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The ICE Network:
Inter-religious Climate

and Ecology Network

Yathra in sanskrit means ‘journey’.  It is generally associated with pilgrimage to holy places.  During a Yathra, people from different regions, religions, nationalities, and backgrounds, meet and walk together, often conversing about their daily lives and various other issues. The long pilgrimage journey often whirls and winds through natural environments, and rural villages.  Pilgrims are able to witness the changing conditions of the environment, as well as observe the issues faced by village people. A simple introduction, an intense conversation on a social, religious, political, environmental issue, a transforming inner experience, there is much that can happen on a Yathra.

 

The ICE Network believes that a Yathra provides the best opportunity for people to share their experience and views on climate change and other environmental issues.  A Yathra is synonymous to a mobile, field placed informal conference. Here, participants have the opportunity to be exposed to the outside realities, as well as express with others their inner realities. The Yathra facilitates the actual witnessing of climate change in action (droughts, floods, typhoons, heat waves, disease outbreaks, deforestation), and encourages people to reflect on the need to take action by exploring alternative systems and ways of living in order to restore equilibrium in our natural environment, as well as increase the resilience of urban and rural communities.

 

For the ICE Network, a Yathra is of high value, mainly for the reason that it enables exchanges and interactions between people facing differing truths, and having contrasting beliefs and backgrounds.  For the urban city dweller, who is used to residing in the comfortable enclosures of their near to perfect city environments, a Yathra turns outs to be a profoundly transforming experience, a journey of being exposed to the harsh existence of climate change and the consequences it has on the rural communities and the environment.  For the rural folks, the Yathra provides the opportunity to share stories of hardships faced during times of drought, floods, typhoons etc.  Such two-way discussions between urban and rural groups enable the possibility of constructive knowledge and experiential exchanges, out of which potential solutions for addressing problems faced due to climate change can be explored.  Interactions between people of religious/spiritual backgrounds and non-religious/spiritual backgrounds also occur during a Yathra.  This allows for interesting conversations, that take twists between ‘head’ centered arguments on addressing climate change through outward initiatives, and ‘heart’ centered contemplation on the need to re-consider inherent ethical and spiritual values towards our environment.  Many a times, such dialogues during a Yathra can lead to meaningful ends, a ‘head & heart’ resolution that may actually turn out to be the ray of hope in making peace with Mother Nature.

 

The ICE Network commits to organize pilgrimage Yathras in different countries, which enable multi-disciplinary exchanges between people on global environmental issues.

 

The Kolamba Yathra 2015