The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro may or may not go down in history as a turning point in humankind’s treatment of planet Earth. But it quite likely will stand as the first celebration of a new synthesis of world religions.

An article published in the conference newspaper on how to find one’s way around Rio suggested using the giant statue of Christ that stands on a mountain peak above the city as a reference point: “Just remember where you are staying or going in relationship to Christ and you should never get lost.” With the international conference drawn to a close, one of the many questions remaining was, where was the Earth Summit going in relationship to Christ?

Apart from a reference to the Christ statue in the opening remarks by Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello and a quotation from Leviticus by the Israeli representative, most religious input came via the conference’s Global Forum, the nongovernmental meeting held on nearby Flamengo Beach. The majority of the talk there, however, sounded more like vague pantheism than Christianity.

An all-night vigil held there on June 4 opened with “invocations of the sacred” by some 30 religions, and concluded with an address by the Dalai Lama and a Hare Krishna mantra. On another occasion, a large contingent from the United Church of Christ joined with members of several other religions in a demonstration, which opened with the singing of the hymn “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”—substituting the word Earth for Lord.

Saving Earth’S Souls

Some Christian observers said the forum’s religious smorgasbord illustrated a search for a spiritual center for a “new ethic” of Earth care. In fact, Maurice Strong, the Canadian businessman who organized the summit, said ...

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