by ARC (the Alliance of Religions and Conservation) in cooperation with the
United Nations Development Program (UNDP), nine major world religions launched
long-term commitments to environmental action including greening pilgrimage
cities and routes, in what the UNDP described as “potentially the world’s largest
civil society movement on climate change”.
At this historic meeting, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Naomi Tsur played a pivotal
role initiating the concept of a Green Pilgrimage Network, the aim of which is to
inspire faith leaders, pilgrims, the municipalities and caretakers of pilgrim cities
and sites to green both their holy cities and their pilgrimages according to their
own theology and understanding and to recognize our collective and individual
responsibility as stewards of God’s Creation.
In November 2011, in Assisi, Italy, the Green Pilgrimage Network was officially
launched, with Jerusalem as a founding member, alongside Haifa, Assisi, Amritsar,
Trondheim, Etchmiadzin, Kano and St. Albans, and important sites from around
the world, such as a Shintu forest in Japan and a Coptic Monastery in Egypt. Now
each of the pilgrim cities and sites is using the Green Pilgrimage Network Handbook
to create an action plan on what the vision of Green Pilgrimage entails:
ARC’S MISSION STATEMENT:
Over 200 million people go on pilgrimage each year and the numbers are rising.
These pilgrims create additional stress on the water, sewage, waste disposal and
food supply systems of their pilgrimage destinations and often cause some form
of environmental damage. Moreover, in cities which are inundated with pilgrims,
the role of the residents is often not an easy one, and they should be encouraged
to be engaged in the challenges, as well as the opportunities. In some instances,
the stress is seasonal, but in many cities and sites, there is a constant burden on
the local infrastructure.
The sanctity of pilgrimage sites is often enhanced by the natural beauty of the surrounding
landscape. The influx of large numbers of pilgrims constitutes a threat
both to the beauty of the ambiance, as well as to the flora and fauna that form
part of each heritage landscape.
The Green Pilgrimage Network brings together representatives of major world
faiths who will be working together and learning from each other how to green
both the journeys and the destinations undertaken by pilgrims everywhere.
ARC Secretary General, Martin Palmer, said that the GPN “will ask the faithful to
live, during the most intense of religious experiences, in a faith-consistent way.
To travel to a holy place, and to behave in it in such a way as to treat the whole
world as sacred, is to be a true pilgrim”.
INTERNATIONAL NGO PARTNERSHIPS:
ARC – Alliance of Religions and Conservation
ARC was founded by Prince Philip in 1995 to help the world’s major faiths develop
environmental programs based on their own teachings, beliefs and practices,
and has been working with the environmental side of sacred sites and pilgrimage
routes for many years. In 2006, WWF-International and ARC published a
ground-breaking document, entitled “Beyond Belief” which explored the role that
faith can play in the protection of sacred forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, seas
For more information, visit www.arcworld.org
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is the world’s leading association of
cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development. ICLEI is a
powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450
large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries.
ICLEI promotes local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become
sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, bio-diverse and low-carbon; to build a
smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy. The ultimate
aim is to achieve healthy and happy communities. They have developed
stable, long-term programs to support local-level sustainability and continue to
develop innovative new programs to respond to issues of international concern.
For more information, visit www.iclei.org