Sikh leaders unveil 'green' plan


  (Washignton, July 19, 2009): Sikh religious and political leaders met in New Delhi to underline the Sikh community’s commitment to save the environment from threats posed by climate change and global warming. They met at an event titled EcoSikh Conclave, which was organized at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi on July 4.

This Sikh summit on environment, organized by the USA-based Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), was attended by UN Assistant Secretary-General Olav Kjorven and Victoria Fin lay of the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), among others.

Representatives from the apex Sikh body SGPC and DSGMC were present at the conference, where they endorsed a five-year “greening” plan, which includes a long-term commitment to transform gurdwaras and schools into ecologically sound buildings in terms of energy and the types of building material used, besides incorporating environmental education into Sikh education curricula.

"EcoSikh", a five-year plan crafted by SCORE, envisages the dissemination of environment-related knowledge among the Sikh community in India and abroad to develop environmental activism.


  EcoSikh meeting started with a recitation of Guru Nanak's hymn 'dekh phool phool phulai..' depicting the importance of nature. It was sung in Basant Raag by Sehejneet Kaur from Washington.

  Among those who attended and presented their views were Union Cabinet member Dr. Manohar Singh Gill, Secretary of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Dilmegh Singh, President of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Paramjit Singh Sarna, Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kuldeep Singh, MP Tarlochan Singh, and Vikram Singh Sahney of World Punjabi Organization.


  From left to right: Dr. Rajwant Singh, Paramjit Singh Sarna, Justice Kuldeep Singh,UN Assistant Secretary-General Olav Kjorven, Dr. M.S.Gill, Victoria Finlay, Vikram Sahney and Tarlochan Singh

  "Sikh heritage is known to have the balance for spiritual values and stewardship of nature. Guru Nanak taught that nature is gift from God. Sikhs have always stood for weak and downtrodden and it is impressive that now you are ready to commit to protect nature." said Olav Kjorven, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP’s Director of Development Policy.


  UN Assistant Secretary General Addressing the EcoSikh Summit

  Addressing the EcoSikh meeting, Olav Kjorven further 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.


  Prof. Manjit Singh ( left) Baba Sewa Singh( middle) Attorney H.S. Phoolka, Satinder Singh of ETC Channel from Bombay joining in the prayer before the meeting.


  Justice Kuldeep Singh giving opening remarks

  Justice Kuldeep Singh, known as 'Green Judge', in his opening remarks, said he was delighted that Sikh community was taking upon itself the noble service of forging environment-friendly practices. "As Sikhs we have a responsibility to revere the environment. A Sikh's life is incomplete if he does not revere Nature," he said. "Environmental ethics has always been an inherent part of India's precepts and philosophy and the environment has always been given an honorable place," he said. "But now we are only polluting it."


  There are four factors we need to remember, said Justice Singh: that the earth is warming; that this is due to release of increasing volumes of greenhouse gases; that the climate is changing because of human activity and that we can only expect Hell on Earth if we don't take any action now.

Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of SCORE said, "Sikhism teaches us to be environmentally conscious and this conference with UN was an opportunity for Sikhs to demonstrate to the world that we are ready to translate our beliefs into action."

He further added, "The Sikh religion was created for defense of the defenseless. We want to extend this definition to environment, as we believe that the most defenseless 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.


  Dr. M.S. Gill addressing the audience

  Indian Cabinet member, Dr. Mahohar Singh Gill, said, "Religious values can only inspire people to take action to solve the problems facing the world. UN's initiative to reach out to the religious community across the globe is commendable. Known for his candid style, he prodded the Sikh community to look at the serious environmental threats facing Punjab and to act upon it.


  MP Tarlochan Singh

  Tarlochan Singh, member of Parliament, said, "This is the first time the Sikh religious and political leaders, grassroots-level activists and educationists gathered to talk about global warning and demonstrate their commitment to save the mother earth."


  Victoria Finlay of Alliance of Religions and Conservation from UK

  Victoria Finlay of ARC, while challenging the Sikhs, said, "It would be great if Sikhs can train young Sikhs in gurdwaras to fight for nature. She added, “Sikhism and its belief to stand up for right things is what world needs at this time."


