photo: Hideyuki Kamon/CC BY SA
An interesting step towards eco-friendly spiritual travel: The Alliance of Regions and Conservation, working with WWF, is about to launch the Green Pilgrimage Network. The program, to formally kick off at an event in Assisi, Italy (above) from October 31-November 2, is intended to "help the faiths make their holy cities and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible, according to their own theologies and understanding."
Why focus on pilgrimage? ARC points out that collectively pilgrimage is the world's largest reason to travel. ARC Secretary-General Martin Palmer notes,
The Green Pilgrimage Network will ask the faithful to live, during the most intense of religious experience, in a faith-consistent way. To travel to a holy place in such a way as to treat the whole word as sacred it to be a true pilgrim.
Founding cities of the Green Pilgrimage Network include: Amritsar, India (Sikhism); Assisi, Italy (Roman Catholicism), Etchmiadzin, Armenia (Armenian Orthodox); Haifa, Israel (Baha'i); Kano, Nigeria (Qadiriyyah Sufi Islam); Jerusalem, Israel (Judaism, Christianity, Islam); Louguandai, China (Daoism); St Albans, England (Anglican Christianity); Trondheim, Norway (Lutheran Church of Norway).
Amritsar, photo: Clara Giraud/CC BY ND
As for what it takes to be a green pilgrim, ARC says one part is have a positive footprint:
A positive footprint requires pilgrims to leave every place more beautiful than it was when they arrived. On a simple level that can involve taking away your own litter and other people's; trying to avoid buying bottled water; choosing tourist agencies with a sustainable ethos; eating food that is local, organic and free-range; buying only sustainably sourced souvenirs; walking rather than driving.
On a more ambitious level it can involve engaging voluntarily with social and ecological programs during your pilgrimage; financially supporting programs to improve the city environment and biodiversity; sharing ideas and inspiration with other pilgrims and city residents; returning home with a greater sense of awe and wonder at the natural environment, and breathing life into that feeling, by doing something active to protect your hometown.
More on the project: ARC Projects - Green pilgrim cities
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