The Delos Initiative on sacred natural sites in technologically developed countries was launched in 2004, in the context of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) of IUCN and its Task Force on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas, currently a Specialist Group (SG/CSVPA). The Initiative is jointly coordinated by Thymio Papayannis from MedINA and Josep-Maria Mallarach from Silene.
The main purpose of the Delos Initiative is to assist in maintaining both the sanctity and the biodiversity of sacred natural sites through the understanding of the complex relationship between spiritual / cultural and natural values. The concept of “sacred natural site” is used –both in the framework of the Delos Initiative and of the CSVPA Specialist Group– as a term that covers a diversity of types of areas and nuances. These can be translated in the main world languages with quite different terms (such as holy places, inviolable sanctuaries, sacred precincts, spiritual sites, dream sites, places of power and various others).
Three workshops have been organised up to now. The first workshop, Delos1 took place in in Montserrat (Catalonia), Spain in 2006 and focused on protected areas and spirituality, the second workshop, Delos2 took place in Ouranoupolis, a town next to the Holy Mountain of Athos, in Halkidiki, in 2007 and focused on providing guidance for sacred natural sites in developed countries. Finally, the third workshop, Delos3 took place in Inari, Finland in 2010 and focused on the diversity of sacred lands in Europe. The case studies that were presented in the three workshops were published in the respective proceedings and are available in print and electronically at on the Delos Initiative website.
The Delos Initiative is now organising its fourth workshop in Malta, in cooperation with the University of Malta – Institute of Earth Systems. This time the workshop will focus on the presentation and critical analysis of case studies with a primary emphasis on Islam and Judaism and on those relevant to more than one living religions and will extract lessons learnt concerning the integration of spiritual concerns in the management of natural sites. The Delos4 case studies and lessons learnt will be reviewed for inclusion in the updated and more encompassing IUCN Guidelines on Sacred Natural Sites to be published in the future. The workshop will take place in the Franciscan Retreat House of Porziuncola at the end of April 2017.