Nishkam family and the City of Birmingham remember elder statesman who has passed away

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla OBE - 4th Jan 1927 – 6th Oct 2017

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla OBE – 4th Jan 1927 – 6th Oct 2017

The community has suffered a major loss as one of the pillars of the Sikh community in the UK, Mr Sewa Singh Mandla OBE, a proud member of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, Trustee and Non–executive member of the Nishkam Civic Association and former Chair of many Trusts and Boards, aged 90 passed away on the 6th October 2017.

Sewa Singh Mandla was born on the 4th January 1927 in Nairobi Kenya. As an amritdhari, disciplined Sikh faith practitioner and legal professional, he was the corner stone of the Nishkam Civic Association, as one of its founder members. Having qualified and practiced as a lawyer in Kenya, he was considered a heavyweight in the legal profession. An extrovert who could relate to people of all walks of life irrespective of status, seniority, age, gender, faith tradition, Mr Mandla considered all equally and lovingly with his humble compassionate approach. He was a thorough professional, impeccably dressed and presented, an individual who was both strategic in thought but always had an eye on the detail.

In 1974, he migrated to the U.K and qualified as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of United Kingdom. He set up his own legal practice in Handsworth Birmingham, becoming the first non-white Solicitor to have practised in the Birmingham Magistrates Court. He provided much needed services to the Black, Minority and Ethnic communities with great success. He worked tirelessly for all sections of Handsworth and Birmingham communities, building bonds, and creating social cohesion. This period also led him to become an active volunteer for the growing Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Christian places of worship and charitable institutions, providing legal advice and aid on a pro-bono basis.

As a respected, high profile lawyer, a community and inter-faith leader in Birmingham he was appointed Officer of British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his 50 years’ legal, human rights and selfless community voluntary service. A long serving volunteer at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and a trustee at the Nishkam Civic Association, Mr Mandla has made significant contribution to community and inter-faith development work in the city, nationally and

internationally under the guidance and leadership of Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG. He personally sphere-headed the landmark trip of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group to Amritsar India as well as arranged an auspicious visit and meeting of Sikhs with the Pope at the Vatican.

In 1983 Mr Mandla made legal history for the Sikh community and the legal profession whereby the decision of the Law Lords made a ground breaking case law for the Sikhs to wear turbans (Mandla vs Lee 1983). The headmaster of a private school in Birmingham, Mr. Lee refused to grant Mr Mandla’s son admission in his school unless he removed his turban, cut his traditional long hair and wore a school cap. Mr Mandla commenced legal proceedings against the headmaster for Racial Discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976 and also organised a protest march in Hyde Park, London in which 40,000 people of diverse communities took part. A petition, signed by more than 70,000 people against the decision of the lower courts and highlighting the importance of a Turban to a Sikh, was presented to the Prime Minster at 10 Downing Street. The House of Lords decided in favour of Mr Mandla.

Mr Mandla devoted his entire life to work as a volunteer to serve the needs of voluntary and community organisations, bringing about change to improve the quality of life of the disadvantaged members of the Community. His most outstanding contributions was to the work of many organisations including, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) where he spent an average of eight hours daily, serving the Gurdrwara, its congregation and the Trust. As a founding trustee of the Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) he was most passionate about its work and vision. He has worked tirelessly for many other boards and bodies including Chairmanship of Council Of Sikh Gurdwaras Birmingham; Birmingham Council of Faith’s, and the Roger Hooker Memorial Trust. He was also Vice Chair and Trustee for Religions for Peace UK Chapter, and Founder Member Birmingham Faith Leaders Group.

Mr Mandla was constantly in the media as a spokesperson for the Sikh community; multiculturalism in UK; the legal profession; the success of immigrant communities; and health and wellbeing issues.

