London: For the first time in British history, an interfaith GIWA Water Blessing Ceremony was performed at the House of Commons with prayers that all people, all over the world should have access to safe, sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The event also was organised to raise awareness of water scarcity across the globe, which has reached unprecedented dangerous levels.

When Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, came to India in November 2013, they visited the GIWA Secretariat of Parmarth Niketan Rishikesh (Himalayas), presided over by GIWA Co-Founder, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and performed a similar GIWA Water Blessings Ceremony on the banks of the River Ganges, offering prayers for improved access to clean and readily-available WASH across the world.

Dignitaries at the GIWA Water Blessing at the House of Commons

Dignitaries at the GIWA Water Blessing at the House of Commons

The House of Commons event, organised by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Ganga Action Parivar and Gurukul Parivar, saw representatives of nine faiths addressing a distinguished gathering of 300 people including royalty, lords, Members of Parliament and prominent leaders, who had gathered in this historic city for a common purpose to have access to pure and fresh water globally. The faith leaders gave inspiring, uplifting and compelling discourses on the importance of the protection and preservation of water. They highlighted the fact that water is truly the giver of life, and therefore considered sacred in all the world’s religious traditions.

The event was hosted by Rt. Hon. Keith Vaz, MP, and graced by the presence of the following leaders:

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji,  Co-founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance Pujya Shastri Madhavpriyadas Swamiji, Head of the Gurukul Parivar and of the Swaminarayan Gurukul, Ahmedabad & Rajkot, Gujarat Reverend Rose Hudson – Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia – Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Birmingham Dr. Rusi K Dalal – Zoroastrian Leader Dr. Natubhai Shah – Jain Leader Reverend Mark Poulson – Christian Leader Venerable Dr Handupelpola Mahinda Nayaka – Buddhist Leader Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati – President of Divine Shakti Foundation Smt. Kiran Bali – Chairman of the global United Religions Initiative.

Additionally, Debbie Leach, the head of Thames21 and Kevin Reid, the Environmental Representative for the London Assembly, as well as numerous other dignitaries and eminent guest attended the event. GIWA Water Blessing at House of CommonsRt. Hon. Keith Vaz, MP, the host for the event said, “The time for preservation of one of the most essential commodities of life is now. Pure water is the birth right of every human being. God gave water to human beings in abundance, and He provided equal accessibility of it to everyone. Today, tragically, due to so many reasons, people are being deprived of their birth right. It is wonderful that this ceremony is taking place here today, I am so glad to be part of it. The next ceremony should be all together on the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh, India, as it is so crucial to preserve and protect that national river.  I am so glad to know that the current government in India is so committed to that work of protecting the River Ganga. I look forward to coming there and being part of that movement.”

Explaining the essentials of intermingles of life and water, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji emphasized, “Water is life and therefore it is sacred. Water not only irrigates our farms but also our lives and our hearts. In our culture and religion water is considered divine. Therefore, wasting water or polluting water is an insult both to the Creator and also to the creation. I deeply appreciate the wonderful work done by the people and governmental organisations of Great Britain to restore the Thames river to a state of such cleanliness and health. As I perform this ceremony on the banks of the Thames, I remember having Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla with us in Rishikesh, India and I feel such a great connection to the people of England. I pray that we may achieve for our sacred river Ganga what has been achieved for the Thames. We pledge to work together to bring the vision of a clean and green Ganga and improved WASH for all to reality.”

Pujya Shastri Madhavpriyadas Swamiji, the head of Gurukul Parivar and the Swaminarayan Gurukul, Ahmedabad, shared: “Today, is the 18th of July. One plus eight (1+8) equals nine which, in our tradition, is a symbol of wholeness and completeness. We have 9 faith leaders here to perform the sacred Water Blessing Ceremony, to bless the Royal River Thames and to pray for the other rivers around the world. Water is a symbol of life, purity and love. Launching this great campaign of work and prayers for the rivers of our world, from the House of Commons, the seat of the Mother of democracy, will certainly ensure that our message is spread worldwide. I am confident that this campaign of cleaning the rivers, recharging our water and protecting/preserving our water bodies will blossom, flourish and grow, and I am committed to serving in whatever capacity I can. By the grace of Lord Swaminarayan and with the blessings of Swami Chidanand ji, we are able to fulfill this objective today. May God grace us with strength to continue and broaden the aims of this ceremony and to perform it worldwide every year.”

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, President of Divine Shakti Foundation appealed, “Throughout history, religious leaders have implored their congregations and followers to ‘love thy neighbour’ and to refrain from acts of violence. In our world today, however, that is no longer enough. Today, here on the banks of the Thames River, our religious leaders have come together to say that permitting our brothers and sisters across the world to suffer and perish due to lack of safe, clean, sufficient water is also violence, and it is our duty to work together to ensure access to water and sanitation for all people, of all religions and all cultures.”

Prince Mohsin Ali Khan, a member of the erstwhile ruling family of the princely state of Hyderabad, paid his tribute by stating, “Today we can understand that there is not a different God for different faiths but rather there is One God of all, even though the names and methods of worship may vary. Similarly, water may flow through different cities, in different countries, be used in different ways, accessed in different manners by people across the world, but water itself is the same for every society and every individual. Water, therefore, is both the symbol of life and also the symbol of unity.”

Mr. Shashikant Vekaria, businessman and philanthropist, inspired by the presence of the faith leaders, said, “Today even more than yesterday, as the world sees the adverse impact of the water crisis, it needs a guiding light from events like the Water Blessing Ceremony to sustain and give a purposeful direction to humanity.”