November 7, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Assisi/Italy (November 7, 2011): A ban on cars on pilgrimage routes; solar panels for cathedral roofs; provision of fresh clean, water for pilgrims, and the planting of thousands of trees around sacred sites – these are just some of the initiatives which the founder members of the Green Pilgrimage Network today pledged to implement. Amritsar, only city from South Asia joined the network.
England’s Royal Princess Michael, the Duke of Kent, gave a certificate of joining of Amritsar city in the newly formed Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN) on behalf of ARC at the first international conference of pilgrim cities, around the world, in Assisi. S. Dalmegh Singh, Secretary Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) received this certificate on behalf of the holy city. In addition, K.S Pannu, Chairman Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), Dr. Rajwant Singh, President EcoSikh and Ravneet Pal Singh, EcoSikh India project manager were the other Sikh delegates.
Earlier during the day detailed presentation on the Golden Temple and environment initiatives by the SGPC and Amritsar city was presented by Dr. Rajwant Singh and Ravneet Pal Singh to the entire gathering. Included in the presentation were plantation drives, solar energy use and future water recycling programs. A movie on food (Langar) preparation in the Golden temple for thousands of pilgrims, its distribution and eco-friendly cleaning was also shown. Many delegates from all over the world had a first time exposure to the Sikh tradition of free food, the Langar and Sikh activism on environment preservation.
Victoria Finaly, the Communication Director of ARC said, “The Sikh presentation was one of the best showcasing of their work, faith and practice and variety in the environment initiatives.” Delegates from many other cities expressed that there is much to be learned from Sikh initiatives on environment.
Dalmegh Singh on behalf of the President of SGPC said, “SGPC is willing to partner to make the city of Amritsar as eco-friendly as possible. We have already devoted considerable resources towards environmental awareness and preservation.”
Dr. Rajwant Singh, said, “Making Amritsar a green city will require close coordination between the religious sector, the civil society and the government. We are hopeful that this implementation will occur rapidly and Punjab government will step up.” Washington based EcoSikh coordinated the Sikh participation and bringing the Amritsar in the network.
Prayers from each faith interspersed the entire programme. A hymn by Guru Arjun Dev, “Sabh bidh tum he jaan-te pyare” was recited by Dr. Rajwant Singh before lunch time on the first day of the conference. The attendees joined in singing the Sikh prayer at the invitation by Dr. Singh.
During the group discussions, Ravneet Pal Singh presented various ideas like a nature walk around the pilgrimage centres, green messages from faith theology to be displayed in the sacred sites to sensitize and connect the pilgrims with nature and its preservation and a pledge form for people to commit to green action. These ideas were welcomed by the august gathering.
Next day Mr. K S Pannu presented his views in a panel discussion on the topic of ‘What cities can do to become Green Pilgrim Cities’. He elaborated his own role in implementing the certain regulations to improve the sustainability of the Amritsar city and the state of Punjab. He challenged the faiths to put their own share and not depend on Governments alone to bring the change.
Mr. Gopal Patel, manager of UK based, Hindu Bhumi Project, presented the first phase of his plans of greening of Hindu temples and Green Puja across the globe. According to him they will bring Hindu Pilgrim cities from India in the next phase.
Muslim representative from UK inaugurated their Guide Book on Green Hajj. About 6 Million pilgrims are expected to Hajj this November. The city of Trondheim, a pilgrim city in northern Europe presented its own plans and the mayor of the city, Mr. Geirund Lykke invited the faiths for the second conference of GPC network in 2012.
Founder members of the Green Pilgrimage Network include: Amritsar, India (for Sikhs);Assisi, Italy (Roman Catholic);Etchmiadzin, Armenia (Armenian Orthodox);Haifa, Israel (Bahà’ì);Jerusalem (for Jews, Christians and Muslims);Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto shrines in Japan;Kano, Nigeria (Islam’s Qadiriyyah Sufi tradition);Louguan in the People’s Republic of China (Daoists);St Albans, England (Church of England);Luss, Loch Lomond, Scotland (Church of Scotland);St Pishoy Monastery, Wadi El Natroun, Egypt (the Coptic Orthodox Church); and Trondheim, Norway (Lutheran Church of Norway).
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