Sarva Dharma Swachhta Samvaad

#SarvaDharmaSwachhtaSamvaad #MyCleanIndia A grand assembly of prominent religious leaders representing many faiths came together for a historic first time at the #Ujjain #KumbhaMela, to appeal for a #SwachhtaKranti (#CleanRevolution) for Mother India through a Sadbhavana Sankalp. In so doing, they implored the people of India to rise together so that India may shine as a global example of cleanliness. For this, they harmoniously said that we must do all we can to ensure that our lands and rivers are kept open-defecation free through the use of eco-friendly toilets.

On illuminating a holy lamp at this #SarvaDharmaSwachhtaSankalp event, HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Co-founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram #Rishikesh, stated, “The world is as we dream it, and it is time for a new dream. Every day, 1,200 children die needlessly in India due to lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. The deaths are a result of our bad habits. We can change that. By changing our ways, we change the world.”

Representing five religions, the faith leaders were brought together by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), with technical support from UNICEF, under the inspiration of Pujya Swamiji.

To see highlights from the historic sankalp and shanti deep lighting ceremony, click here:

Nearly 600 million people in India are not using toilets. As a result of poor sanitation, it is estimated that a child dies every 20 seconds. In the state of Madhya Pradesh alone, 67% of the population defecates in the open. In rural areas, it is as high as 80%. Yet shining hope on the issue, the state, under the leadership of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of #MadhyaPradesh, Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhanji, recently declared the rural area of Indore district, two blocks of Sehore and Narsinghpur as open-defecation free. Over one million people received access to improved sanitation in last one year. The sanitation is becoming people’s movement now.

Said Junapeethadishwar Pujya Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, shared his views on water conservation and cleanliness. He said that water is the most basic requirement of all life but only 0.75% is potable therefore it is crucial to conserve water. Every religion honours the element of water hence it is beautiful that the interfaith and faith community has come together here on the banks of Kshipra to move in the right direction.

Eminent Sunni Leader, Chief Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasiji , President of All India Imam Organisation, pledged to bring all of India’s Imams together to spread vital messages on the importance of health, water, sanitation and hygiene in our homes and communities. “All faiths must come together to promote an end to open-defecation and a clean and healthy India, because cleanliness, purity and respect for nature are embedded in every religion.”

Similarly, Shia Leader, Maulana Dr. Syed Kalbe Sadiq, Founder of Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust, who also participated in the Swachhta Sankalp, said, “From today onwards, let dreams become reality. Our hands should be tools for action. In our hearts should be pledges for change.”

Respected Jain Leader Acharya Dr. Lokesh Muniji shared that #ahimsa (non-violence) and sanitation must be seen as going hand-in-hand. “Unclean choices are causing the deaths of countless children every day. This suffering must end. It is up to all of us to be the change.”

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary-General GIWA, “GIWA is founded on the principle that as faith leaders, we must expand our definition of peace to include ensuring that our brothers and sisters from every religion have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. More people perish each year due to lack of clean water than due to all forms of violence combined. We must bring our faith into action. The practice of open defecation may be the acceptable norm today, but just as all social revolutions, from ending apartheid to abolishing slavery, which turned once common practices to not only be illegal to practice but socially reprehensible to even fathom, in the same way, open defecation and lack of WASH, with our collective efforts, will become just as socially reprehensible and criminal one day in the near future. There can not be a better place to start this revolution than the largest gathering of humanity, the Ujjain Kumba Mela”

Ms. Sue Coates, Chief, #WASH Section, UNICEF India, shared, “Unsafe water and sanitation services and poor hygiene practices contribute to childhood illnesses including diarrhoea, sepsis and pneumonia. These three diseases are major killers in children below five years of age. Evidence tells us that over 80% of diarrhoeal diseases can be prevented by families and mothers using a toilet, drinking safe water and washing hands with soap before food and after defection. Faith leaders are big influencers at community and household level by helping to influence change mind-sets so that everyone, for example, uses a toilet, hence UNICEF support’s this movement and their critical role.

Ms. Caroline Den Dulk, Chief, Advocacy and Communication, UNICEF India, said, “A new chapter has begun today for India, with the country’s prominent faith leaders coming together for the crucial cause of saving lives of children.”

Addressing the concluding session, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, said: “I have had a hand in building temples on five continents. But now, I am emphasizing, let us first build toilets. Without toilets, even the strongest man can fall violently sick, due to the diseases spread by human waste. For the sake of ahimsa (non-violence), every home in India should have a toilet, and everyone, everywhere should use a toilet. In such a way, we are protecting ourselves, our loved-ones and our neighbours from what can become needless suffering.”

Respected dignitaries present at the event included:
• Pujya Swami Satyamitranand Giriji, Bharat Mata Mandir, Former Shankaracharya
Junapeethadishwar Pujya Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Swami Avdheshanand Giriji Maharaj
• Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and President of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
• Pujya Swami Harichetanandji, Haridwar
• Maulana Dr. Syed Kalbe Sadiq Saheb, Founder of Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust, Islamic Scholar (Shia Leader)
• Imam Umer Ilyasi, President of the All India Imams Council (Sunni Leader)
• Chief Jathedar, Giani Gurbhachan Singh, Amritsar
• Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ)
• Paramjit Singh Chandhok, Chairman of DSGMC
• Acharya Lokesh Muniji, Founder of Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti
• Ven Bhikkhu Sanghasena, Founder-President of Mahabodhi International Centre, Leh-Ladakh
• Pujya Baba Hathyogi
• Pujya Acharya Sri Pundrik Goswami
• Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary-General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
• Brahmakumari Dr. Binny Sareen, Manager Public Relations & Mass Communications, Mt Abu
• His Excellency Bishop Sebastian Vadakel, Bishop of Ujjain
• Father Sahil TNT, Director, Samanvay, Centre for Interreligious Dialogue and the Member of Shanti Samiti Ujjain
• Raisyani Babaji, Delhi
• Anupamji, Art of Living, Sagar
• Balabeer Das, Chitrakoot
• Sister Veena Behan, Brahmakumaris Bhopal
• Shri Makkan Singhji, Chairman of the Central Committee of Simhastha Kumbha Mela
• Ms. Sue Coates, Chief, WASH Section, UNICEF India
• Ms. Caroline den Dulk, Chief, Advocacy and Communication, UNICEF India
• Mr Manish Mathur, Office in Charge, UNICEF, Madhya Pradesh
• Swamini Adityananda Saraswatiji, Director of Programmes, Policy and Development, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Ganga Action Parivar
• Swami BA Parmadvaitiji, Germany
• Shri Ram Mahesh Mishra, Director of Programme Implementation, Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh)
• Mr Hasan from Spandan, NGO
• Mr Qazi Syed Anas Ali Nadvi, Social worker from Bhopal
• Mr. Rajeev Pahwa, Roopantaran, NGO
• Mr. Gunjan Siddha, Earth and Us, NGO

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