Prof. Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice Chair of Nishkam Civic Association (NCA, also known as the Nishkam Centre) said, “The Sikh and wider community in Birmingham and the region has lost one of the longest serving lawyers, an active volunteer, and role model for spirituality. Mr Mandla shone and became a legend for his ability to successfully fuse his professional work in law with spirituality to make a difference to the Sikh and wider communities in the UK. Mr Mandla’s perseverance to take the issue of turbans worn by Sikh pupils in schools, is a testament of his dedication to fight for a just cause. He had an extraordinary passion and flair for serving the community in the pursuit of making a difference. His perseverance to follow through projects and tasks was one of his outstanding qualities.”

Mr Mandla is survived by his son, Gurinder and daughter Tina and six grandchildren and our thought and prayers are with them all during this time. His legacy and contribution will remain for years to come and he will be missed by so many.

Funeral service details for Bhai Sewa Singh Mandla Ji

For more information:

Please contact Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice Chairman, Nishkam Civic Association on 07974150320

Peace Pledge Project Symposium

Interfaith leaders standing together in front of the International Peace Palace, The Hague

Interfaith leaders standing together in front of the International Peace Palace, The Hague

International interfaith luminaries took part in the Peace Pledge Project Symposium, held at various venues in the Netherlands on 11th-14th September 2017.

The three-day symposium included:

  • ‘Virtues of the Heart’ sessions, involving interfaith inspiration, dialogue and sharing educational best practice, held at the Universal Sufi Temple, Katwijk, and the Sufi Centre, The Hague.
  • ’Relate your Heart to your Business’, ‘Water for Life’, and ‘70 Years of diplomatic friendship between The Netherlands and India’ sessions, involving politicians, business and spiritual leaders, held at The International Peace Palace, The Hague.

The event was sponsored by the Universal Sufi Council, led by Dr. Professor Johannes Witteveen, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, along with Brigitte van Baren, Director of Inner Sense, Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute and Pir Shabda Kahn, Spiritual Director of the Sufi Ruhaniat International.

The main theme woven throughout the sessions emphasised spreading the message of Loving Kindness and Compassion through the whole of humanity, as expressed in the “PEACE PLEDGE” (attached below), in addition to connecting the water experts of the Netherlands with the need for water purification in India.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman of GNNSJ, commented, “to create peace in the

Imam Umer A. Ilyasi, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Prof. Johannes Witteveen and Brigitte van Baren collectively lighting the peace flame at the Peace Flame Monument, International Peace Palace, The Hague.

Imam Umer A. Ilyasi, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Prof. Johannes Witteveen and Brigitte van Baren collectively lighting the peace flame at the Peace Flame Monument, International Peace Palace, The Hague.

world around us, we must all nurture peace within ourselves. We do this through the practice of divine virtues, including loving-kindness and compassion, which empower us to earnestly control our human vices. In this light, this Peace Pledge is to be highly commended.”

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, co-founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, said, “the growing water crisis and countless drying water bodies across the globe is a concern for every individual and every nation, hence it is wonderful that this dialogue and call for collective action is taking place from the International Peace Palace, because without safe and sufficient water there can be no peace. Hence, it is time for us to join together across faiths to work as one for clean water, sanitation and hygiene for all, so that every child is allowed the opportunity not just to survive but to truly thrive.”

Interfaith leaders joining hands together at the Universal Sufi Temple, Katwijk.

Interfaith leaders joining hands together at the Universal Sufi Temple, Katwijk.

The Symposium was infused with divinely inspired music throughout. Such music plays a pivotal role in the Sufi faith, as well as other faiths, with the central inspiration being the Tawhid, the Islamic concept of the oneness of God, as expressed in the prayer “La ilaha illallah”, meaning “there is no God but God”.

UN Secretary General and Religious Leaders Unite to Launch Plan of Action to Prevent and Counter Incitement to Violence

Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres meets with religous leaders.

The first ever plan of action designed to prevent incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity violence was launched on 14 July 2017, at a meeting held today in the ECOSOC chambers at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The plan of action was developed by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, with the support of KAICIID, the World Council of Churches and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

The event was inaugurated by Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres; Under Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng; and Secretary-General of KAICIID, Faisal Bin Muaammar. Amongst a number of religious leaders of individual communities from around the world, Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman and Religious Leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha UK, provided a Sikh perspective on the panel discussing the role of religious leaders in preventing incitement to violence.

