Amritsar formally joined the Green Pilgrim Cities Network at an international conference in Assisi, Italy from October 31 to November 2, attended by leaders of many world religions. The conference was organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), and attended by Royal Princess Michael, the Duke of Kent on behalf of ARC’s founder His Royal Highness Prince Philip.
It was the first major meeting on religious cities and the environment, sponsored by the Government of Norway and other donors. The Sikh city of Amritsar, built by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ramdas ji, was one of the first to join the network of religious eco-cities.
Amritsar was the only city from India or South Asia which joined the network. SGPC has been instrumental in the matter of joining the green network spearheaded by EcoSikh.
Day 1; launch and celebrations (click here for pictures):
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. High-school children from Assisi carried the flags containing symbols of different religions.
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.
Day 2; presentations and highlighting plans (click here pictures)
S. Dalmegh Singh, Secretary Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) received certificate on behalf of the holy city from UK’s Royal Princess Michael, the Duke of Kent.
In the second session of this day, a detailed presentation on the Golden Temple and environment initiatives by the SGPC and Amritsar city was presented by EcoSikh’s 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 short movie on food (Langar) preparation in the Golden temple for thousands of pilgrims, its distribution and eco-friendly cleaning was also shown.
Day 3; panel discussions
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 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.
During the group discussions, Ravneet Pal Singh presented various ideas like a nature walk around the pilgrimage centers, 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.
EcoSikh coverage by National Public Radio
Link to picture stream by ARC
Links to press/media coverage:
List of founder members of the Green Pilgrimage Network:
- 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)
- Luss, Loch Lomond, Scotland (Church of Scotland)
- St Albans, England (Church of England)
- St Pishoy Monastery, Wadi El Natroun, Egypt (the Coptic Orthodox Church)
- Trondheim, Norway (Lutheran Church of Norway)
This network will connect religious cities like Amritsar in their journey to improve their environmental practices through eco-friendly planning, and at the heart is the hope that devotees will be encouraged to be respectful to nature and the environment throughout their pilgrimage by minimizing waste, respect that they will bring home with them at the end. 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.