Uniting people of all faiths to end tropical deforestation

The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative brings the commitment, influence and moral authority of religions to efforts to protect the world’s rainforests and the indigenous peoples that serve as their guardians.


Rainforests sustain all life on the planet

They are irreplaceable. Not only do they exhibit creation in its most exquisite beauty, they provide millions of people with food, shelter, livelihoods, medicine and clean water. They are also the best climate solution we have. If protected and restored, rainforests can provide an indispensable contribution to sustainable development. Instead, they are at grave risk.


Global deforestation is accelerating

Extractive industries and land conversion for agricultural products like beef, soy, palm oil, and pulp and paper are driving tropical deforestation. In the last decade alone, an area of forest the size of the United Kingdom, France and Germany combined has been lost forever. This destruction is unnecessary and is undermining efforts by the international community to address climate change, sustainable development and human rights.


Momentum to protect rainforests is growing, but more is needed

A coalition of indigenous peoples, government, business, science, NGO and civil society partners are working to halt deforestation. However, to achieve the speed and scale of change required, we need to bring the moral, ethical and spiritual dimension of humanity to bear more strongly on these efforts.


About Us

The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative is an international, multi-faith alliance that aims to bring moral urgency and faith-based leadership to global efforts to end tropical deforestation. It is a platform for religious leaders to work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples, governments, civil society and business on actions that protect rainforests and safeguard those that serve as their guardians.

We focus on three main goals:

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Raise awareness

Raise awareness of the tropical deforestation crisis by equipping religious leaders with the science, information and tools needed to serve as effective advocates for rainforest protection.

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Mobilize action

Mobilize faith-based action by connecting religious leaders with allies from across sectors to multiply their collective impact.

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Influence policy

Advocate for policies that protect forests by encouraging governments and companies to adopt, fulfill and expand upon their commitments to protect rainforests and the rights of indigenous peoples.



We work globally and in major rainforest countries to support religious leaders and spiritual communities that are mobilizing to protect rainforests.

We currently work in Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Peru, which together contain 70% of the world’s remaining tropical forests.


The Partnership


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We are focused on rainforests because they represent the very best of the planet’s beauty, supporting life and providing billions of people with food, shelter, livelihoods, medicine and clean water. They are also among the best climate solutions we have. 

Tragically, tropical deforestation is rampant. This destruction is unnecessary and it is deeply undermining efforts by the international community to address climate change, sustainable development and human rights. We see the deforestation crisis as a moral and ethical concern of the highest order. 

Over the last decade, a broad coalition of governments, indigenous peoples, scientists, NGOs, businesses and civil society partners have been working together on this agenda. But we have seen that more is needed. We need help to inspire people in new ways, to appeal to their core values, and to make the ethical case for urgent and concerted action to protect rainforests.

We believe that the leadership, moral authority and unparalleled influence of the world’s religions may be the missing piece that will help end tropical deforestation. This partnership is based on an informed belief that there is a commitment across faiths to achieve this goal.   

We will use this newsletter to provide you with updates on the global and country work of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, as well as relevant news, resources and educational materials on rainforests, climate change and indigenous peoples issues.  In this first issue, we take a look back at the groundwork that was laid for the initiative in 2018. 

To turn the corner on tropical degradation we must be determined, impatient and, above all else, we must seek cooperation and shared purpose. Through this initiative, we have an opportunity to mobilize a whole new level of urgency, awareness and action around rainforest protection.

We hope you will join us and add your voice and commitment to this partnership.  We look forward to working with you, and genuinely appreciate your interest and engagement.
Above: Lizardo Cauper, President of the national Amazonian indigenous peoples' organization AIDESEP, speaks with Fabiola Martha Muñoz DoderoMinister of Environment, and Liliana La Rosa, Minister of Social Inclusion and Development, at the launch event of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative in Peru, December 2018


In the last month, the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative has launched country programs in Colombia and Peru. The launch events brought more than 125 leaders from a diversity of spiritual traditions together with indigenous peoples, NGOs, multilateral and government partners for trainings, workshops, and multi-stakeholder planning and dialogue on how religious leaders and faith communities can bring their considerable influence to bear on halting and reversing tropical deforestation in each country.

Declarations were prepared and delivered at public launch events, capturing the shared commitment of religious leaders to take on the issue, in full partnership with indigenous peoples and the range of actors already working on forest protection. Proposals were made on concrete actions that the country programs can take in the areas of education and awareness raising, advocacy campaigns and public outreach, influencing government policy and legislation, and influencing the policies and actions of the private sector, all of which will be captured in country strategies and action plans that will be developed and overseen in the coming weeks by Advisory Councils in each country. 

For more information and to get in touch with the interim country facilitators in Colombia and Peru, please write to colombia@interfaithrainforest.org and peru@interfaithrainforest.org.


The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative website is now live. 

The website will be continually updated as a source of information about the initiative, resources for faith leaders and forest advocates, and ongoing news about the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative’s country programs and global engagements.


