Duke of Edinburg and World Wildlife Fund Head Prince Philip chaired the event organised by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and WWF.
The Green Pilgrimage Network will help the faiths make their holy cities and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible according to their own theologies and understanding.
Pilgrimage is the world’s biggest travel event, with millions of people becoming pilgrims every year, whether for a few hours, days or weeks.
Ten faith traditions have nominated pilgrim cities or sacred sites to become founding members of the Green Pilgrimage Network, ranging as far afield as Louguan in the People’s Republic of China for Daoists to St Albans in the UK for Anglicans and Amritsar for the Sikhs.
The city authorities of Jerusalem, a major pilgrimage destination for three faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) will join the network to green the city for all pilgrims. In addition, Dwarka is also joining from India.
Washington based EcoSikh has coordinated the Sikh participation in the upcoming summit and has worked with SGPC and the Punjab Government to make Sikh commitment to make Amritsar an environmentally friendly city.
The initiative started when Bandana Kaur from EcoSikh and Victoria Finlay from ARC, the two organisations working with the Sikh community on environmental issues met with City officials in Amritsar to discuss the plans.
With the strong relationship between Sikh teachings and the environment, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Avtar Singh Makkar and Punjab Pollution Control Board Chairman Kahn Singh Pannu readily agreed that Amritsar would be a great addition to the Green Pilgrim Cities Network.
Mr Pannu and SGPC Secretary Dalmegh Singh will announce the Sikh commitment at Assi.
Mr Pannu said, “This is major step to bring together faith and environment in a concrete manner. I am very excited to be part of this initiative.”
Dalmegh Singh said, “SGPC has taken major steps to make environment as an important agenda in its operation and is committed to make the city of Guru Ram Dass ji a place of inspiration for nature preservation.”
EcoSikh President Dr Rajwant Singh said, “This is a great opportunity for Sikhs to show to the world that we are committed to save mother earth and this will start with our concerted action in Amritsar. The idea is to improve the environmental practices through eco-friendly planning.
“At heart is the hope that devotees will be encouraged to be respectful to nature and the environment throughout their pilgrimage by minimising waste.”
Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC, said, “With over 300 million followers worldwide visiting religious cities each year, the potential is tremendous to connect people to the ecological principles of their faith during their journeys.”
The network will also bring partners together to create sustainable cities worldwide through sustainable infrastructure, recycling and better waste management, introducing more low-carbon transport, increasing green cover and open spaces, and also sharing information on greening strategies between cities that join the network.
Enriched Forest wealth
Following Mr Pannu’s efforts, the Punjab Pollution Control Board in Amritsar has taken steps to protect the environment by increasing the forest cover by planting more than 130,000 trees in the district in remembrance of Guru Har Rai Ji.
Steps have also been taken to introduce Eco-rickshaws to reduce pollution.
Of all districts in Punjab, Amritsar has had the largest increase in forest cover and is providing better options for pedestrians to travel by foot around the city.
Ecosikh Project Manager Ravneet Pal Singh planned the first Sikh environment day this year on March 14.
He said, “This is a huge step forward for Sikhs as environmental issues take on more importance for this century. With Amritsar’s leadership, cities across Punjab can move forward to create a greener and more beautiful environment.”
At press time, the 2011 Assisi event was to begin (October 31) with a dazzling celebration in the 13th century Palazzo Monte Frumentario.
The ceremony will bring together music, dance, ritual and teaching from many religions and cultures, illustrating their common sacred mission to care for the natural world with examples of projects worldwide.
Following this inspirational opening, some 90 delegates from around the world, representing all the major faiths, will attend a two-day conference.
They will look at the way forward for religion and environmentalism in the light of their long-term plans and the challenges they face.
Rajwant Singh from Washington and Ravneet Singh from India were attending the Conference.
Source: EcoSikh News Press Release