DELOS Initiative

Understanding Sacred Natural Sites

DELOS Initiative

Project description

The Delos Initiative focuses on sacred natural sites in developed countries throughout the world. Its primary purpose is to help maintain both the sanctity and the biodiversity of these places, through the understanding of the complex relationship between spiritualcultural and natural values. The Delos Initiative is coordinated by MedINA and the Silene Association, and works under the framework of the Specialist Group on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas (CSVPA) within IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.

Sacred sites are natural areas considered sacred by people in some way. Often protected, the spiritual aspect of these places appears to act as a safeguard against biodiversity loss, and can therefore contribute to their continuing conservation. To this end, the methodology of the Delos Initiative combines the analysis of specific case studies with the application of the basic metaphysical principles shared by most spiritual traditions, such as respect for nature and the passing on to future generations of a healthy and functioning environment through the concept of stewardship. This intrinsic relationship between spirituality and the natural world can be harnessed to enhance conservation efforts, and promise a more sustainable future for sacred natural sites. 

The Delos Initiative has organised four workshops, each one focusing on varying aspects of sacred natural sites as well as different religions through the presentation of case studies illustrating the relationship between spiritual traditions and nature.  

  • Delos1 Workshop in Montserrat (Catalonia, Spain): ‘Nature and Spirituality’, 23-26 November, 2006. This workshop produced the ‘Montserrat Statement on sacred natural sites in technologically developed countries’ and the workshop’s proceedings. 
  • Delos2 Workshop in Ouranoupolis (Halkidiki, Greece): ‘Providing guidance for sacred natural sites in developed countries’, 24-28 October, 2007. This workshop produced the ‘Ouranoupolis Statement on sacred natural sites in technologically developed countries’ and the workshop’s proceedings. 
  • Delos3 Workshop in Inari (Lapland, Finland): Relation between mainstream faiths and indigenous beliefs’, 30 June – 4 July, 2010. This workshop produced the ‘Inari/Aanar Statement’ and the workshop’s proceedings. 
  • Delos4 Workshop in Malta: ‘Sacred Natural Sites with a primary focus on Islam, 24-26 April, 2017, with the support of the University of Malta. This workshop produced the Malta Statement and MedINA is currently coordinating the publication of the workshop’s proceedings.