Bhai Sahib Ji commented, ““This Plan of Action and the process by which it has been developed is highly commended.

Mr Adama Dieng the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide meets with Bhai Sahib.

The misuse of religion to provoke violence is a symptom of diseased minds. To eliminate this disease at the source, we must lovingly liberate our minds through empowering ourselves with the values of compassion, truthfulness, selfless contentment, humility and love. Only peace within oneself can lead to peace around us.”

Implementation of the Plan of Action will contribute to the prevention of atrocity crimes, especially in areas affected by religious and sectarian tensions and violence and enhance the respect, protection and promotion of human rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief and peaceful assembly.

At the launch meeting, religious leaders, the United Nations, Member States, and civil society began discussing strategies for the implementation of the Plan of Action and the coordination between religious leaders and implementing agencies.  Important next steps include the dissemination of the Action Plan among Member States, relevant UN agencies and other stakeholders.

ENDS

For further information, contact and full resolution photographs: info@gnnsj.org

UK Sikh Community Joins Millions in Global Prayer to End Famine

On Sunday 21st May 2017, Religions for Peace (RfP), joined with 70 organizations around the world, including the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, to support the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, an initiative co-led by the World Council of Churches. People of all faiths joined together in places of worship across the globe, to collectively pray for peace for all, and for the end of suffering from famine.

The initiative, headed by Rev Olav Tveit (Co-President of Religions for Peace), aims to address what the UN has defined as the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. The global day of prayer flooded social media and international news sources, raising awareness of the enormity of the famine problem, as well as attracting messages of support from both people experiencing the crisis, and those working to end it.

Among the various religious communities showing their commitment to fostering a world without famine was the Sikh community, with a 24 million worldwide population. The Sikh daily prayer is for ‘Sarbat da Bhalla,’ the well-being of all.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh (International Trustee and Co-President of Religions for Peace, Chairman of the UK-based Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha) led the Sikh response to the interfaith call to prayer, and joined over 500 community members in reciting a sacred text, the Prayer for Peace and Well-Being, written by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev Ji, in the seventeenth century.

The prayer was held at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara, based on Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham. The powerful prayer lasted over 90 minutes, and was recited by the entire congregation, who stood with joined hands in prayer, to implore the Almighty to forgive humanity for its sins, and to bring relief to those suffering from the pain of famine. The prayer was followed by ‘Kirtan’, the singing of sacred hymns.

 

Chaplaincy from the Heart of Faith

Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh with the students at the Forgiveness event

Representatives from various faith traditions came together to develop a ( Level 4) ‘Understanding Chaplaincy from a Faith Perspective’ training course. The collaboration was funded by the Urban Church Fund through the Near Neighbours Programme and delivered by experienced project co-ordinator and tutor, Narinder Kaur.­

Participants helping in the formation of the course included those from the Buddhist, Christian, Ras Tafari, Islam and Sikh Dharam (way of life), with an objective to inspire, educate, train and empower others to deliver Chaplaincy from the heart of faith.

The Nishkam Centre became the source for the delivery of the training programme, registering 14 chaplains as students from various faith traditions who took a total of 60 voluntary hours each to complete the course.

Abbas Shah an Islam Chaplain from Clifton Road Mosque said: “What has been unique about this course is that it has provided a perspective from various faiths with genuine respect and enquiry”

Father Julian Sampson (speaker) with Narinder Kaur at St Micheal’s Church

Moqapi Selassie Ras Tafari Heritage Chaplain commented: “So the Level 2 Chaplaincy Course came at the right time. I finished the course and in 2015 I started working as a Ras Tafari Prison Chaplain and completing the Level 4 Course to further enhance my knowledge base and experience”

To enhance the training and better understand Chaplaincy in the 21st Century, Chaplains from Organisations and Faith Communities were invited as speakers. Presentations included insight into community, healthcare, police and prison chaplaincy procedures as well as the latest research in values led approaches.