Event at Parliament of the World's Religions 

November 6, 2018 - Toronto, Canada

Prominent indigenous leaders from Brazil, Davi Kopenawa and Benki Piyanko Ashaninka spoke about the importance of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative at the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions, the oldest, largest global interfaith event, where nearly 8,000 religious leaders from around the world gathered in Toronto 1-7 November 2018.  These indigenous leaders said they urgently need help from religious leaders to deal with the invaders into their territories from extractive industries who are contaminating their water and decimating countless species of plants and animals. Spokespeople from GreenFaith, the Yale Forum on Religions and Ecology, and UN Environment spoke about the global and national level activities of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative.  Link to event video here

Above: Reverend Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith and Global Steering Committee member of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, introduces the panel of indigenous and interfaith leaders.  

Inception Missions to Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Peru

May, June and October, 2018 

Between May and October 2018, initiative partners undertook inception missions to Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Peru to meet with a range of stakeholders on the development of country-level programs. The delegations met with key religious leaders – as well as indigenous peoples’ groups, NGOs working on forest issues, climate scientists and forest experts, and host and donor governments – to brief them on the initiative and explore priority areas of work for country programs. The delegations received broad and enthusiastic endorsement of the initiative, and work is now underway to commence planning for faith-based networks to protect forests in each country. 

Above: Religious leaders, indigenous peoples and NGOs discuss concerted action to protect Indonesia's rainforests. 

International Conference on the Third Anniversary of Laudato Si'

July 5-6, 2018 - Vatican City, Rome

A delegation representing the initiative was invited to the Vatican to participate in the conference “Saving Our Common Home and The Future of Life on Earth” to mark the third anniversary of the Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si’. The initiative featured prominently in the deliberations, with remarks from H.E. Ola Elvestuen, Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, (video here, starting at 2:11); Bishop Emeritus Gunnar Stålsett (video here, starting at 12:40); Dr. Charles McNeill, Senior Advisor on Forests & Climate, UN Environment; and a statement on behalf of Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment, about the commitment of the United Nations system to mobilizing a faith-based movement to protect forests.

Above: H.E. Ola Elvestuen, Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, briefs His Holiness Pope Francis on the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative. 

Session at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum

June 28, 2018  - Oslo, Norway

As a contribution to the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum – one of the largest and most influential gatherings of forest experts – the initiative convened the parallel session, The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative: An Opportunity to Preach Beyond the Choir. Moderated by Bishop Emeritus Gunnar Stålsett, the panel featured a discussion on the potential of the initiative to serve as a catalyst for rainforest protection as well as evolving efforts to set up country programs in Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Peru. Full recording here.

Above: Mauricio Lopez, Executive Secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) on the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative panel facilitated by Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, Honorary President of Religions for Peace. 

Consultation with Indigenous Leaders from Nine Amazon Countries 

June 18-20, 2018 - Macapa, Brazil

The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative was invited by COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin) – the umbrella group of indigenous leaders representing over one million indigenous peoples from all nine Amazon countries – to contribute to the 4th Amazon Summit and the 2nd Amazonian Women’s Congress and brief indigenous peoples from throughout the Amazon and consult on how the initiative should be designed to bolster, enhance and advance their efforts to protect forests. The initiative was officially endorsed by both congresses, which welcomed the commitment of religious leaders and faith-based communities to “defending the defenders” of rainforests. 

Above: Dr. Charles McNeill, Senior Advisor, Forests and Climate, for UN Environment, participates in the opening session of the assembly.

Briefing and Consultation at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

April 19, 2018 - UN, New York

As a contribution to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative hosted a briefing and consultation to solicit input on its global advocacy work and plans for country programs in Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Peru. The event included a briefing from a distinguished panel and was followed by an open consultation on how the initiative can best serve, support and partner with indigenous peoples and forests communities. Full recording here

Above: Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and member of the Global Steering Committee for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, joins other panelists at the briefing and consultation.  


"Faith communities in Peru have joined efforts to launch the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative because we are convinced that in this way we are defending life, land and cultures for ourselves and for generations to come."

--Cardinal Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno in his editorial Un Milagro de Vida (El Pais)

Read more


Religious Leaders Mobilize to Protect Indigenous People and Forests (Mongabay)
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Colombia: Scientists team up with indigenous, faithful to fight for forests (Mongabay)
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Colombia: Desde ahora los bosques quedan en las manos de Dios (Semana Sostenible)
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Colombia: Religiones e indígenas exigen detener la deforestación (El Espectador)
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Peru: Iglesias lanzan "iniciativa" conjunta de defensa de la Amazonía peruana (Agence France Press - Español)
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Peru: Lanzan iniciativa interreligiosa para la protección de los bosques en Perú (El Espectador)
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BookWhy Forests?  Why Now?  The Science, Economics and Politics of Tropical Forests

Why Forests? Why Now? synthesizes the latest evidence on the importance of tropical forests in a way that is accessible to anyone interested in climate change and development. It makes the case to decision-makers in rich countries that rewarding developing countries for protecting their forests is urgent, affordable, and achievable.

ArticleGlobal Forest Watch: 2017 was the second-worst year on record for tropical tree cover loss

An analysis of the latest data shows that the tropics experienced 15.8 million hectares (39.0 million acres) of tree cover loss in 2017, an area the size of Bangladesh.

ArticleNatural Climate Solutions: Key to over one-third of the climate solution

Natural climate solutions in conservation, restoration, and/or improved land management actions can unlock one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030.  

JournalThe global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation

Indigenous peoples manage or have tenure rights to over one quarter of the world’s land surface, furthering evidence that partnerships with indigenous peoples can yield significant benefits for conservation of ecologically valuable landscapes and ecosystems, including forests.