Interfaith Inauguration of the Leave No One Behind Summit At Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh

Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA)*, in collaboration with Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)** with technical support of Fresh Water Action Network South Asia (FANSA)*** & is hosting a Summit on the critical theme of “Leave No One Behind” particularly with regard to access to Water and Sanitation (SDG 6) at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh from the 16th to 18th of December.

GIWA, FANSA and WSSCC have decided to join hands with society, to hear what the voiceless and the invisible have to say, learn from each other, identify solutions, and move forward together towards Reaching the Furthest Behind First.

The Summit is being organised with the aim to include those who have long been excluded in the benefits of development, and to ensure that no one in India will be left behind in access to the human rights of water sanitation and hygiene, including menstrual hygiene and health, and in the access and use of related WASH services.

GIWA. WSSCC and FANSA deeply believe that this achievement will greatly contribute to the wider and fuller enjoyment of all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible human rights for everyone, and for an increasingly equitable society for all women, men and children.

The Summit was inaugurated by the heads of 5 major faith traditions mainly: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism & Christianity in the Ashram premises. The consultation brings together groups who are typically left behind in access to benefits of development: 1. Youth; 2. Women; 3. Dalits; 4. Adivasis; 5. Transgenders and LGBTIQ; 6. Migrants & Refugees; 7.Urban Poor; 8. Urban Poor- Homeless; 9. Persons with Disabilities; 10. Elderly; 11. Farmers, 12. People living with HIV; 13. Manual scavengers, and 14. Female sex workers.

Welcoming everyone Vinod Mishraji head of WSSCC India Head shared, “On behalf of WSSCC, GIWA, FANSA and Parmarth I welcome you all to Rishikesh and to the diverse interfaith and inclusive inauguration of the Leave No One Behind Summit.”He shared in detail the great strides made under Swachh Bharat Mission and added, “Swachh Bharat has made incredible strides which has made India proud globally. However, we are here to identify the gaps and plan concrete suggestions to move forward to an ODF+ India in which No One is Left Behind.”

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance shared, “We cannot say we are a healthy society, a developed society, a sustainable society, or a society with rights, until and unless every single individual in our society is has access to everything, they need to ensure that their basic human rights are fulfilled. We must take the example of Maa Ganga, she does not flow for the Hindus and not the Muslims, or for the Christians and not the Jains, or for one caste over another caste, or for one colour over another colour. She flows for all. It is no longer the case that we can fall back on borders and boundaries and divisions between us and them, in order to feel ok about us. Those borders, those lines, those boundaries must be dissolved in order to move forward.”

Father Philip Kuruvilla representing the Christian tradition said, “We must recognise the interconnectedness of all the challenges we face today, whether its health, water scarcity, climate change and/or terrorism. We need to understand that at the core these challenges have one thing in common that is that it affects all human beings and that is universal. Therefore, I urge us all to continue to bring Faith into Action to ensure that No One is ever left behind.”

Drikung Acharya Kinleyji from the Buddhist tradition said, “Faith brings light both within ourselves and in our societies. Once we light ourselves then we can ensure light everywhere. Once there is light, compassion and love for all then no one can ever be left behind.”

Maulana Kokab Mujatbaji from the Islamic tradition shared, “Those who don’t recognise their self and don’t understand themselves can never understand others.  Those who don’t understand themselves they can’t help others. Therefore, we must understand ourselves, start with our homes and expand to our communities, our countries and our world.”

Sadhvi Shilapiji of the Jain tradition said, “Its not merely about not doing any bad but committing ourselves to doing more good is crucial. There is less negativity in the world then positivity but the challenge is that the positivity is passive. Therefore, we must actively do more positive and that must start with ourselves and our homes.”

Laxmi Narayan Tripathiji representing the Kinnar community shared passionately, “Gender budgeting is a must! We must be aware of and give space to the third gender. Transgender is a visible sexual minority and hence most easily and commonly discriminated we can no longer just be a token face or body we don’t want to be left behind. We demand to have our voices heard and opinions shared because it is time for change.”

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji gave His blessings by saying, “The time is right and the time is now.” He added, “The root of the problem of is when we leave the One behind. When the One- the Creator- is left behind – when we forget that One is in all of creation – then we leave everything behind, then we see separation. But when we remember the One in all and see All with that One then only can we ensure everyone is included, welcomed and celebrated.”

He beautifully shared the story of Sultana Begam from Ajmer, Rajasthan from All India Sex Workers Organisation who met him last night after the Aarti and thanked her for sharing her story and expressing her deep gratitude for being so welcomed and comfortable at Parmarth and shared that Parmarth is home to her and to all. He shared that Parmarth is Home to all and commended everyone who had come for the conference for doing the work of the Creator by serving all of humanity.

James Wicken, Head Global Policy Advocacy Innovation Unit, WSSCC delivered the vote of thanks by thanking everyone involved in being a crucial part of the Summit and especially thanked Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Parmarth Niketan for hosting the Summit in the lap of the Himalayas, on the banks of Mother Ganga to really bring forth transformation and sustainable change.

Everyone pledged together joining their hands and their hearts and raised the Rudraksha sapling as they committed together towards working together for water and environmental preservation. They also joined together to perform GIWA’s signature Water Blessing Ceremony and came forth to take pictures at the Leave No One Behind Selfie point with participants.

The program will continue till the 18th and will include high-level plenary sessions on “Moving Forward Together to Sustain ODF+” with renowned faith leaders, key leaders and development partners joining together to release the Outcomes of the Summit, which will include identifying, compiling and elucidating recommendations for the various segments of the society and extending all the necessary support to ensure that No-One-Is -Left Behind. The event brought together participants from not only India but also America, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Nepal, South Africa, Estonia, Netherlands, China, Gemrany, United Kingdom and others, participants hailed from more than 20 states across India (see list below), more than 30 international and national organizations (see list below).

This Summit is also in honor of 150 years of Mahatma Gandhiji’s birthday with the awareness of Gandhi Forever! Gandhiji’s teachings and message are just as crucial today as they were during Independence.  In accordance with Gandhiji’s great vision, GIWA, WSSCC and FANSA are coming together to strengthen ties across all segments of society and foster societal engagement across all borders and boundaries, towards a more just nation and world for all.