Students had the opportunity to participate in the ‘Forgiveness Charter Reconciliation’ project to further understand and learn about the toolkit and steps to forgive oneself and others to deepen and build on broken relationships.

The key elements of the course were to understand faith and organisational policy, procedure, guidelines, ethos, ethics, mandatory requirements, equality and diversity. Cultivating dignity and respect, customer care and understanding the individual faith requirements of chaplaincy from the life cycle of conception, birth, childhood, middle age and old age through to the end of life cycle including all faith celebrations and solemnizations.

Prayer and Religious Care is the highlight of chaplaincy which go hand in hand with a listening ear, supportive care and kind words of comfort through faith ethos, values and a ‘culture sensitivity’ practice to serve all of humanity along with customer care. In addi

Students at Central Mosque

tion to develop the skillsets of the chaplaincy students they took part in role plays, communication skills, presentation skills and confidence building and an understanding of ‘practice what we preach’, seeing the image of the Divine in all.

The participants visited three local places of worship: St Michael’s Church, Central Lozells Mosque and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurudwara all in the Lozell’s and East Handsworth Ward, giving students a better understanding on how religious worship contributes in the healing process of the body, mind and soul. This allowed the participants to have a feel of the spiritual aura around the focal point of each place of worship.

A series of personal statements and evaluations where also captured as project evidence.

Mike Anderson verifying the course work with Narinder Kaur

Mike Anderson the Quality Advisor for Open College Network recently examined the student files and was very pleased with the achievements by the students and level of commitment by the Nishkam Centre.

Dayal Kaur presenting on Sikh Dharam and Sikh Rogi Aasra (chaplaincy)

Prime Minister Theresa May praises multi-faith Nishkam Primary School Birmingham

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr.) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Patron of Nishkam School Trust, with Prime Minister Theresa May at Nishkam Primary School Birmingham

Theresa May visited Nishkam Primary School Birmingham today, where she praised pupils, staff and the community who are closely involved with the pioneering free school.

The Prime Minister spent time in the classroom with eight-year-old pupils who demonstrated their knowledge of an artist, Henri Rousseau, and discussed JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books with her.

Talking to Dr. Brinder Singh Mahon, Chief Executive of Nishkam School Trust, the multi-academy trust operating the school, the Prime Minister commented that she was inspired by the strong values education upon which the school is based and by the warm, family-like atmosphere within the school.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr.) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, who is the patron and visionary behind Nishkam School Trust said, “We are living in new global contexts, with new global challenges. These require a mind-set centred on values and virtues, along with a keen sense of shared responsibility. Our vision at Nishkam School Trust is to help nurture such a mind-set, enabling our future society to advance and flourish for the benefit of all.”

Mr. Terry Green, Chair of Directors of Nishkam School Trust commented, “On behalf of pupils, parents, staff and the entire community behind Nishkam School Trust, may I thank the Prime Minister for recognising the contribution our multi-faith Sikh ethos school is making to the educational and spiritual life of pupils in this part of Birmingham.”

Ms. Ruby Kundi, Headteacher, added, “We are very grateful for government policy which has allowed the Department for Education to give us this opportunity and responsibility to make a difference to each and every pupil in all of our schools.”

Nishkam Primary School Birmingham (NPSB) is located in Handsworth, an inner-city area of northwest Birmingham. It opened in September 2011 as part of the country’s first wave of free schools. The school is part of a cluster of developments serving to regenerate the local area by combining social innovation with heritage conservation.

Nishkam Primary School Birmingham is currently judged to be ‘Outstanding’ in all categories by OFSTED, an accolade shared by three of the four schools in the Nishkam School Trust.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Nishkam Primary School Birmingham (NPSB) is located in Handsworth, an inner-city

area of northwest Birmingham. The school opened in the first wave of free schools in

September 2011 and is part of a cluster of developments serving to regenerate the local area. It educates 420 pupils at present and is oversubscribed.

