Former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue visits Gurudwara and Nishkam Centre

Guest oudside Gurudwara Sahib

Guests oudside Gurudwara Sahib

On Tuesday 10th November, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald visited the Gurudwara served by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and the Nishkam Centre as part of his trip to Birmingham. The visit was a session following the Archbishop’s first visit to the Nishkam Group of Organisations in 2000.  

Archbishop Fitzgerald, believes the impetus for interreligious dialogue in the Catholic Church stems from the Second Vatican Council, in particular the declaration Nostra Aetate (‘In our Time’) on relations with other religions. For the first time, the declaration Nostra Aetate, made a positive assessment of other religious traditions, emphasising dialogue between people rather than systems. The fact that this year represents the 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate was also poignant and relevant to the Archbishop’s

Archbishop Fitzgerald

Archbishop Fitzgerald

visit. The Archbishop was welcomed on behalf of Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh by a delegation from the Nishkam Education Trust and Nishkam Centre. Local members of the Focolare Movement were also invited because of creative partnership working they were developing with the Nishkam Education Trust. Until his retirement in 2012 the Archbishop was the Papal Nuncio to Egypt (envoy or permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See to a state or international organisation) and delegate to the Arab League. A strong advocate of interreligious dialogue, he is widely considered the Catholic Church’s leading expert on Islam.

On the Monday evening preceding the visit, Archbishop Fitzgerald was welcomed by faith colleagues from various members of the city’s faith communities at St Chads. Archbishop Bernard Longley hosted the evening and Archbishop Fitzgerald had the opportunity to have informal conversations with all present. The Archbishop also gave an address to Catholic colleagues at St Chads.

Archbishop in Main Darbar Sahib and about to present a bouquet of flowers to Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Archbishop in Main Darbar Sahib and about to present a bouquet of flowers to Guru Granth Sahib Ji

During talks the Archbishop said, “The more you understand a religion, the better it is. I think this helps to build relations”.  The Archbishop on arrival went to the Main Darbar Sahib and presented a bouquet of flowers to Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The entourage then proceeded to the rooftop Gumbad Darbar (Dome prayer room) and listened to the evening simran (prayers) being recited. On route to the rooftop Darbar the group walked past the Langar (free food prepared and served from the Guru’s Kitchen by volunteers). The Archbishop was struck by the amount of food that was prepared and served to people visiting the Gurudwara and also the Nishkam Help meals that go out to feed the homeless in Birmingham.

The guests then walked along Soho Road to be updated on development around the Nishkam Community Cooperative, the Retail outlets, Nishkam Health and Nishkam Schools before retreating to the  Nishkam Centre for refreshments and discussion. At the Nishkam Centre the Archbishop and guests saw videos and a presentation about the Sikh community activities around langar, education, civic engagement, health initiatives and generally interfaith dialogue projects. An insight of the Nishkam Group of Organisations’ work in the UK and internationally was shared. This included the vision behind education projects which involved taking a global view of child wellbeing and social responsibility to children. Also highlighted was the way in which inter-religious collaboration, in particular with Catholic / Jewish education bodies, had been of practical support to

Archbishop Fitzgerald, Catholic and Sikh colleagues discuss progress to date and looking to the future for collaborative projects

Archbishop Fitzgerald, Catholic and Sikh colleagues discuss progress to date and looking to the future for collaborative projects

Nishkam Education Trust.
The Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh, said ”We are delighted to welcome back the Archbishop; there was a lot to talk about since his last visit in 2000. He was extremely impressed with the progress that had been made to the infrastructure and from an engagement point of view.  There was a genuine heartfelt desire on the part of the guests to understand what we do and also how we could build on this in collaboration.”During discussions, William Ozanne, who is a big supporter of the work that GNNSJ undertakes and very influential within the Catholic community was keen to explore the idea of a 5th Sikh-Catholic Dialogue. This idea had been discussed previously between Bhai Sahib Ji and William with a view that it should be hosted in the Sikh’s

Nostra aetate, The ‘Leaven of Good’ - a film celebrating 5 historic decades; a story of vision, collaboration and encounter, and today, a demanding future. The film was shown during the conference and also contains an Interview

Nostra aetate, The ‘Leaven of Good’ – a film celebrating 5 historic decades; a story of vision, collaboration and encounter, and today, a demanding future. The film was shown during the conference and also contains an Interview

holiest city of Amritsar in Punjab (India). Whilst underlining that he was not directly responsible for enabling such developments Archbishop Fitzgerald said would welcome and support the opportunity for dialogue.

Amrick went on, “Unfortunately, Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE could not be present to welcome and host the Archbishop in Birmingham due to a conference engagement at Lambeth Palace. However, Bhai Sahib and the Archbishop will have an opportunity for discussion tomorrow in London”.

END

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

Nishkam Media Centre – www.nishkammediacentre.com

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