(RNS) – EcoSikh, a Sikh American nonprofit, has renewed its calls for action on climate change ahead of the COP26 conference which opens on Sunday (October 31) in Glasgow, Scotland.
EcoSikh, which draws on the ethics, beliefs and example of Sikh gurus to address global environmental challenges, issued a statement describing the United Nations Climate Change Conference as a “last glimmer of light.” hope as the earth faces an unprecedented ecological crisis â.
EcoSikh was formed in 2009 from a program launched by the United Nations Development Program and the former Alliance of Religions and Conservation to bring about fundamental and long-term change. For this purpose, EcoSikh has developed a garden in northern Punjab, the first to include all the species of trees and plants mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of the faith. The US-based organization now has chapters in India, Canada and Ireland. The organization is developing chapters in several Commonwealth countries such as Kenya and Australia.
âReligions have yet to understand their own power. We control so many resources and lands. We have so many people ready to act when religious leaders speak out, âsaid Rajwant Singh, founder and president of EcoSikh, in a speech at a climate-focused interfaith leaders gathering outside the State Department last week.
Singh also performed a hymn written by Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith; it was the same hymn Singh performed at a special Vatican climate change event in Rome earlier in October.
The âFaith and Science: Towards COP26â event at the Vatican involved religious leaders from all over the world. The meeting produced a joint call for net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible. Among those present, Pope Francis was chosen to submit the joint appeal to COP26 as a manifestation of interfaith solidarity. Several interfaith leaders from the Rome event will also attend the COP26 summit, including Singh.
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Singh, a resident of Maryland, was one of four Americans to sign the interfaith climate change agreement in Rome. Other American signatories included Maria Reis Habito for the Museum of World Religions; Gretchen Castle, general secretary of the Friends Global Advisory Board; and Rabbi Daniel Swartz, executive director of the Coalition for the Environment and Jewish Life.
In addition to advocacy work, reforestation is a key area for EcoSikh, which has worked to develop 365 man-made sacred forests around the world, although its operations are primarily focused on the United States and Punjab, where Sikhism has developed. emerged over 500 years ago.
Today, the Indian region is home to only 3.5% of its historic tree cover, according to the association. EcoSikh believes that increasing the area’s tree cover to 33% would improve the quality of air, water and soil in the area.
âReligions need to do their own self-examination and act as a communityâ¦ whether it’s greening spaces or reducing energy use,â Singh said. âAll religious communities have land holdings that they should consider converting to forests. “
The 12-year-old nonprofit is also promoting a Sikh Environment Day held on March 14.