Sikh Missionary Society
Southall, Middx, U.K. UB2 5AA
Charity No: 262404
The Earth Charter
Sikhism & The Earth
On the back of a wooden bench at Osterley Park someone has carved the
words, “Remember the future”. That is what the UN’s Earth Charter is
Punch drunk with ego-centric consumerism, and led by short-sighted
politics, humankind has forgotten the future. The origin of the Earth
Charter tells us that the World Commission on Environment and
Development called for “a universal declaration” and “new charter” to
set “new norms” to guide transition to sustainable development. On
reading the Charter (www.earthcharter.org), my reaction was that the
Charter is a long quote from Gurbani and, in that sense, not quite
setting new norms but repeating what Guru Nanak preached 500 years ago!
According to Gurbani, this earth is the “dharamsaal” (place
where righteous living is to be practised to achieve the purpose of
human life), and the diversity of interdependent life forms (“Tis
wich jee jugat ke rang..”) which the “great mother earth” (“Mata
dharat mahat”) sustains. The following are some pointers to a way
of working together with other faiths. The ongoing interfaith dialogue
(of which Guru Granth Sahib is a unique example) needs to take on a new
Governments can do much through eco-legislation, enforcement of rules
and regulation and economic policies, but only religion or faith can
change habits and attitudes in the longer term. Religion can address
almost all the challenges ahead, mentioned in the Earth Charter.
Politics in a democracy is about winning votes and short termist by its
very nature. Only religion can instil the selfless spirit of sharing
There is overproduction and much waste while the larger part of
humanity is starving or at subsistence level. Affordability itself
should not be taken as a right to careless indulgence in luxuries,
goods, services and activities with scant regard for impact on the
environment. Again, with reference to the Earth Charter, religion can
promote equality of all before one Creator and restore the dignity of
Increasing population is a burden on the global eco-system. Equality of
and respect for women can result in smaller manageable families. Fair
sharing of world’s resources can raise living standards of families and
keep populations stable..
The challenge before world religions is if each religion can accept and
adopt the Earth Charter as a common document for interfaith
understanding. Sikhi would have absolutely no difficulty in doing this.
The role of religious teachers and preachers needs to be revised in the
light of the Charter adopted by interpreting religious idiom and
allegory in terms of 21st Century needs.
The need is not for a new world religion but for the old world
religions to move along their own paths towards a common direction for
sustained development and survival. The performance of religious
preachers needs to be assessed in terms of conveying their religious
message, which covers the issues raised in the Charter.
Religion must continue to remain relevant to the times.
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