  Paramjit Singh Sarna, President of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee

  Paramjit Singh Sarna cited a couplet from Sikh scriptures which states that Air is the Guru; Water is the father and Earth is the mother. He said that as Sikhs of Guru Nanak, we must protect all three."


  Chris Byrnes and Rajwant Singh presenting the Sikh plan

  Dilmegh Singh, representing the apex Sikh body, SGPC, said, "This is a historic opportunity for Sikhs to make a significant contribution. SGPC is committed to do whatever is necessary to spread the message in saving nature throughout the Sikh world."


  Vikram Sahney of World Punjabi Organization

  Vikram Singh Sahney, head of the World Punjabi Organization, said, "Sikh community is committed to save this gift from God. We believe that threat of climate change and global warming must not go unchecked.


  Dilmegh Singh, Secretary of Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee

  Major General M.S. Chadha, Sikh Forum Secretay R. S Chatwal, Artist Arpana Caur, Makhan Singh, Dr. Mohinder Singh of Bhai Vir Singh Sahit Sadan, Harpreet Singh of Akal Purakh Ki Fauj from Amritsar, and many other Sikh politicians, artists, grass roots leaders, and business leaders from all over India and abroad also participated.


  Baba Sewa Singh is being presented a momento of EcoSikh by UN official



  Victor Finlay honoring Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal of Sultanpur Lodi who cleaned the entire river of 162 Km which is associated with the founder of Sikhism.


  Baba Sewa Singh of Khadoor Sahib, Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, Former Jathedar of AKal Takhat, Prof. Manjit Singh, Punjab Secretary D.S. Jaspal were honored for their environmental activism. SCORE has launched a website to start worldwide participation of Sikhs in this movement.


  Major General M.S.Chadha, R.S Chatwal, H.S. Hanspal, Makhan Singh and others


  Paramjit Sarna, Harpal Singh, CEO of Nanhi Chaan and official of Fortis Hospitals in India, Pushpinder Singh of Nishaan Magazine, Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian of International Sikh Confederation.

  "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.


  Chris Byrnes, SCORE's point person in drafting the Sikh plan, said, "A grid and pledge, named Eco-Sikh, persuades all Sikhs to create a global network of cooperation to help execute an action plan that will help meet today’s environmental challenges. It combines spirituality and practical action"


  D.S. Jaspal being honored by UN Assistant Secretary

  D.S. Jaspal, Principal Secretary of Punjab, said, “I compliment SCORE for having taken the initiative to bring all shades of Sikh opinion on a single platform and evolve a consensus on harnessing the spiritual resources of the Sikh faith for the cause of nature and environment. Dr. M.S.Gill launched the websites and highlighting the work of D.S. Jaspal and his colleagues. Dr. Farooq Beg from Pakistan, who has documented trees associated with Sikh Gurus, was also in attendance.



  Fashion Designer Ashvinder Singh presenting his company's drive to bring environmental consciousness in the business world


  Business world also had representation in the EcoSikh summit. Ashvinder Singh, a young Sikh CEO of Unistyle Image, a high end clothing chain in India, spoke on incorporating environmental consciousness in business. He said, “I got inspired to take action on environmental issues from the story of Bhai Ganaiya who would give water to the wounded as an act to serve God.” His company makes popular fashion clothing with environmental messages and emphasizes the similar theme throughout its chain stores in India. It also provides employment to the underprivileged and sculpts their talent into a functional product made from recycled material, which helps the street children and slum women in earning a livelihood while they get to learn a craft.


  Makhan Singh, formerly of Punjab and Sind bank, Gurpreet Singh, CEO, AIPL Ambuja, played a significant role in planning EcoSikh summit in Delhi. Namrata Kaur Sandhu, an environmental research scholar helped shape the EcoSikh plan in India. Sun Foundation based in Delhi had cosponsored the event. Many young Sikh professionals in Washington and youth from Guru Gobind Singh Foundation had participated and helped shape the Sikh plan.




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