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Greener habits for up to 24 million Sikhs

July 4, 2009:

This Press Release was issued by UNDP on July 4, 2009. See below for details of media coverage of the event in India





New Delhi. Sikh religious leaders representing thousands of gurdwaras, or temples around India and the world met today in New Delhi to discuss the greening of their houses of worship and schooling. The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are advising these Sikh leaders on how to lower their carbon footprint and protect the natural environment.

As a result, the leaders, among whom both the apex body Shiromani Gurdawara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) and the powerful Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) were fundamental to the agreement, adopted at the conference a five year greening plan., which includes a long-term commitment to transform their temples into ecologically sound buildings in terms of energy use, the types of building materials used and their means of transportation. The leaders will also incorporate environmental education into Sikh education curricula. Already, the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, co-organiser of the conference, has created an organization, called ‘EcoSikh,’ to disseminate ‘green knowledge’ throughout communities.

"Eco Babu" Balbir Singh Seechewal holds the Guide to creating your EcoSikh Five Year Plan, New Delhi July 4, 2009.
“Throughout history religions have helped people and civilizations interpret and understand events around them and to respond to new challenges in light of their spiritual heritage and moral compass,” said Olav Kjorven, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP’s Director of Development Policy, in New Delhi for the conference. “Now, when we’re facing the challenge of securing a liveable planet for our children and safeguarding creation as we know it, the leadership of religions is indispensable."

The symbol of Sikhism is a sword which stands for the Sikh commitment to defend the weak, particularly widows and orphans. At the end of their three hundred year cycle dedicated to protecting the vulnerable, there are 24 million Sikhs around the world. Among other activities, they provide food to 30 million people a day through free kitchens in their temples. The new three hundred year cycle (starting from 1999) is committed to protecting Nature, and its impact on the vulnerable environment over the next generations may be equally impressive.

Immediately following the Sikh gathering, a group of Muslim leaders from around the world will convene in Istanbul, Turkey on 6-7 July. ARC and UNDP will be also there assisting with finding ways how they can contribute to greening the future.

“The Sikhs have always been unique in their combination of deep spirituality and immensely practical action. The 5Year Plan embodies all that is best in those two strands that make Sikhism the powerful force that it is and will be for the future,” said Martin Palmer, secretary general of ARC.



Media Coverage in India

Hindustan Times: Religion comes to environment's rescue

By Chetan Chauhan

Where political leaders have failed to come up with a plan to save the planet from global warming, religious leaders have succeeded. On July 6, Islamic leaders from over 50 Muslim countries, including heads of states of Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, will meet in Istanbul to sign an agreement on environment conservation. An announcement is expected on Haj pilgrimage becoming green from next year and environment studies being included in religious schools. Already, a mosque in Leicester, Britain has become the world’s first green mosque.

On Saturday, the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) signed a pledge with UNDP, the first Indian religious group to do so, for an initiative called EcoSikh. “We’ll reduce emissions from kitchens in gurdwaras around the world by installing solar equipment,” Dr Rajwant Singh, chairperson of SCORE told HT. The Golden Temple in Amritsar has already started using solar energy for cooking. “The green covers you see at the Golden Temple will be replicated all over the world,” Singh said.

In a similar environment-friendly move, Sri Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati and Sai Baba Temple in Shirdi now serve lunch to devotees cooked in solar-powered kitchens, apparently the world’s largest. By November this year, a month before global leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss a draft agreement on global warming for the next 10 years, religious leaders will have in place an alternative action plan on climate change for religious bodies.

Under this plan, the Bible, Quran and other religious texts will be available on recycled paper, food in gurudwaras will be cooked in solar energy-fuelled kitchens, and places of worship around the world will install waste recycling and water-harvesting systems.

“Religious groups have taken up various projects to fight climate change,” said Olav Kjorven, head of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) international policy division on the environment, which is leading the initiative to bring religious leaders together to save the planet.

Pope Benedict XVI is also expected to issue an encyclical — a statement — on environment in a few days, Kjorven said. Churches in England and southern India have come up with seven-year plans to save the environment. Representatives from 180 countries failed to reach an agreement in Bonn, Germany, last month on how to fight climate change. It’s been two years since the negotiations started in Bali. In contrast, religious bodies, which own half of all the schools in the world and 7-8 per cent of the land, have moved on to the fast track in only a year’s time. “Religious bodies are the world’s biggest civil society and they can make a huge impact on the fight against climate change,” Kjorven said.

