International President of Initiatives of Change visits Nishkam campus

Dr Omnia Marzouk, International President, Initiatives of Change

Dr Omnia Marzouk, International President, Initiatives of Change

On Friday 4th December, Dr Omnia Marzouk, International President of Initiatives of Change (IofC) accompanied by Elsa Vogal and Bill Ozanne visited the Nishkam Group of Organisations. This auspicious visit has paved the way for fruitful collaboration opportunities that will benefit humanity for generations to come.

On arrival to the Gurudwara Sahib and campus Dr Marzouk and the distinguished guests were welcomed and greeted by the Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh. An overview of the activities that took place at the Gurudwara and the other four centres was given. At this point a linkage back to Kericho (Kenya) and the work of the founder Saint, Sant Baba Puran Singh Ji and his successor Bhai Sahib Norang Singh Ji was also highlighted. The guests were intrigued to hear the journey and development of the Jatha and the contribution being made to humanity.

Amrick Singh then explained the fact that prayers had been ongoing

Dr Omnia Marzouk takes a bouquet for Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Dr Omnia Marzouk takes a bouquet for Guru Granth Sahib Ji

at the Gurudwara since 1974 and over 25,000 meals a week were served in the langar (blessed vegetarian food prepared by volunteers in the Guru’s kitchen and served to all). It became clear and evident to the guests that whilst structurally there were much larger Gurudwaras in the UK, GNNSJ was one having a big impact and involvement. The guests then made their way into the main Darbar Sahib to pay respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal and revered Guru of the Sikhs. Dr Marzouk was invited to present a bouquet of flowers to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

Dr Marzouk listens as prayers are recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gumbad Darbar (Dome Prayer Room)

Dr Marzouk listens as prayers are recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gumbad Darbar (Dome Prayer Room)

After visiting the Darbar Sahib the group made its way to the Gumbad Darbar or referred to as the Dome Prayer hall. The guests were clearly in ore when they got to the rooftop and took in the amazing views and unique presence of the dome. The history of the construction, decoration and completion of the dome was shared with the guests.

The guests were then taken for a brief walk on Soho Road to see the other enterprises. They visited the outside of MSS, spoke about the pharmacy, looked at and discussed the Nishkam School Trust where Ranjit Singh provided an overview for the guests so they could appreciate the amount of work, in particular, the volunteer hours, the unique vision and the leadership that had been invested for the benefit of future generations. Once they reached the Nishkam Centre they all visited the current exhibition and the Harmandir Sahib model – or referred to as the Golden Temple in the western world. The group were overwhelmed by the beautiful model and the work that had been done on the 24 Spiritual and Moral Dispositions that was also exhibited.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of GNNSJ and the Nishkam Civic Association, joined the delegation in the seminar room. After brief introductions Bhai Sahib Ji asked Dr Marzouk about the meaning of her name and her ancestral background. There then ensued a series of discussions around similarities between to two institutions. Bill was keen to draw parallels between what the Nishkam Group was involved in and what the IofC was doing.

Dr Marzouk said, “I am really impressed with what the Sikh

A memorable image outside the Gurudwara Sahib

A memorable image outside the Gurudwara Sahib

community is doing here; our values and ethos, we have so much in common. The philosophy of what you are doing is very similar to what Initiatives of Change is about. It is about how we enable people to be effective change makers. The three key areas we work are; trust building, ethical leadership – empowering the next generation, to take a values-based approach to the workplace, the third area is sustainable living i.e how do we promote an economy that is value-based and businesses are value-based and not just to make profit. There is also a focus on working with partners on sustainable environmental projects.”

“If we were to map the areas of the world where there is conflict and then also map the areas of the world where greenery is being destroyed and becoming desert the maps will show a relationship. Where there is conflict there is also desertification [land becomes desert like]. We have to look at our dialogue tools to help communities to work on the land to improve the productivity of the land.

The conversation around Kenya was of particular interest. The work GNNSJ was doing with education, healthcare provision, women’s prison work, sports facilities, orphanage work, HIV work, and general empowerment with ethics and values was something Dr Marzouk could relate to and she gave examples of projects they too were involved in. This involved faith communities coming together following trust building workshops over a period of time. This led nicely into a conversation around the Charter of Forgiveness and Reconciliation that Bhai Sahib Ji was leading on.

Bhai Sahib Ji spoke about ensuring our moral compasses were aligned right, “That should be our priority. Our different identities, mother, father, brother, sister etc need to be fulfilled and should not detract us from our purpose here on earth. We should be compassionate as being revengeful is double poison.” He then recalled the story of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. “The 5th Guru who was made to sit on a hot plate and had hot sand poured over his head, he gave us an example of how we should live in God’s will. The Guru’s friend and soul mate, Sai Mia Mir, a Muslim, wanted to help him but was told that this was God’s will. We can and should nurture good human beings with good values. We must bring out the best in people not the worst”.

“Our challenges are global they require global solutions which in turn will need global infrastructure. The United Nations (UN) is one such structure”. He recalled something Chiara Lubich said to him about the UN, “If the UN fails to deliver there will be no United Nations we will have a ‘United People’.” Bhai Sahib Ji continued, ”The power is within the ordinary people we need to empower them. The mind is like a mustang – a wild horse – it is uncontrollable; it is very shrewd. I am happy, we are on the same wavelength – we all want to see positive change.”

Bhai Sahib Ji thanked Dr Marzouk and said, ”We are all truly inspired by everything you have shared with us and are honoured that you are here with us today.”

The group then shared a blessed meal together at the Gurudwara where further heartfelt conversation took place. There was a general sense of anticipation and hope of what was possible by collaboration and partnership working. It was inspiring to see the inspirational and visionary leaders of two organisations in such harmony and agreement of what was required to make the world a better place for all who inhabit it and for mother Earth per se.

Bhai Sahib Ji then presented Dr Marzouk with an information pack and more importantly a copy of a book that both pictorially and narratively explained about Sikh heritage, faith, practices, places of worship and in general painted a picture of what is a Sikh.

During the day Dr Marzouk was asked about her role and she humbly said,” My predecessors were very important and influential statesmen, the former head of Red Cross Switzerland, Kofi Annan’s personal assistant, and Rajmohan Gandhi. I had turned down the role and told them to find someone more important and relevant. When other candidates refused the job on the grounds they could not it, they pressed me to take it on. After prayer and reflection, three questions came to me. ‘Do you believe ordinary people are used by God can do great things?’ I thought ‘yes’.  The next question was, ‘Do you think God is calling you to do this?’ Again I thought ‘yes’. Finally ‘Are you prepared to leave your comfort zone?’ to which again I answered ‘yes’. It was at this point that I took on the role in all honesty. After the event, Bill Ozanne said to Amrick Singh that, Omnia (Dr Marzouk) and Bhai Sahib Ji seemed to have a great meeting of hearts and minds and this was probably because of their shared journey’s and similarities of how they got their calling to serve and took on the challenges they are addressing.

After the visit, Amrick Singh said, “It was a pleasure and honour to welcome our distinguished guests to the campus and share with them what we are privileged to do. I am sure we will be identifying collaborative opportunities here and abroad to work more closely together. We will also be seeing more of Elsa Vogal, she was part of the French Resistance and recalls phenomenal episodes where she was face-to-face with the enemy and lived to tell the tale. More importantly, she used her experience to help shape the world we see today by becoming instrumental in what IofC was all about”.


Notes to Editors:

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