2. Nishkam School Trust is a Multi-Academy Trust, operating four multi-faith Sikh ethos schools – the trust motto is ‘man neeva mat uchi’ (be humble, be wise).

3. The Trust has developed an educational system committed to academic excellence grounded in a selfless approach to life (nishkam). These aspirations are underpinned by the practice of faith-inspired values of humility, service, compassion, self-discipline, forgiveness, creativity and love. These are values common to those of all faiths or no religious faith.

4. Within all Nishkam School Trust schools, the faith of every individual is equally cherished with our model of education going far beyond the traditional single faith school model. In essence, we believe that our faith-inspired values define the character of education and that they are intrinsic to a positive outlook on life.

5. Nishkam School Trust operates four free schools; two in Birmingham; one in Isleworth, London; and a fourth in Wolverhampton. At present, three of these schools are judged to be ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in every judgement category. When the schools grow to capacity in the coming years, the Trust will be privileged to be serving over 3000 pupils.

6. For more information or for high resolution images, please contact Gurdev Singh Deogon on gs.deogon@nishkamschools.org

World Interfaith Harmony Week 2017 Event on Forgiving and Reconciling in a Contemporary World: A call to action

Group photo of some of the attendees at the end of the event

The event opened with a prayer invoking God’s mercy and blessings. ‘The Power of Forgiveness and Reconciliation in our Contemporary World’ was the title of the forum on peace held on 4th February 2017 by the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation. The event was attended by a diverse audience with people from many different faith groups and parts of the world.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh addresses the audience.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh addresses the audience.

The event supported by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and hosted by the Nishkam Civic Association, took place during World Interfaith Harmony Week (UN resolution of 2010). The Charter has been supported and developed by a number of organisations including the Fetzer Institute, Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, and Religions for Peace.

Dr Josef Boehle, Director of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, spoke first, reading out part of the Statement of Vision and Purpose, which states that “the activity of forgiving is vital if healing and reconciliation is to take place, as part of our collective efforts to seek restorative justice and sustainable peace.”

“Fostering and practicing forgiveness has the power to transform deep-seated responses

Tariq Jahan raises the emotional level by sharing a heart moving experience

Tariq Jahan raises the emotional level by sharing a heart moving experience

to memories and legacies of injustice, conflict and war. It can liberate people from being imprisoned in their pasts and long ingrained mental and emotional conditions created by such legacies.”

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association and Co-Convenor of the Charter, spoke of forgiveness as originating from the Divine, and said a prayer, which spoke of seeking God’s help. He went on to speak about how forgiveness is essential in a   fractured world, and that “the whole of humanity is one family” who are all “interconnected and interdependent”. The root cause of conflict was also touched upon: “everything starts in the human mind. Humanity needs to start address the human mind very seriously”

John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral

John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral

Tariq Jahan, who suffered a personal tragedy when his son was killed during riots in 2011, gave a touching speech about his feelings and questions over forgiveness: ‘Do I forgive? How much do I really forgive? Then I think, how much does God forgive? He forgives all of us, on a daily basis. We all make mistakes.” Following the event, Tariq Jahan stated that “events like this soothe the heart”, and added that “we need to include the youth into these processes. As it is the younger generation who are the future and also need to learn about forgiveness.”

The bombing of Coventry Cathedral in 1940 led to an astonishing example of forgiveness

Ciaran Norris Director of Rising shared a perspective from Coventry & Global input

Ciaran Norris Director of Rising shared a perspective from Coventry & Global input

and reconciliation. The Dean of Coventry Cathedral, John Witcombe, was among the speakers, and reflected on the values of “honesty, hope and healing” which were integral to the rebuilding of the Cathedral following the bombing, and how the ruins represented a “physical embodiment of what happens in a world where we cannot work together.”

