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October 23, 2014
West Hartford, Connecticut — Dr. Rajwant Singh, President and Founder of EcoSikh, gave the keynote address at the second Climate Stewardship Summit this month, an interreligious event hosted by the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network (IREJN). Hundreds of people from the East Coast attended the event, which was a call to action and networking opportunity for faith-based climate activists. The summit also worked to create awareness across the East Coast region about the interfaith religious communities’ common beliefs and responsibility to respond to climate change. Participants learned to communicate effectively and act decisively at the local, regional and national level.
Dr. Singh spoke about his personal journey of Sikhi and the environment – a theme that was highlighted at the summit. Dr. Singh told the story of Guru Nanak and the River Bein, where the Great Master was presumed to have drowned in the river, but instead he arose from the water with great newfound knowledge of the equality of all people.
“We, as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and humanists are faced with a serious challenge that will not only test us physically, but will also test our faith to keep fighting. We must keep fighting. Whether it is God and the earth that motivate us, our children’s future, the beauty of nature, or all of the above, we must keep fighting to protect our collective home,” he said.
Dr. Singh also recounted stories of his own history, and how he came to connect his faith and his environmental concern.
The goal of the summit was to train attendees in faith-based storytelling, so that all people will be able to speak about climate change in an effective and compelling way. The second goal was to inform and equip attendees with resources and advocacy options to address climate change.
The summit featured prominent guests and speakers. Anna Jane Joyner was the master of ceremonies. Joyner was showcased on Showtime’s The Years of Living Dangerously, a series on climate change that aired this summer. Other attendees included Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a leader in the environmental and climate justice movement; Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network, who led the presentation on the power of faith-based storytelling; Jeronda Scott, a recipient of EnvironMentors’ annual college scholarship prize; Jay O’Hara, lobster boat activists; Geoff Feinberg of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication who spoke about how different segments of society receive and process information differently; and Imam Refai Arefin of the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, who joined Rabbi Josh Ratner, Reverend Chuck Redfen and Dr. Rajwant Singh for a spiritual discussion on the theological background for climate justice.
The summit also premiered a new performance piece titled AWAKE!, which told the story of one family’s journey from apathy and denial about climate change to a place of hope and action.
Dr. Singh’s keynote speech and EcoSikh’s participation in the summit comes at the heels of the first Sikh statement on climate change, issued by EcoSikh last month. The statement urges the Sikh community to take action against climate change by taking part in eco-friendly seva practices and petitioning local representatives to be aware of environmental concerns.
The summit comes a month after the historic People’s Climate March, the largest march against climate change in history. EcoSikh’s participation in both events highlights its Sikh campaign to preserve the environment and combat human-caused problems to the earth.
“With the People’s Climate March, the Sikh statement on Climate Change, our participation in the Interfaith Climate Stewardship Summit and our soon to be release Green Gurdwara guide, EcoSikh aims to carve a path for Sikhs to be environmental advocates within their local communities,” said EcoSikh Program Manager Sumeet Kaur.
“We see great responses to environmental issues from all faiths and belief systems – and it is time Sikhs join the great league of environmental activists so we can protect our Mata Dharat for future generations.”