“Worship for WASH” GIWA-UNICEF Ladakh Summit
The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) India, in association with UNICEF India, held a two-day Summit in Ladakh. The “Worship for WASH” GIWA-UNICEF Ladakh Summit initiated a dialogue on critical issues of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health), specifically in the Ladakh region. The Summit discussed the inter-linkage of multiple issues of inequity, lack of access and other related issues in the region, with special focus on minority populations.
Speaking at the summit, the convener of the programme, Founder of GIWA India and the President of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Pujya Swami Chidanand SaraswatiJi said, “GIWA’s faith leaders have come together on this sacred land of Ladakh, in a state surrounded by borders, to inspire us and encourage us to make our hearts and our minds truly borderless. Borders and boundaries have forever divided us whether it is by nations or by castes, color, creed, race, religion and/or region. Today we come together as a testament that we are one and there is so much that connects and binds us. All that divides us is just ignorance created by man. In this spirit of oneness we must pledge that no longer should children have to perish from lack of WASH, no longer should women have to wait for the darkness of night to heed the call of nature. No longer should we as a nation have the largest number of people who perish from diarrhea and who defecate in the open, both due to lack of basic sanitation facilities such as toilets. Today, we join together to serve as one, ensuring clean water, sanitation and hygiene for all.”
Secretary-General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati said, “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.”
The “Sarva Dharma Swachhta Evam Sadbhavna Sankalp” (Interfaith Pledge for Clean Ladakh, Clean India) on the evening of the 29th August, the first day of the Ladakh summit brought together over 700 people- faith leaders, corporates, media and the local stakeholders at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies at Leh. The Hon’ble Union Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan and the Hon’ble Union Minister for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water & Sanitation Shri Narendra Singh Tomar graced the occasion and inaugurated the Summit by lighting the lamp. The lighting of the inaugural lamp was followed by opening remarks by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati Ji, and then comments and commitments from the renowned leaders. Also present on the occasion were spiritual heads from major religions of India- including Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji Chief Jathedar of the Akal Takht,Amritsar, Golden Temple, Diwan Zainul Abedin Ji of the Ajmer Sharif – Dargah Shariff of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chisty, Maulana Dr.Kalbe SadiqJi Shia Leader from Lucknow, Maulana Luqman Tarapuri Ji Sunni Leader of the Global Imam Council, Mananiya Indresh Kumarji, Mahamandaleshwar Swami Harichetnanand Ji, Lama Lobsang Ji Buddhist spiritual leader- President of the Asoka Mission Delhi, Mushahid Khan, Chairman and Founder of International Islamic SUFI Foundation,Ven Bhikkhu Sanghasenaji, President of Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, and many others. The faith leaders inspired everyone in an unprecedented and historic Sarva Dharma Swachhta Sankalp (Interfaith Cleanliness Pledge) on the occasion.