KARACHI: Representatives of various religious communities pledged to plant trees in their neighborhoods and also in their houses of worship, while speaking at a seminar on Sikh Environment Day.
The event was organised by the Pakistan Sikh Council in collaboration with a US-based organisation EcoSikh at a hotel on Tuesday.
It was last year that Sikh Environment Day, also known as Vatavaran Diwas, was celebrated for the first time globally on March 14. In Pakistan it was on Tuesday that events took place in Karachi and Nankana Sahib to mark the day.
Explaining the significance of the day, chairman of the Pakistan Sikh Council, Sardar Ramesh Singh, said that the seventh Guru of Sikhism stressed preserving nature.
“When Guru Har Rai took charge as the seventh guru, he planted a tree in the gurdwara, and preached to everyone to keep the environment clean.” He said that the day would be celebrated every year to pay tribute to the guru who was an environmentalist, and planted flowers and fruits bearing trees during his lifetime.
In the seminar, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims all vowed to plant a tree in their neighborhoods, and also vowed to keep the streets in their localities clean.
Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Minister for Environment and Alternative Energy Sheikh Muhammad Afzal said that akin to Sikhism, Islam also emphasises cleanliness and preaches the importance of planting trees. Afzal was pleased to be addressing a seminar on environment in which people from different religious communities were present.
Leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf minority wing in Sindh, Michael Javed, stated that while the murder of one man was the murder of humanity, similarly destroying a single tree was the destruction of the whole environment. He shed light on the importance of the environment in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Another Christian representative, United Church of Pakistan Bishop Nazir Alam said that the entire Christian community has taken up the responsibility of keeping the environment clean in the city. “Around 50 per cent of sanitary workers in the city belong to our community. We are the ones who keep it dirt free and clean of litter.” He lamented that while the community works keeping in mind that they are citizens of the country, they are not given their rights and are not treated equally. “What is also needed along with cleanliness of neighborhoods is a cleansing of extremist minds and attitudes towards the minorities.”
Pandit Vijay Kumar said every religion stresses preserving nature. While talking to The Express Tribune, he said that in the Hindu religion, planting a tree is equal to raising ten sons, as the tree will provide shade for the next ten generations. He said that the leaves of Peepal tree are significant for pooja, while leaves of the Tulsi are used for Prasad. In every Hindu temple, trees have been planted as it a requirement of their religion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2012.