first Australian initiative, bringing together two of our most vital life sustaining forces: Food and Faith. Interfaith religious leaders, academics and sustainability groups were invited to discuss the latest food sustainability issues and strategies.

In the light of the current environmental tensions in our community, Food Faith is a positive demonstration of looking for “fertile common ground” amongst different religions. The initiative is a response to the increasing issues of climate change, hunger, loss of biodiversity, water restrictions and other environmental crises.

In today’s current climate, there is an incredible amount of mass consumption in first world western countries. Interfaith leaders spoke about looking upon shared values and working with one another to prevail negative views perpetuated by the media. Leaders explained the guidance their faith has given towards food and consumption, through teachings so as not to be wasteful and appreciative.

Heather Fagan from the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy spoke “In the West our intake of meat is high, yet if Muslims followed the example of Prophet Muhammad pbuh, we would eat meat once every 40 days. The Qur’an doesn’t view animals as mere resources but describes them as “communities like you” (6:38). By referring to them as communities, it demonstrates that they deserve respect and fair treatment.”

She said, “Any meat Muslims eat must be slaughtered using the least pain for the animal, which includes not slaughtering any animal in front of another one to avoid unnecessary distress.”

The key points of the Food Faith initiative looked at: limiting food waste, eating less meat and more vegetables to reduce our personal carbon footprint, sharing excess food with organisations who can benefit, linking up with local farmers through community supported agriculture, and advising against or banning the use of ingredients from endangered plants and animals in food and traditional medicines.

ISF researcher Judith Friedlander said FoodFaith was a platform for different religious groups to come together on fundamental issues of faith and humanity.”Every faith celebrates food as a spiritual gift and every faith has something powerful to say about our role in protecting the natural world,” She said “Our choices of what, when and how we eat have a huge impact upon the Earth, our fellow human beings and other living creatures.”

Rabbi Zalman Kastel, from Together for Humanity, spoke about how food plays a pivotal part in Judaism’s culture and beliefs – from the laws of Kashrut (kosher) to the mandate that the Shabbat day is a day of rest and joyous meals with family and friends. “Jewish tradition requires daily ongoing provision to feed the poor, to rest the land one year in seven and to treat animals consistently well. It demands we not eat thoughtlessly, and to make a bracha, or a blessing, both before and after eating.”

He said “The Torah forbids the destruction of fruit trees. This prohibition, known to me as a young child as “baal tashchis” was applied to wasting food more generally. It was particularly positive to have representatives of many faiths coming together for a shared cause which has the added benefit of fostering interfaith harmony.”

Imam Ahmed Abdo from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils said the “Prophet Muhammad pbuh said that when we eat we should fill one third of our stomach with food, one third of our stomach with water and one third with air.”

FoodFaith is a wonderful initiative to the table the specific traditions of the major faiths that nurture our world and encourages interfaith dialogue and actions surrounding food sustainability.

Those that attended included Jacqui Remond, Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, Imam Ahmed Abdo of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Rabbi Zalman Kastel of Together for Humanity, Sr Elizabeth Delaney, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches Australia, Dr Miriam Pepper of Uniting Earthweb, Vijai Singhal, of the Hindu Council of Australia, Clarence Slockee, Education Co-ordinator, Aboriginal Programs at Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands Sydney, and Kim Lee from Tzu Chi Buddhist Sydney and ABC Radio National’s Dr Rachael Kohn, presenter of The Spirit of Things.

To read fascinating information about the importance of food in different faiths, visit www.foodfaith.com.au.

The event was organised by Judith Friedlander from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney. The Food Faith initiative is supported by Meat Free Week, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change and the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.