Alliance of Religions and Conservation.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Both Jerusalem and Haifa will be sending delegations to an October 31 event in
Assisi, Italy, which will celebrate the launch of a global network aimed at
promoting environmentally- sustainable pilgrimages among the world’s major
Key to the new Green Pilgrimage Network, which is being
launched by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the Worldwide
Wildlife Fund, will be a link to “faith cities,” where pilgrimages tend to occur
en masse annually and where sites must remain “as environmentally sustainable as
possible,” according to a statement from the new group.
establishing this network was Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, who said that
she actually proposed the idea of establishing such a network for pilgrim cities
at ARC’s 2009 Windsor Castle gathering for environmental and religious
“I made the suggestion that we combine the strengths of cities
and faiths, the meeting place of which is in pilgrimage,” Tsur told The
on Sunday evening, noting that she will be appointed as a special
world ambassador for the group at the Assisi meeting. “Since then I have been
Creating a “world club” of pilgrimage cities would be
beneficial, as “cities have green obligations these days” – obligations that
Jerusalem takes quite seriously, according to Tsur.
Jerusalem itself has
its own environmental plan that Tsur will bring to the Assisi conference, which
includes a broad greening of religious institutions, creating a green pilgrim
map and cleaning up the sewage flowing through the Kidron Valley to make it a
“thriving, prosperous route for pilgrims, as in ancient times,” she
In addition to Jerusalem for Jews, Christians and Muslims, the
other nine main faith cities will include Haifa for the Baha’is; Assisi for
Roman Catholics; Amritsar, India, for Sikhs; Etchmiadzin, Armenia, for Armenian
Orthodox; Kano, Nigeria, for Islam’s Qadiriyyah Sufi tradition; Louguandai,
China, for Daoists; St. Albans, England, for Anglicans; and Trondheim, Norway,
for the Lutheran Church of Norway.
Aside from the faith cities, other
founding members of the Green Pilgrimage Network will include the Church of
Scotland and its 1,500-year-old Pilgrimage Pathway in Luss, Loch Lomon; the
Coptic Orthodox Church and its St. Bishoy Monastery at Wadi El Natroun in
Egypt; and Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto shrines in Japan, the
The launch event and celebration, which will run from
October 31 through November 2, will occur in the presence of Prince Philip, the
Duke of Edinburgh, who initiated the first such gathering between religious
leaders in Assisi in 1986, where they discussed how their beliefs, practices and
teachings could be melded with growing environmental concerns, according to the
During the Windsor Celebration 23 years later, UN Assistant
Secretary-General Olav Kjørven described the religious effort to promote green
issues as “potentially the biggest civil society movement on climate change in
history,” the organization added.
“Today, thanks to that first Assisi
event, every major religion takes ecology seriously and is involved in
environmental projects, and the world’s religions are increasingly recognized as
playing a pivotal role in protecting the natural world,” said ARC
Secretary-General Martin Palmer, who organized the first Assisi event 25 years
ago, in the statement.
“The Green Pilgrimage Network will ask the
faithful to live, during the most intense of religious experience, in a
faith-consistent way,” Palmer added. “To travel to a holy place in such a way as
to treat the whole world as sacred is to be a true pilgrim.”
Also at the
celebratory event, the network members will launch the first-ever “Green Hajj
Guide,” which they intend to distribute to the two million Muslims that attend
the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia each year.
While the network
itself is beginning with the faith cities category as per Tsur’s initiative, she
said that the group will also be adding other groups to the network, such as
sacred sites and institutions.
“ARC was established to create the
connection between environmental connection and faith,” she added.