Interfaith group seeks to protect California deserts

Seven religious leaders climbed out of their vehicles on a recent weekday and scattered on foot across Whitewater Canyon northwest of Palm Springs. They were looking for clues to the character of the prophets said to have used the wilderness as a gateway to spiritual awakenings.

It didn’t take long for members of the newly formed Desert Stewardship Project, an interfaith coalition dedicated to protecting the vast expanses of arid California, to find what they were seeking, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Moses met the Lord in the form of a burning bush on a mountain in the Sinai desert. Jesus prayed in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry. The prophet Muhammad meditated in a cave on the desert mountain of Hira, where the Angel Gabriel recited the Koran to him.

The coalition’s members — churches, synagogues, mosques and cultural organizations mainly in the Inland Empire — are linked by the spiritual connections between their local desert landscapes and the parched sacred grounds that have nurtured some of the world’s great religions.

Their mission is to spur more congregations to take on issues affecting desert lands, vistas and waterways and help provide what Burklo described as “a new dimension and depth” to the conversations about them. The areas of interest include alternative energy development, mining, recreation, military exercises, transportation corridors and proposed national monuments.


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This post was last updated: Jan. 8, 2011