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The first workshop of the Delos Initiative: Protected Areas and Spirituality

23-26 November 2006, Monastery of Montserrat, Spain

The first workshop of The Delos Initiative, part of the WCPA Task Force on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas, was held from November 23-26 in the Monastery of Saint Mary of Montserrat, nested in the Mountain of Montserrat Natural Park. Montserrat is a holy mountain, located in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, Catalonia, Spain.

The workshop was attended by participants from eight countries, as well as a group of observers from Catalonia, which included representatives of the Catalan government, local governments, academia, as well as some Catholic and Buddhist monks related to Benedictine, Cistercian and Sakya monasteries, located within natural protected areas around Barcelona.

Several case studies from Finland, Greece, Japan, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, and the USA which had been prepared according to the pilot plan were presented and discussed, with the aim of distilling the lessons learned, to identify ways to promote positive synergies between the conservation of natural values and the conservation of spiritual and intangible values at the same protected areas.

In addition, the participants discussed the UNESCO-IUCN Draft Guidelines on Natural Sacred Sites, as it is felt that they should take in the points of view of mainstream religions, as well as a short position paper about the inclusion of the concept of sacred natural sites in all the IUCN categories for protected areas, to be presented in the WCPA summit of Seville, Spain, in March 2007.

All the participants considered that the pilot plan of The Delos Initiative and the workshop of Montserrat were a success and agreed on the need to move forward the Initiative, preparing a second workshop by the end of 2007 in order to be able to make a significant contribution to the 2008 IUCN World Congress.

The workshop was sponsored by the Board of the Mountain of Montserrat, the Ministry for the Environment and Housing of Catalonia, the Fundació Territori i Paisatge of Caixa Catalunya Savings Bank. Collaborators include the Monastery of Montserrat, Metsahällitus, Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos, Fundación de Estudios Tradicionales and Silene Association.

The second workshop of the Delos Initiative: Providing guidance for sacred natural sites in developed countries

24-28 October 2007, Ouranoupolis, Halkidiki, Greece

The second workshop of the Delos Initiative was held on 24-28 October, in Ouranoupolis, a town next to the Holy Mountain of Athos, in Halkidiki, Greece. Thus the Delos Initiative, in the framework of the Task Force on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas of IUCN/WCPA, continued its activities after the first successful workshop that was held in November 2006, in the Monastery of Montserrat, Spain.

The Ouranoupolis meeting was hosted by Med-INA and was attended by 22 participants from 11 countries. Among them there were representatives of the Holy Community of Mount Athos, the Halkidiki Prefecture, the Greek Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, as well as members of the conservation and religious communities. The meeting was honoured by a message of blessings and guidance of HAH The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome (click here to read text).

During the workshop, experiences from Mount Athos in Greece, Jabal Lâ’lam in Morocco, the San Francisco Peaks of California, Mani San Mount in South Korea, Solovetsky Islands of Russia, Buila Vinturarita in Romania, Foreste Casentinesi of Italy, Dhimurru in northern Australia, Poblet Monastery and Sakya Tashi Ling in Catalonia, Spain, Rila Monastery in Bulgaria and the Chryssopigi Monastery in Crete, Greece, were presented and discussed.

The participants explored ways of strengthening the conservation of the natural and spiritual heritage in these areas and in other similar sites, as well as the role IUCN and the conservation community could play. The conclusions of the workshop were incorporated in the Ouranoupolis Statement, a document that includes the lessons drawn from the case-studies presented, guidelines that concern the management of monastic lands, guidance for sacred natural sites in developed countries and the necessary actions that must be taken towards the IUCN World Conservation Congress that will be held in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) in October 2008. The text is currently in draft form, but will be finalised and circulated broadly soon.

The organisers of the Workshop would like to express their gratitude to HAH The Ecumenical Patriarch for his message, the Holy Community of Mt. Athos, the Monasteries of Cryssopighi in Crete, Ormylia in Halkidiki and Varlaam in Meteora for their contribution, the Prefecture of Halkidiki and the Board of MedINA that covered the Workshop costs, with the support of the A.G. Leventis Foundation.

The third workshop of Delos Initiative: Diversity of Sacred Lands in Europe

1-3 July 2010
, Inari (Lapland), Finland

The third workshop of the Delos Initiative took place from 1 to 3 July In Inari, Lapland,Finland. It was organised jointly by the Delos Initiative and Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services that was the local organiser and host. Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services manages Finland’s state owned protected areas, including 35 national parks. The Ministry of the Environment and the IUCN National Committee of Finland also supported the event. The Sámi Museum and Nature Centre Siida at Inari, Finland was the venue of the workshop.

The indigenous Sámi people participated in the Delos 3 Workshop as keynote speakers and observers. The President of the Finnish Sámi Parliament Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi and Sámi Museum Director Tarmo Jomppanen welcomed the sacred natural site experts to Finnish Sámi homeland. Researchers from Norway and Finland shed also light on Sámi culture.

The workshop was attended by 30 participants from 14 countries. The theme of the meeting was ‘Diversity of Sacred Lands in Europe’. Interconnectiveness between human beings and the natural world, as well as the respect of indigenous people for nature emerged as key issues during the workshop. The participants were particularly impressed by the Sámi traditions and profound relation to nature, as well as the close co-operation between their Parliament and the Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services.

In addition, the diversity of SNS in Europe and that of the minority faiths in the broader continent were examined during workshop sessions. Moreover, the management of lands of mainstream religions and of monastic communities was also addressed, and an evaluation of the IUCN-UNESCO Guidelines for Managers of Protected Areas on SNS was made. The workshop programme included a visit to a Sámi sacred site the Ukonsaari Island on Lake Inari and a hike to Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church. Ukonsaari is recognised under the Delos Initiative. The workshop proceedings will be published in book form in 2011 and will include texts of the contributions presented during the meeting.

Local Host

Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services, manager of Finnish protected areas (