EcoSikh board member Suneet Singh Tuli and EcoSikh program manager Sumeet Kaur last week joined a roundtable discussion for faith-based organizations, hosted by Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank.
The aim of the meeting, held at the institution’s headquarters in Washington DC, was to bring together prominent leaders from the world’s major faiths to address how religious communities can work with secular organizations to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
Suneet Singh Tuli stressed the importance of energy security as it relates to the Millennium Development Goals, and implored the World Bank group to make climate change a main focus of the discussion. “Faith communities must be the forefront of environmental action to combat climate change,” he said, especially since climate change will affect those “least responsible for the problem.”
The participants, from Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Baha’i, Sikh and interfaith perspectives, will be releasing a call to action for faith communities to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals and end extreme poverty in the world.
Many participants emphasized the need for local partnerships to lead a grassroots movement to end extreme poverty.
“At EcoSikh we’ve found that we have to have a holistic approach to addressing poverty and the kind of environmental crises that will lead to poverty in the future,” said EcoSikh program manager, Sumeet Kaur. “How will people succeed in their education when they don’t have clean water to drink? In Punjab and in the rest of our outreach, we find that what’s needed is a comprehensive toolkit to address extreme poverty and promote growth among the poorest people in the world,” Kaur added.
Nearly half of those who live in extreme poverty (defined by the World Bank as people living under $1.25 a day) live in India and China. EcoSikh projects in India address environmental aspects of poverty, and help many to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to become aware of the urgency of the issue.
“For the past two years we have been running a programme to make all Nagar Kirtans [Sikh religious processions sometimes involving thousands of people] greener and cleaner,” said EcoSikh’s Punjab-based Project Manager Ravneet Singh.
“This, as well as our Green Gurdwara initiative, and the thousands of communities taking part in Sikh Environment Day every March 14, help to teach many locals the importance of living a life in harmony with the earth,” he added. “Through education, we hope Sikh communities, especially in areas of poverty, will be able to slow down and eventually stop climate change’s disastrous effects,” Singh continued.
World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim galvanized the participants by stating that this generation “is the first one to say that [they] can eradicate extreme poverty.”
He added that the World Bank is committed to working with faith-based communities to mutually develop long-term plans to achieve the common goal of ending extreme poverty.