From Greenland to Ganga land: Protecting the glaciers of the world in Assisi

Interfaith Leaders Come together from Across the World as part of a Peace Pledge Pilgrimage to Walk and Work for Peace and Protection of Water

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan and Co-Founder of GIWA, and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary-General of GIWA, offer the holy water of Ganga from Gaumukh to mix with the waters of the glaciers of Greenland as part of the interfaith peace pledge

ASSISI: HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary-General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, joined interfaith leaders during a Peace Pledge Pilgrimage in Assisi, Italy.

From around the world leaders of the world’s major religious traditions came together in Assisi, the home of St. Francis, as part of the Peace Pledge Pilgrimage Project to pray, celebrate, meditate and pledge to work together based on the principle that Loving-Kindness and Compassion can overcome discord and lead to human unity and peace. They pledged to share a Peace Pledge (see attached) to world leaders, the United Nations, religious leaders, Parliamentarians, and billions of people inviting them to join the affirmation of the necessity and supreme importance of Loving-Kindness and Compassion.

For the pledge Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji said: “Peace- in our world, in our communities, in our families must begin with peace within ourselves. We must first become reservoirs of peace, dousing all flames of discord within our own waters of peace and serenity. Therefore, it is no longer enough to pray and pledge for peace. We have to also put this peace into action. We must not only talk about peace but we have to walk and work for peace, beyond all borders and boundaries. We can either be at peace or be in pieces. The choice is ours and the choice is now.”

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji brought the sacred and holy water of the Ganga River from Gaumukh from India which was offered along with the water from the Greenland glaciers by some of the peace pilgrims who had earlier traveled to Greenland, and witnessed the enormity of the tragedy of the melting of the polar ice cap.  Both waters were ceremonially mixed together into a heart shaped vessel, representing the sacred heart of humanity. Rivers of tears flowed from the eyes of the faith leaders as the sacred water was poured to the sound of chanting from the Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist and Indigenous traditions in the inner chamber of the chapel of St. Francis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group of experts and scientists that issue reports on global warming, projects that the sea will rise between a half meter (1.6 feet) and a full meter (3.2 feet) by the end of the century. How much carbon finds its way into the atmosphere will determine  the final outcome.  The more carbon dioxide we produce by burning fossil fuels over the coming decades, the more ocean and air temperatures will increase. And the higher those temperatures rise, the faster oceans should rise. At the moment, sea levels — measured by satellites and tidal gauges in harbors around the world — are going up on average by about 3.3 millimeters, or one-­tenth of an inch, a year. Many of the worlds glaciers, from Gaumukh to Greenland, are visibly melting at a alarming rate signifying the need to act is now to protect our water reservoirs so that they can in turn secure the future of our life giving rivers and our planet.

During the water ceremony, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji added, “If there is no water, there is no peace. Only when we truly know water then we can truly know peace. So it’s simple no water, no peace and know water, know peace. It’s essential that our understanding of peace include the preservation and protection of our environment as well as the conservation of our sacred and fresh water resources.” The message was simple that we must come together, work together and walk together to take climate action, prevent climate change and check carbon emissions.

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji explained, “Water is the life, from the 9 months we spend in the womb of our mother, to the rain which irrigates our fields, to the water which quenches our thirst and relieves our parched throats. It is no longer enough for our religious leaders to exhort their congregations not to kill each other with bombs and guns. Now, it is time for us to realize that if our brothers and sisters are sick and dying due to polluted water, air or soil, or due to hunger or thirst, their blood is on our hands just as if we had thrown a grenade into their place of worship. Through the water blessing ceremony, the leaders of the world’s religions come together to pray that all people in the world should have access to safe, sufficient and life-giving water, that the source of this water – our glaciers and our forests- must be protected and to pledge to exhort their congregations to make choices and engage in actions that safeguard the air, land and water for all people.”

Eskimo Senior Angaangaq Angarkkorsuaq said: “It is the human heart which needs to melt. This is a priority if we are to stop the melting of our mother ice.”

Respected Bishop at the Chapel welcomed this interfaith community and expressed the importance of all of us learning from the love that St. Francis lived.

The Peace Pledge Pilgrimage Project is an interfaith initiative led by the former Director of the International Monetary Fund and Minister of the Treasury of the Netherlands Johannes Witteveen along with over a hundred spiritual and religious leaders, representing all major religions, from all over the world. Collectively this group represents hundreds of millions of devoted individuals. The Project’s last pilgrimage gathered at the Peace Palace in the Hague where the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court convene.

Before that it traveled to India’s sacred places and received a strong endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Peace Pledge will be shared with the over 100 million participants at the upcoming Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India in January/February, the largest spiritual gathering on earth.

Some of the Leaders joining the Peace Pledge Pilgrimage in Assisi were:

  • Murshid Dr. H.J. Karimbakhsh Witteveen, The Netherlands Chair of the Universal Sufi Council, leader of the International Sufi Movement, Minister of Finance and Vice Prime Minister in the Netherlands, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
  • Jonathan Granoff (Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen), USA President of the Global Security Institute, United Nations Representative of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
  • Brigitte van Baren, The Netherlands Founder of Inner Sense which aims to enhance inner depth in the corporate and industrial world by applying ‘essentials in leadership’ and endorses the values of the Earth Charter
  • XII Kenting Tia Situ Rinpoche , India As a Buddhist master of the Karma Kagyu tradition
  • Situ Rinpoche oversees a vast network of Karma Kagyu monasteries, retreat centers, and Dharma centers worldwide
  • Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, The Netherlands Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp is co-chair of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders and founded Green Cross International
  • Pir Shabda Khan, USA Pir (spiritual director) of Sufi Ruhaniat International, teacher and performer of Hindustani classical vocal music and director of the Chisti Sabri School of Music
  • Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, UK Bhai Sahib is the third in line of Sikh religious leaders of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, GNNSJ UK, and since 1995, Chairman of the Nishkam Group of Charitable Organizations
  • Syed Salman Chishty, India Founding member and current of the Chishty Foundation and researcher on world Sufi traditions
  • Audrey E. Kitagawa, USA Founder and President of the International Academy for Transcultural Cooperation, the President of the Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family.
  • Angaangaq Angarkkorsuaq, Greenland Eskimo-Kalaallit Shaman Elder whose family belongs to the traditional healers from Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland
  • Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca, Turkey Delegate vicar of the apostolic vicariate of Istanbul and Professor of Sacred Scripture of Theology at the St. Anthony Seminary, El Paso, U.S.A.
  • Mohanji, India Spiritual leader from India
  • and many others from many different parts of the world.

About GIWA

GIWA is the globe’s first organization to bring together the leaders of all faiths and people from across India and around the world to inspire a planet where everyone, everywhere can have access to sustainable and healthy water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Recent Posts