From Hindu scripture, Islamic teachings, Buddhist meditations and importantly His Holiness Pope Francis’ 2015 Papal Encyclical Laudato-Si, people of diverse faiths around the world are talking about climate change. In the next year, those conversations will translate into synchronized global interfaith action, all around the universal symbol of water.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions and the Ontario-based Great Lakes Water Walk (GLWW) are pleased to announce their collaborative partnership to launch on September 24 with the designation of the Toronto Water Walk a “Pathways to the Parliament” signature event, the premiere in a series of global interfaith activities gearing up for the 7th Parliament of the World’s Religions to be held in Canada for the first time in November 2018.
The partnership will continue throughout the coming 14 months and culminate in a Traditional Indigenous water protection ceremony to be conducted by Indigenous Anishinaabe Grandmothers of the Great Lakes Region of Ontario for over 10,000 participants of more than 75 countries and 200 or more religious, indigenous and secular backgrounds who will attend the 7-day international event in Toronto next year.
Organizers from the Chicago-based Parliament of the World’s Religions, and Canadian partners Great Lakes Water Walk, Nibi Emosaawdamajg, Sacred Water Circle, Youth for Water, and Faith & the Common Good are coming together with a goal of bringing the faith and activism of the GLWW’s new “BecauseOfWater” campaign inland and to the mainstream, across the riverbanks, lake shores and coastal regions of the world. Through the collaborations of global interfaith partnerships, Ambassadors of the Parliament of the World's Religions will feature water blessings, walks and educational events in efforts to spread the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions theme “The Promise of Inclusion and the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change” to more than fifty partner events around the globe.
At the September 24 water walk, the global interfaith community will be represented by Parliament of the World's Religions representatives local to Toronto, from greater Ontario, across Canada and the United States who plan to walk the shoreline of Lake Ontario in part to honor the host city for inspiring this move. Interfaith activists will be invited to join in a synchronous water blessing and universal prayer from their homes or at important water venues around the world to join in the spirit of partnership.
Among the water walkers in Toronto will be Larry Greenfield, Executive Director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, who says the choice to champion water throughout the activities leading up to and presented through its 7th convening came from a convergence of streams of activities by those concerned with climate change: interfaith alliances to resist government and industrial threats to safe water, sacred Indigenous land around the world, and attention to beliefs that cut across all spiritual communities about the importance of water.
Announcing the first major programmatic theme of the coming conference, Greenfield said:
“Water will be a central symbol of the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto because water is a holy gift, calling on people of the spirit to honor it with awe, treat it with great care, and allow it to make us holy, too.”
Prominent global figures including political leaders, religious luminaries and Nobel Prize winners will be among those to address the 2018 Parliament with shared concern for water that follows from the foundation of past Parliaments. The preceding 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake City included an assembly of chiefs from Indigenous nations around the world advocating for water in plenary addresses and 32 unique programs through diverse religious and expert perspectives related to the sacred call for water protection.
Anishinabek Grandmother Kim Wheatley, one of the organizers of the Great Lakes Water Walk and a member of the 2018 Parliament of World Religions Toronto steering committee said, “the mission of the Great Lakes Water Walk is to awaken the innate, sacred reverence for water that ripples within us all. This walk demonstrates a spirit of truth and reconciliation by sharing a path for First Peoples and Canadians from all backgrounds to walk symbolically together towards a new relationship grounded in peace, friendship and mutual respect.”
Addressing the media from the 2015 Parliament, United Nations Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall put faith aside and warned humanity by naming water as the primary threat making certain a future world war, as resource scarcity and climate change overtakes and exacerbates sectarian and international conflicts, grossly endangering the world’s youngest and most vulnerable.
Going forward with a strong emphasis on engaging guiding institutions with faith-based leadership in the areas of truth and reconciliation, peacebuilding, and environmental stewardship, planners of the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions program will be inspired by the work of Ontario and Canadian organizations that are already experimenting with and succeeding in fusing together social action that is based on inclusivity, next generation leadership and gender balance– and making a noticeable difference.
These elements and more will be characteristic of the signature Water Walk activities that September 24’s event will model for the Pathways to the Parliament events carried on around the world.
Lucy Cummings, a Great Lakes Water Walk supporting partner and Executive Director of Faith & the Common Good, reminds us that “our waters have been degraded with pollution and plastic clogging the ebb and flow of her veins. On September 24th, people of diverse faith, spiritual, and cultural backgrounds will walk in solidarity and recognition of First Peoples, who have been on the frontlines in the struggle to respect and protect the waters for future generations. By walking together under the ceremonial leadership of Indigenous Grandmothers, we acknowledge the strength, resilience and resurgence of Indigenous women as ‘keepers of the water’. Together, we walk towards love and a better future for all. “
A #BecauseOfWater kit to be specially designed by Indigenous Grandmothers will be co-launched by partners Great Lakes Water Walk, Nibi Emosaawdamajg, Sacred Water Circle, Youth for Water, Faith & the Common Good and the Parliament of the World's Religions in November 2017, and promoted to global faith, indigenous and social action networks interested in the Parliament. Water protectors from around the world are invited to unite in Toronto with people of diverse faith and spiritual backgrounds at the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions. Advance Registration is now open at ParliamentOfReligions.org.
The Nibi Mosewin Onji Nayaano-nibimaang Gichigamiin -- Great Lakes Water Walk (GLWW) -- is an Indigenous-led, inclusive, multicultural ceremony and celebration of Nibi (Water) as a sacred, life-giving gift to all Creation that will take place along the Toronto Waterfront on September 24, 2017. By sharing the Indigenous practice of honouring and giving thanks to those same Lakes, The Great Lakes Water Walk is an invitation to people of all backgrounds to pause and reflect upon what we can do individually and collectively to ensure the health and well-being of our waters for generations to come.
Nibi Emosaawdamajig – Those Who Walk for the Water – was formed in the Kawarthas region of Ontario in 2010 by Elder Shirley Williams and Liz Osawamick, inspired by Grandmother Josephine Mandamin’s work and a "Water Matters Conference” at Trent University. It is comprised of women and men from Peterborough and the Kawarthas who are committed to sharing Traditional Anishinaabeg Water Teachings with the local community through annual Water Walks.
Inspired by traditional Indigenous teaching and leading with hope and spiritual courage, the Sacred Water Circle sees a restored relationship between human communities and water. Sacred Water Circle seeks to create dialogue around spiritually-based environmental issues, and to motivate communities and governments to act to set policy that will protect our water, by leading with prayer and walking together. First initiated by Curve Lake First Nation visionary Dorothy Taylor, the Sacred Water Circle was formed in 2011 in response to a call from indigenous leaders worldwide to foster exchange and discussion, learn from one another and to build community around this important cause.
The Youth for Water program focuses on bridging traditional Indigenous knowledge and culture with science and environmental issues to deliver a project that provides young Indigenous adults (ages 18-25) with an opportunity to learn about water issues and become involved in water protection and conservation. This is a shared project of the Sacred Water Circle and Green Communities Canada and funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation – Youth Opportunities Fund. This program seeks to give youth the necessary skills, tools, knowledge and understanding of traditional ecological knowledge which will lead them to solutions and action locally, nationally and globally.
Faith & the Common Good (FCG) is a Canadian-based interfaith charitable network founded in 2000 on the belief that our diverse faith congregations and spiritual communities can be powerful role models for the common good. Our network is composed of people of faith, hope, and spirit who, despite our differences in theology, dress and culture, share a calling to protect our ecosystem and a passion for community service.