GIWA Summit “Worship to WASH” begins with Ganga Aarti

Historic WASH Summit to be held in Rishikesh to save lives of children

This weekend will mark a landmark moment in the history of India. Some of the most renowned leaders and greatest minds across the globe are joining hands in the “Worship to WASH” & “Women for WASH” Summit of Leaders, organized by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) with the technical support of UNICEF. WASH stands for Water, Sanitation & Hygiene.

History will be created here on the banks of the Ganges through the joint effort, experience, and expertise of renowned leaders of all faiths from across India as well as from the US, England, Europe, Australia and Africa, leaders of social organizations, NGOs, political leaders and celebrities.

There will be more than 200 luminaries at the Summit.

The United Nations has placed great emphasis on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) both in its Millennium Development Goals of 2000-2015 as well as its upcoming Sustainable Development Goals beginning in 2015. This is the first time that faith leaders have come together in an alliance to support this mission of the United Nations’.

In addition to renowned faith leaders from the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jain, Sikh, Jewish, Farsi and Ba’hai faiths, the Summit will also witness the presence of the heads of several renowned interfaith organizations based in the US, including the head of the Parliament of World Religions (where Swami Vivekanandji spoke in 1893 in Chicago).

The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance was co-founded by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, the President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram and Founder of Ganga Action Parivar. It was founded to inspire the leaders of the world’s religions to come together in the name of providing improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene to everyone.

Addressing the press conference, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, the President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram and Founder of Ganga Action Parivar, initiated the slogan – WASH IN, WASH OUT. He emphasized the need of inner and external cleanliness and urged everyone to come together and take this movement forward.

The Summit will be inaugurated on Saturday morning by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Shri Harish Rawatji .
Thereafter working sessions will take place in which the leaders are specifically and technically introduced to the initiative, and then breaking into discussions in small groups to assess the needs of individual communities and bringing active, innovative solutions to those needs.
After extensive dialogue the leaders will state their personal pledges / sankalps and resolve to take the message of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) to their congregations and followers, embracing the spirit of Swachh Bharat campaign so that homes and communities across India can have improved access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. The leaders will sign a declaration at the end of the Summit, committing themselves to be part of GIWA and take up the message of WASH and turn it into a revolution in order to save millions of children and families from death, diseases and stunting.

GIWA was launched globally on 25 September, 2013 at UNICEF headquarters during the United Nations General Assembly week, sponsored by the Governments of the Netherlands and USAID. GIWA’s mission is to save lives by initiating and accelerating WASH projects worldwide, beginning with India. Religious communities have a proven track record of success in promoting WASH globally.
Speaking about the importance of this initiative, the following statements were made:

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji said, “It is great that we can send shuttles to space but let us also create space here for WASH. While government can make bills, interfaith leaders can change dills (hearts). The time has come that we must not only worship the Creator but also its creation, and interfaith leaders now must come forward to charter innovative ways of spirituality. The ‘Worship to WASH’ revolution is a powerful symbol of such a collective and innovative approach that will clean and purify not only our outer environment but our inner environment also.”

Maulana Luqman Tarapuri of Gujarat congratulated Swami Chidanand Saraswati for launching this initiative. He said, “Every religion lays such great stress on internal and external cleanliness, purity and respect for nature, including water and soil. I also pledge to bring all Imams together to spread and share this vital message of WASH with our communities and in our homes.”

Acharya Lokesh Muniji shared, “WASH is directly related to health. Health is related to prosperity and prosperity plays a key role in strengthening our communities unity and oneness. Therefore by improving WASH we impact our whole nation. Therefore, today I pledge to inspire and motivate the entire Jain community to join GIWA and walk to share and spread this message.”

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji said, “Can you imagine if someone held up 40 busloads of kindergarteners on their way to school and shot them dead? Then can you imagine if the killer did the same thing EVERY DAY? The entire world community would come together to find and stop the ruthless killer. That ruthless killer is lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, which kills approximately 1200 children under the age of five, in India, every day! We must join hands and work together to stop this, just as if someone were shooting these children on their way to school.”

Adding the UNICEF perspective, its India WASH Chief, Sue Coates said, “The engagement of faith leaders opens the way for millions of people to hear about good WASH practices as part of their accepted way of living through belief and religion.”

Advocacy and Communication Chief, Caroline den Dulk highlighted that religion was an important influence in India in this light, “Partnership with faith based organisations and faith leaders is critical to ensure change in social norms connected with sanitation and hygiene. There are powerful examples of partnership with them globally. They can be immensely powerful advocacy and change agents as was seen in the case of eradication of polio in India. Their taking up the WASH Revolution is likely to produce remarkable results for children in India.

The faith leaders underscored the importance of water and the environment and proclaimed their commitment to these by offering water onto a globe in a sacred “Water Blessing Ceremony.” They took a pledge to use the immense power of their respective faiths for promoting community health and wellbeing through WASH.

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