April 18, 2015, Washington D.C. — Dozens of Sikhs sang and marched for the earth on Saturday to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, hosted by Earth Day Network and the Global Poverty Project, brought together more than 250,000 people to hear messages and watch videos about fighting climate change and extreme poverty, in between musical performances. Gathered at the Washington Monument Grounds, the Sikh group along with thousands of others watched and listened to politicians, non-profit leaders, musicians, film stars, and activists explain the growing concerns with climate change and how its effects exacerbate extreme poverty, and vice versa.
The group, which was facilitated by EcoSikh, sang kirtan on the National Mall, distributed food and water to passersby, and marched down toward the Washington Monument carrying banners that read: “Sikhs Stand for Climate Justice” and “Sikhs for Mother Earth.” Their presence was felt by many, as non-Sikhs stopped to ask questions, take pictures, and learn more about why the Sikhs were involved in environmental causes.
“The presence of our collection of Eco-Sikhs is important to the national dialogue surrounding climate change and extreme poverty,” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, president of EcoSikh. “Sikhs are not only charged with the responsibility to defend Mata Dharth (Mother Earth), but we are also ready and willing to act. Faith communities have a crucial role in combatting the adverse effects of climate change and extreme poverty, and Sikhs are taking part in that role,” he continued.
Adorned with green t-shirts that read “Ek Onkar, 1 Love, 1 Earth” on the front and “Air is the Teacher, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of All/ Pavan Guru Pani, Pita Mata, Dharat Mahat “ on the back, the group proudly displayed their faith and love of the environment.
EcoSikh’s participation in the Earth Day celebrations comes at the heels of the release of “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative,” a major statement from global religious and faith-based organization leaders. This statement, which was facilitated by the World Bank, is a call to action for religious and faith-based organizations to end extreme poverty by 2030. As a signatory, EcoSikh has highlighted the role of climate change in increasing poverty, and how the most vulnerable populations of the earth are most deeply affected by climate extremes.
“Fighting extreme poverty and mitigating climate change goes hand-in-hand,” said EcoSikh U.S. program manager, Sumeet Kaur. “Environmental justice not only looks at how the environment is being affected, but also who is being impacted. The answer is often those who are least responsible for climate change effects: people living in poverty,” said Kaur. “We hope that Sikhs understand how they can make a difference for the environment, and that others know that we are part of this global, green movement.”