Catholic Sentinel photo by Aaron Teplick
Rabbi Michael Cahana laughs as the Dalai Lama tries on his new U.P. Pilots visor.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Aaron Teplick
Rabbi Michael Cahana laughs as the Dalai Lama tries on his new U.P. Pilots visor.

Most religions have different philosophical views, but they all share important messages of love, compassion and tolerance — and those virtues should be extended also to the environment.

This theme of shared responsibly among the world’s faithful arose many times during a discussion today at the University of Portland, which brought four of Oregon’s most esteemed religious leaders together for an interfaith panel discussion with the Dalai Lama.

“We must respect and protect God’s creation,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said to a packed audience at the Chiles Center. This panel was the first of a series of events during a three-day environmental summit. This is the Dalai Lama’s first visit in Portland since 2001.

During the discussion, the Dalai Lama was joined by Holy Cross Father William Beauchamp, president of the University of Portland; Rabbi Michael Cahana, leader of the Congregation Beth Israel of Portland; Imam Muhammad Najieb, leader of the Muslim Community Center of Portland; and Grandmother Agnes Baker, pilgrim from the Confederated Tribes of Siletz.

As he walked onstage, someone handed the Dalai Lama a University of Portland Pilots visor, which he wore through the entire discussion. The visor protected his eyes from the bright stage lights, said the Dalai Lama, adding, “I love this color.”

Following a welcome from Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, KGW news anchor Laurel Porter moderated the discussion, inviting each religious leader to share a prayer and thoughts about their faith’s connection to the environment.

The Dalai Lama opened by saying that the faithful of the world must be more active in promoting religious harmony on the basis of mutual respect. Everyone shares a common responsibility to cultivate compassion and forgiveness in humanity.

Father Beauchamp said the Christian teaching about a relationship with the environment is rooted in Genesis: God created humans as stewards of his creation.

“God’s work on Earth must be our own because we have been entrusted with a precious gift and it is our moral responsibility to take care of it,” he said. At the university, education helps bridge the gap between awareness and action, the priest said.

Rabbi Cahana said the Torah teaches that all of creation is linked, united in a relationship with God and to one another. Jewish teaching indicates that humans are “a part of, not apart from”, the environment in which they live. The Midrash, a body of ancient rabbinic homilies, says: “Pay heed that you do not corrupt and destroy My world; for if you corrupt it there is no one to repair it after you.”

Imam Najieb said spiritual leaders must use dialogue as a means to activate. He called for all faithful of the world to come together as one to be a springboard for environmental change.

Grandma Baker shored up the discussion: “We are all in this leaky canoe together,” which was met with roars of laughter and applause.

At the end of the panel, the Dalai Lama carefully draped white Khatas, or traditional Tibetan offering scarf’s, around each of the speakers’ shoulders.

The Dalia Lama’s visit was hosted by Maitripa College, the only Tibetan Buddhist college in the Pacific Northwest. He spoke twice today at the University of Portland. Friday he visits Eugene, and Saturday he returns to Portland to address people at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.