Religious pilgrimage is an important component of many world religions. Here in the Middle East, the annual Hajj to Mecca draws millions of Muslims from all over the world who want to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam and see an important religious site. Studies estimate that around two million Muslims make the Hajj pilgrimage. Yet such pilgrimages inevitably have a big (and not so positive) environmental impact.
To improve this situation, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) will be launching the Green Pilgrimage Network next week – a network that will come up with sustainable solutions for pilgrims (such as the Mecca Metro that has started to transport pilgrims with fewer carbon emissions).
According to figures calculated by the ARC, around 100 million people go on pilgrimage each year. These large amounts of pilgrims create additional stress on the water, sewage, waste disposal and food supply systems of their pilgrimage sites and often cause some form of environmental damage.
Pilgrimage sites are usually chosen in some part due to their natural beauty, and this (in addition to biodiversity and wildlife) stands to be damaged by large pilgrimages as well. ARC Secretary General, Martin Palmer, said that
“sites that are sacred because they are in part fragile are now under threat because of our desire to be in a special place where we can be touched by something more than just our ordinary world. However, we may well be in danger of trampling underfoot the very places where we hope to raise our eyes to heaven.”
The Green Pilgrimage Network will bring together representatives of ten different religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Together the network will attempt to find ways to green sacred places.
Of the objectives of the Green Pilgrimage Network, Palmer said that it “will ask the faithful to live, during the most intense of religious experiences, in a faith-consistent way. To travel to a holy place, and to behave in it, in such a way as to treat the whole world as sacred is to be a true pilgrim.”
The Green Pilgrimage Network Launch and Celebration will take place in Assisi, Italy between October 31-November 2, 2011.
Read more about religious pilgrimages::
Case Study: We Measure One Family’s Hajj Carbon Footprint (Part 1)
Part 2: Weighing up the Green (and Not So Green) Aspects of Hajj
“Mekkah Metro” Marks a Green Hajj for Pilgrims
Images via: The Alliance of Religions and Conservation