By OUR STAFF REPORTER
Rishikesh, 9 Jun: Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati was a speaker at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Tokyo, Japan, on a high-level panel, titled “Ending Hunger, Water as Life” on the theme of “Food and Water: Resources for Life”.
The panel was chaired by Elizabeta Kitanovic, Executive Secretary for Human Rights & Communications, Conference of European Churches, and included Dinesh Suna, Coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, World Council of Churches, and Timothy Appau, Staff Member, Asian Rural Institute; Pastor, All African Baptist Fellowship.
Setting the context of the panel, it was shared that over 820 million people suffer from hunger, 780 million have no access to an improved water source, and sanitation is poor for some 2.5 billion people. Food and water have especially critical importance to survival in times of crisis. This session built on prior G20 Interfaith exploration of faith in famine emergencies, looking to broader food security insights and highlighting the crucial issues around water and sanitation.
The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) was invited to the G20 Interfaith Summit, represented by its Secretary General, Dr Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, who made vital recommendations on the focus areas of food and water.
Addressing the leaders, Sadhvi Bhagawati declared, “It is estimated that by 2040 the world will have half the water it needs to survive. At the current rate of over-consumption, over-extraction and over-exploitation, we are looking at a major water crisis.”
She added, “It is therefore crucially important that we adopt a three pronged approach:
1. Improve our ways of agriculture & irrigation such that they are less water intensive and more sustainable. We must advocate for organic farming, reducing our reliance on chemicals and pesticides which are contaminating our soil, water, our physical health and the health of our planet.
2. Promote large scale water conservation such as rain water harvesting, ground water recharge initiatives, whilst simultaneously implementing massive tree plantation drives as well.
3. Adopt greener lifestyles and understand that our actions and choices have an impact on the planet. Choosing a Vegetarian lifestyle is one of the simplest and most profound changes each one of us can make to ensure that every human being is entitled to the grains and water they need to not only survive but thrive.”
She passionately spoke about the environmental ramifications of living a non-vegetarian lifestyle and shared findings from reports and statistics from the United Nations which illustrate that the meat industry is the single greatest contributor to Climate Change.
She also emphasised, “There is not a global land, water or food shortage. There is merely a global consciousness shortage. This is the great opportunity and challenge that lies ahead of our faith leaders, faith communities, and faith based organisations to lead the way for a better, more sustainable future.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati also had a meeting with David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and thanked him, once again, for hosting the launch of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism at Queen Elizabeth Centre in London in October 2014 during his leadership as the Prime Minister. He recalled the launch and conveyed his regards to Swami Chidanand Saraswati. Sadhvi Bhagawati invited him to Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) to which he shared that he and his wife, Samantha, would love to visit the yoga capital of the world.
Other high-level leaders at the Summit included Sir John Key, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Enda Kenny, former Prime Minister of Ireland; Graça Machel, First Education Minister of Mozambique; Lord Carey of Clifton, 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury; David Eades, Chief Presenter and Senior Broadcaster, BBC News; W Cole Durham Jr, Founding Director, International Center for Law & Religion Studies; Haruhisa Handa, Chairman, Worldwide Support for Development (WSD); Katherine Marshall / Executive Director, World Faiths Development Dialogue; Azza Karam, Senior Advisor, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Coordinator, UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development; James Alexander / Lead Program Analyst, US Department of State.
The G20 Interfaith Forum is an annual platform where a network of religiously linked institutions and initiatives engage on global agendas (primarily and including the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs). IT builds on the vital roles that religious institutions and beliefs play in world affairs, reflecting their rich diversity of institutions, ideas, and values. These include interfaith and intercultural organizations, religious leaders, scholars, development and humanitarian entities, and business and civil society actors.
Beginning in Australia in 2014, the G20 Interfaith Forum has convened annually in the G20 host country. The Forums have considered wide-ranging agendas, including economic models and systems, the environment, women, families, children, work, humanitarian aid, health, education, freedom of religion or belief, global security, governance, human rights, and the rule of law. The agenda for each Forum is framed taking into account the annual G20 priorities (outlined each year by the host government), together with topics that the various networks of religious actors recommend that the G20 leaders address. The G20 Interfaith Forum has met in Australia in 2014, Turkey in 2015, China in 2016, Germany in 2017, and Argentina in 2018.