Over the past years, the Soetendorp Institute has gained an international leadership role in engaging religious leaders and their communities on important global themes and processes on sustainable development. An important framework for this work is the Earth Charter, an international declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, peaceful and sustainable global society. Rabbi Soetendorp served on the Earth Charter Commission, which oversaw the decade-long, world-wide drafting process of the Earth Charter, which is described by many as the most open and participatory drafting process ever conducted in history.
The Soetendorp Institute helps coordinate the Earth Charter Task Force on Religion, Spirituality, and Ethics. This international group is being co-chaired by Rabbi Soetendorp and Prof. Mary Evelyn Tucker, founder of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. The Task Force reaches out to religious and spiritual communities to make use of the Earth Charter in their activities for justice, peace and sustainability.
As part of his efforts as Co-Chair of this international Task Force, Rabbi Soetendorp has drafted the interreligious statement "Towards Rio + 20 and Beyond – A Turning Point in Earth History". The statement formulates a strong and unified message of the world's religions to the major UN Rio + 20 Conference that took place from June 20 – 22, 2012.
A one-page summary of the statement was drafted and adopted at the "Wings for Rio + 20" Exclusive Leadership Forum in the Hague on May 22 and 23 and was then endorsed by over 200 religious and spiritual leaders including His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Rabbi Soetendorp and Michael Slaby then presented this statement at the major UN Rio + 20 Conference in Brazil.
Please find more info about these activities below.
To deepen the understanding and collaboration between the world's spiritual traditions is a core mission of Rabbi Soetendorp's life. For over 40 years he is untiringly active on the local, national and international level to strengthen the bonds of trust and friendship between the different faiths.
This way, he was co-chair of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survivial, which brought together leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa and Al Gore in the early 1990ies, he helped to create the "C100" - the Council of 100 Leaders in Islam-West Dialogue of the World Economic Forum and supported the three World Congresses of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, which took place between 2005 and 2008.
Among others, his current affiliations include:
The Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, facilitated by the Elijah Interfaith Institute in Jerusalem where Rabbi Soetendorp serves on the steering committee. The Board brings together some of the world's most prominent religious figures from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and the Religions of India. It provides a platform for sharing ideas and wisdom and addressing today's global problems.
The Safe the Jordan International Adovacy Campaign initiated by EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East to engage Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities in support of the ongoing advocacy efforts to rehabilitate the lower Jordan River.
The European Council of Religious Leaders which is led by Religions for Peace, one of the largest international coalitions of representatives of the different faith traditions.
The European Gathering of Jewish and Muslim Leaders, brought together by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the World Jewish Congress, bringing together more than 50 leaders of Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.
The "Prinsjesdagviering" - Each year, since 2000, the opening of the Dutch Parliament is preceded by a festive ceremony that includes the blessings and prayers of the key religious and humanistic traditions in the Netherlands. It has proven to be a very successful and inspiring event that provides a gravity and spiritual background to the beginning of the parliamentary sessions and serves as a vital sign of the magnificent cultural and religious diversity in Dutch society.
Buidling on the expertise Rabbi Soetendorp has gained over the years, the Soetendorp Institute developed a "Faith and Leadership" Training Course for young adults where the participants are provided with skills necessary for responsible leadership and constructive dialogue both within their faith community and between communities of different faiths.
Rabbi Soetendorp believes that intercultural learning is essential for creating an open society where differences are respected.
Therefore he initiated the Day of Respect, which is being organized by the Day of Respect Foundation. The Soetendorp Institute helps to organize the Day of Respect that is being celebrated as an annual programme in over 3.000 primary schools all over the Netherlands. It is the aim of the Day of Respect to make young people, and through them their parents, aware of the fact that Dutch society is made up by people from many different backgrounds, with different cultures, and with different ideas, customs and religious traditions. The programme specifically targets the grades 7 and 8 and thus the 10 – 12 years-old.
What does it take to create a better future for the human family and all life on this planet? We need to combine the visions of the young, the wisdom of the elders, and practical actions to tackle the major world problems humanity is facing. We believe that in this combination lies a key to unlock the boundless sources of compassion, imagination, and creativity that are so much needed in our troubled times.
The Feather Project brings these elements together. It is based on the Native American ceremony of the "talking feather" where an Eagle's feather is passed from speaker to speaker, while the person holding the feather is requested to share his deepest thoughts and speak from the heart. The Feather Project is building on this ceremony and seeks to perform it with spiritual leaders and young people as a beautiful way of enhancing intergenerational dialogue by sharing authentic stories, life lessons, and visions for the future – at conferences, in classrooms and over the internet.
For its multimedia component the Soetendorp Institute partnered with the talented cinematographer Ashley Young and her SomeDayFire Productions who has, since June 2010, created over 100 short and inspiring video clips on the visions for the future, spiritual wisdom, and important international processes such as the lead-up to the major UN Rio + 20 Summit on Sustainable Development. Please find these videos here.
Join the Feather Project! Please draw inspiration from our video clips, follow us on facebook and use the feather methodology in your conference, classroom or workshop! Please contact Feather Project Manager Michael Slaby for assistance and more information (mslaby AT soetendorp.org)
Please watch the Feather Project Trailer here: