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A Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion is Unveiled

Add your signature today!
Help us reach our goal of one million signatures!

By Kris Haley, Manager of Multifaith Outreach
From www.BestFriends.org  

It is the kind of electricity you rarely feel, that sense that something very significant is happening. Such was the energy in the Cannon Caucus Room in Washington D.C., a room rich with history that served as a platform for even more history made today.

People entered the room for the unveiling of 'A Religious Proclamation of Animal Compassion' with smiles on their faces as some old friends caught up and new ones were made. Guests shared in a vegan continental breakfast while key speakers rehearsed their talks in preparation for the start of the event.

The event began with a welcome from Best Friends’ President, Michael Mountain and Chief Executive Office, Paul Berry. Mountain gave a brief history of the organization and of how interest arose around the need for a faith component, and Berry talked about the events leading up to the Proclamation and how the religious leaders gathered in Utah last July. Then Berry introduced the first of the political speakers who had agreed to speak at the Proclamation signing.

Representative Tom Lantos (D - Calif), who co-authored a bill that gives pets safe haven with their owners during catastrophes, credited his wife with inspiring his commitment to animal welfare. He also talked about his love for his own dog Macko, who accompanies him to his office on the Hill. As the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the House, he particularly resonated with Best Friends' mantra, “Kindness to animals builds a better world for all of us," and added that, with the help of religious organizations, change for the better was inevitable.

Rep. Lantos then introduced his friend and colleague, fellow Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus co-chair, Rep. Christopher Shays (R - Conn), calling him “…the most powerful friend for animals in Congress.” Rep. Shays referred to today’s event as, “…a consensus of principles that puts compassion into action for all of God’s creatures,” and received enthusiastic applause when, referring to the treatment of animals, stated that “global warming is not the only inconvenient truth.”

Next to take the stage was Rep. Betty Sutton (D- Ohio), who shares her home with her two rescue dogs, Cody and Bear. A long-time supporter of Best Friends, Congresswoman Sutton invited all people of faith to join the cause for animals and said that she would be fighting for animal rights “right alongside you!” Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) also stopped by to lend his support.

The event then shifted to the faith leadership. Best Friends Multifaith Outreach Director, Michael Bruner, opened his comments with an invitation to the audience to not only change the course of history but to “keep history going” by supporting the intirinsic rights of animals as God's creation to live lives free from abuse and cruelty. Bruner connected the welfare of animals to the ongoing crisis of global warming and the environment by reminding the audience that ”animals are the environment.” He also insisted, speaking as an evangelical, that “dominion is not domination" and that Christians have a biblical mandate to care for animals.

Rabbi Robin Nafshi followed by quoting her favorite verse from the Talmud where it states that "the highest wisdom is kindness.” She extoled her fellow Jewish believers to take specific steps to end traditional religious practices that inflicted pain and suffering upon animals and she reminded everyone that kindness is not merely a virtue but a religious duty for all people of faith.

The second religious speaker, Imam Yusuf Saleem, Resident Imam at Masjid Muhammad in Washington, DC, encouraged compassion for all sentient beings and invited the audience to remember the importance of “balance for all creation…including animals and plants.” Imam Saleem quoted from the Koran and spoke of the care all people are to show for their fellow creatures, and that the Prophet Muhammed always enjoined his soldiers never to harm women, children, or animals.

The final religious leader to speak and also a co-author of the Proclamation was Rev. Steve Keplinger, Rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Page, Arizona. Rev. Keplinger, who has authored a number of creation liturgies, challenged those in attendance by saying that there is nothing we devalue more in God’s creation than when we turn animals into objects. "This is our fault," he insisted, "because we are not correctly interpreting sacred texts and applying it to today’s culture.”

The moment everyone awaited finally arrived when Rev. Michael Bruner returned to the podium to read aloud "A Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion" as the co-authors of the document came up to sign their names to the Proclamation (http://www.bestfriends.org/signproc). He closed the reading of the Proclamation by inviting all people and leaders of faith to step in to this new paradigm of animal welfare, for which this Summit was only a beginning.

As the co-authors gathered to add their signatures to the Proclamation, Paul Berry officially closed the event with a call to action to all people of faith to add their names to the document unveiled today. Among those in the signatory gathering was Moseby, a rescue dog who added his “paw-to-graph” to the Proclamation, representing his canine brethren.

Best Friends is encouraging people to sign an online version of the proclamation at http://www.bestfriends.org/signproc. The goal is to collect one million signatures by the 2009 Summit of Animals and Religion: A Call to Compassion in a show of support for kindness and compassion as key spiritual values. To achieve this, Best Friends' Animals & Religion team will be facilitating an effort to reach 2008 churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and faith organizations by the end of 2008 in anticipation of global conference for Animals & Religion in 2009. If you’re interested in joining this effort, or have a faith organization that may like a Best Friends representative to visit, or simply want more information, please contact Kris Haley at [email protected].

After the event, Michael Bruner charged the group to go beyond just signing the document themselves. “If each person in this room gets 50 others to sign, and those 50 inspire 50 more, and so on through two more generations of signatures, we would achieve our goal of collecting one million signatures in support of the Proclamation and would stand as a united and compelling voice of compassion for animals around the world.

Please join us by signing your name today and ask your friends, family and faith leaders to do the same. In addition, to stay connected to the latest events in the Best Friends Multifaith Outreach Program, please join the Best Friends Animals & Religion Network Community at http://www.network.bestfriends.org/religion.

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God's Creatures Ministry is committed to spreading God's compassion to all He has made based on The Scriptures. Although we are a Christian Ministry, we encourage all to have their own animal welfare committee in their community. We extend our resources to those who would like to learn more or begin their own God's Creatures Ministry as an extension of us. God created us to have a vegetarian diet and commissioned us to protect His animals. Instead, we have exploited them for our entertainment, fashion, appetite and useless, torturous research. These creatures have the right to live as they were created to live. Because we live IN this world, but are not OF this world, we strive to bring God's mercy and justice to all. We live in God's Kingdom now where Jesus, The Sacrificial Lamb, The Prince of Peace, The Lion of Judah reigns. We look forward to that day when all of creation will be 'set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:21) where a little child will lead and guide God's creatures (see Isaiah 11:5-9).

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