Youths will be future protectors of the environment, and so nurturing their love for conservation early on in life is crucial. WWF-Malaysia (WWF-M) has organised many eco-educational activities such as workshops, talks and field trips in the past 20 years. But the burgeoning use of social and digital media among the young means green issues have to keep up with the times.
In addressing how Islam encourages conservation and advocates men’s responsibility for it, WWF-M’s Education for Sustainable Development manager, Nor Shidawati Abd Rashid, cites the example of the Hajj rituals performed by Muslims.
“Two out of the 13 prohibitions that we need to observe during the Hajj are, to refrain from uprooting any plants or trees big or small, and to avoid taking part in the killing or hunting of animals within the holy areas of Makkah and Madinah,” she explains.
“These prohibitions illustrate that even in our state of total submission to the Creator, we need to be mindful of our surroundings, towards living and non-living things,” says Nor Shidawati, adding that the human race is put on Earth to worship the Creator.
Hence, serving as responsible stewards towards the earth’s resources while showing gratitude for His bountiful blessings are also forms of worship.
WWF-M’s latest effort is an animation series that has a religious approach to convey the conservation message. The debut series, named When We’re Friends With Nature, is produced in collaboration with Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KUISCELL) and was launched recently. It’s meant for children aged between 11 and 15, harnessing animation to capture their attention.
WWF-M executive director, Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, says the idea for animation is timely given the changing digital landscape. “Partnering KUISCELL is strategic for us to spread the knowledge on how religion advocates caring for Mother Nature,” he explains. “We started off with Islam, but we will expand into other faiths for our future series. All religions teach us to be good, to love your environment and all living species.”
Dionysius adds, “Hopefully, the respect for religion will empower our younger generation to view environmental conservation from a wider angle, with something like animation that is light-hearted enough to absorb.”
Nor Shidawati says we learn that conservation of natural resources, in this case water (which is considered a blessing and gift from the Almighty), is one of the key principles taught by the Prophet Muhammad, even when performing ablutions.
The animation series was based on a book titled Islam, Wildlife Conservation And You, which was jointly published by the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia and WWF-M. It was dubbed the first handbook (of sorts) on eco conservation guided by Islamic principles, to be published in Malaysia.
Dionysius contends that while religious education programmes have been around for many years, there is a recent gap between religion and conservation, so WWF-M’s long-standing Education for Sustainable Development (formerly known as Environmental Education programme) has been tasked to bridge this.
“We want to make sure that environment education is creatively instilled into young minds,” he says. The aim is to encourage the series to be played for children as classroom projects, something which educators can use as teaching aids. The whole class can then find solutions to the environmental issues being highlighted.
“We are in for the long-haul because children are our future decision makers,” says Dionysius. WWF-Malaysia will also be meeting Al-Hijrah TV station for a possible airing of the programme. Three episodes of the 13-episode series have been completed to far, while the rest are in the works.
Meanwhile, television personality Ustaz Don Daniyal, who is also KUISCELL Sdn Bhd general manager, lent his voice to one of the main characters for the animation.
“Many used to think that the environment is something they need not bother with, because there will be ‘others’ who will take care of it,” he says. “This is why education is important, and I believe it can happen anywhere, as long as there is an educator and an audience of learners. The protection of Earth as provided in religious teachings is what this production is about.”