Times of India: Plan aims to increase Sikhs' green quotient

EcoSikh is a five-year plan formulated by the US-based Sikh Council of Religion and Education (SCORE) to spread green knowledge throughout the Sikh community and encourage environmental activism among Sikhs worldwide.

Addressing the EcoSikh meeting in Delhi, UNDP's director of development policy Olav Kjorven said "Throughout history religions have helped people and civilizations interpret and understand events around them and to respond to new challenges in light of their spiritual heritage and moral compass... the leadership of religions is now required to meet challenge of climate change." He quoted from Guru Nanak's verse that likened the sky to a platter and the sun and moon to lamps.




The Tribune: Sikhs join to fight climate change

By: Vibha Sharma

New Delhi, July 4: Sikh religious and political leaders met in the capital on Saturday to underline the Sikh community’s commitment to save the environment from threats posed by climate change and global warming.

Representatives from the apex Sikh body SGPC and DSGMC were present at the conference, where a five-year greening plan was adopted, which included a long-term commitment to transform gurdwaras into ecologically-friendly in terms of energy use, building materials and means of transportation.

A document highlighting Sikh community’s commitments - ‘EcoSikh, the Sikh community’s response to global warming and climate change’ - was also launched. This is the first time the Sikh religious and political leaders, grassroot-levels activists and educationists gathered to talk about global warning and demonstrate their commitment to save the mother earth, says chairperson of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) Rajwant Singh.

“Sikh community is committed to save this gift from God. We believe that threat of climate change and global warming must not go unchecked. The Sikh religion was created for defence of the defenceless. We want to extend this definition to environment, as we believe that the most defenceless right now is Mother Earth. It is our religious duty to follow the teachings of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh and now become eco warriors,” he said. The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are advisories on how carbon footprint can be lowered.




Hindustan Times: Religion comes to environment's rescue

By Chetan Chauhan

Where political leaders have failed to come up with a plan to save the planet from global warming, religious leaders have succeeded. On July 6, Islamic leaders from over 50 Muslim countries, including heads of states of Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, will meet in Istanbul to sign an agreement on environment conservation. An announcement is expected on Haj pilgrimage becoming green from next year and environment studies being included in religious schools. Already, a mosque in Leicester, Britain has become the world’s first green mosque.

On Saturday, the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) signed a pledge with UNDP, the first Indian religious group to do so, for an initiative called EcoSikh. “We’ll reduce emissions from kitchens in gurdwaras around the world by installing solar equipment,” Dr Rajwant Singh, chairperson of SCORE told HT. The Golden Temple in Amritsar has already started using solar energy for cooking. “The green covers you see at the Golden Temple will be replicated all over the world,” Singh said.

In a similar environment-friendly move, Sri Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati and Sai Baba Temple in Shirdi now serve lunch to devotees cooked in solar-powered kitchens, apparently the world’s largest. By November this year, a month before global leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss a draft agreement on global warming for the next 10 years, religious leaders will have in place an alternative action plan on climate change for religious bodies.

Under this plan, the Bible, Quran and other religious texts will be available on recycled paper, food in gurudwaras will be cooked in solar energy-fuelled kitchens, and places of worship around the world will install waste recycling and water-harvesting systems.

“Religious groups have taken up various projects to fight climate change,” said Olav Kjorven, head of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) international policy division on the environment, which is leading the initiative to bring religious leaders together to save the planet.

Pope Benedict XVI is also expected to issue an encyclical — a statement — on environment in a few days, Kjorven said. Churches in England and southern India have come up with seven-year plans to save the environment. Representatives from 180 countries failed to reach an agreement in Bonn, Germany, last month on how to fight climate change. It’s been two years since the negotiations started in Bali. In contrast, religious bodies, which own half of all the schools in the world and 7-8 per cent of the land, have moved on to the fast track in only a year’s time. “Religious bodies are the world’s biggest civil society and they can make a huge impact on the fight against climate change,” Kjorven said.



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