Washington, DC (PRWEB) November 15, 2011
November 15, Washington: 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 (GPN) pledged to implement. Amritsar, only city from India or South Asia, joined the network formed during a summit from October 1- November 3, 2011, in Assisi, Italy. This was jointly organized by Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
UK?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, Italy. 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. EcoSikh organized Sikh participation and worked with SGPC and the Punjab Government for Amritsar’s inclusion.
“Cities from China to Norway and faiths from all around the world today commit to making one of the most powerful religious experiences ? pilgrimage — a living witness to a commitment to protect our living planet,” said ARC secretary general Martin Palmer in the release.
“The idea does not belong to these founder members or even to ARC or WWF. This is an invitation to all holy places to put into practice what they preach — namely, that when we walk upon this earth, we walk upon sacred land,” he said.
Founder members of the Green Pilgrimage Network include: Amritsar, India (for Sikhs); Assisi, Italy (Roman Catholic);Etchmiadzin, Armenia (Armenian Orthodox);Haifa, Israel (Bah???);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).
A 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.
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.
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, Hindu pilgrim cities from India in the next phase.
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.
Muslim representative from UK inaugurated their Guide Book on Green Hajj. About 6 Million pilgrims are expected to Hajj this November and Muslims hope to spread to word to curtail the use of plastic bottles. 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.
Her Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent conferring with Dalmegh Singh and Mr. Pannu along with Martin Palmer
Other plans announced by Green Pilgrimage Network leaders included measures to protect nature, teach children about conservation, protect sacred forests, reduce waste and encourage recycling, and organize nature tours for pilgrims.
The Green Pilgrimage Network released a list of various efforts pilgrims and pilgrim cities can make, such as choosing sustainable tourist agencies and travel arrangements, eating and drinking ethically, minimizing waste, and supporting work being done locally to help “green” the sacred destination.
The Sacred Land Celebration opened on 31 October with a procession of religious delegates, led by Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent. She represented ARC founder the Duke of Edinburgh, who was unable to attend because of illness.
Ravneet Singh and Dr. Rajwant Singh presenting the city of Amritsar to the conference and Sikh traditional practices
Assisi, (Italy) 1st November: Inaugural conference of Green Pilgrim Network (GPN) organized by Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) opened in Assisi, here today. ARC has brought together major faiths of the world to form a Green network of pilgrimage cities across the globe. In this inaugural conference 11 world pilgrim cities of different faiths are participating including Amritsar represented by Sikhs at Assisi.
The conference began with procession from basilica of St Francis, Assisi led by Royal Princess Michael, Duke of Kent. In addition, religious leaders of major faiths in their traditional robes and attires joined the procession. Representatives of faiths included Sikhs, Baha?is , Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Dao of China, Mongolian Buddhist, Church of Armenian, St. Albans, Anglican Church, Jews, Shinto from Japan and Muslims representing cities of their faiths in the inaugural gathering. High-school children from Assisi carried the flags containing symbols of different religions. Sikh religion was represented in the procession by S. Dalmegh Singh, Secretary Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) along with Mr. Kahan Singh Pannu, IAS, Chairman Punjab Pollution Control Board PPCB, Dr. Rajwant Singh, President EcoSikh from Washington DC and Ravneet Pal Singh, EcoSikh Project Manager from India.
The colorful and impressive procession culminated at the conference hall where prayers by leaders of different faiths were recited. Dr. Rajwant Singh recited the hymns of Aarti from the Sikh scriptures, Sri Guru Granth Sahib in the assembly, signifying the importance of nature in the universe. Amritsar, the city of Golden Temple is the only Indian city of pilgrimage to join the green network so far. SGPC has been instrumental in the matter of joining the green network spearheaded by EcoSikh.