Ciaran Norris, Director of Rising Global Peace Forum, which is based in Coventry, spoke about having the capacity to forgive in a society where “things we have taken for certain are no longer certain”, and where facts are often distorted and the truth becomes difficult to find.

Rana Nazir, Founder British Kashmiri Women's Council

Rana Nazir, Founder British Kashmiri Women’s Council

Rana Nazir, founder of the British Kashmiri Women’s Council, reflecting on the long history of suffering and violent conflicts in the world and in Kashmir, highlighted the urgency that we “need to make our world a peaceful sanctuary for everyone.  Reconciliation is forgiveness in action – forgiveness and reconciliation can lead to a stronger bond than previously existed.”

Jorge Ravagli Cardona, a PhD Student from the University of Birmingham, provided an overview of the history of the decades-long conflict in Colombia and the recent peace agreement reached there between the government and the FARC. Looking forward he emphasized that “the messages themselves of dialogue for conflict-resolution and of forgiveness have to transcend the

Prof Pal Ahluwalia, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Portsmouth

Prof Pal Ahluwalia, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Portsmouth

political realm directly involved in the negotiation and reach the people, in order to transform the vicious circle of hate, insensitivity and exclusion.”

Mr Bill Ozanne conveyed greetings from the Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, and recalled parts of an address Pope Francis gave at the Interreligious Audience on 3rd November 2016 during the Jubilee Year of Mercy of the Roman-Catholic Church.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Portsmouth, stated that “forgiveness and compassion are powerful instruments”, and underlined the importance for both individuals and the whole world to “rise above malice”.

Attendees discuss Forgiveness & Reconciliation in group workshops

Attendees discuss Forgiveness & Reconciliation in group workshops

The forum featured video clips of His Holiness Pope Francis, HM Queen Elizabeth II, and as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, sent his apologies for the event, his New Year 2017 message talking about forgiveness and reconciliation was shared with all the attendees. This was followed by other religious leaders from different faiths speaking on the subject of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Pope Francis, in his speech at Clementine Hall on 3rd November 2016, said “forgiveness is surely the greatest gift we can give to others because it is the most costly. Yet at the same time, it is what makes us most like God.”

Speaking about the forum, Dr Josef Boehle stated “The Peace Forum on Forgiveness and Reconciliation takes place today as part of World Interfaith Harmony week in Birmingham. The vision of the Charter is to make a contribution to processes of forgiveness and reconciliation not only between individuals, communities and states, but also between faith traditions.”

Bhai Sahib, also speaking on the forum and the nature of forgiveness, stated that “the highest and the best form of human generosity and benevolence is forgiveness”. He then summarised and closed the event a prayer of thanks.

The event was clearly a landmark development in the journey towards sharing, inviting input and inspiring collaboration from like-minded people in support of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation. The participants left the event full of praise having been part of World Interfaith Harmony Week 2017 event at the Nishkam Centre.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

Sikh migration project launch: How will you tell your story?

Guests at the launch of ‘My Story-Our Journey’ at the Nishkam Centre

Guests at the launch of ‘My Story-Our Journey’ at the Nishkam Centre

“We are all refugees and migrants on this planet”, said Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh (OBE KSG, Chairman of Nishkam Civic Association), during the launch of the Sikh Migration research project at the Nishkam Centre on 25th January 2017 to an audience keen to participate in the project. “Where did I come from? “Where are your roots? What is my destination?”

The questions posed describe the essence of the project ‘My Story- Our Journey’, launched by the Nishkam Civic Association. The Sikh migration project, secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), aims to capture the retrospective journey of the Sikh population in Birmingham and the Black Country, from the first generation to the current day, through collecting oral histories from those who have experienced and grown up with the migrant journey.

The launch was attended by the project’s steering committee members, which included Councillor Preet K Gill (Sandwell) Suwinder Bains, Partnership and Community Engagement Manager (Birmingham City Council), Jasbir Singh Uppal (University of Wolverhampton), Manjeet

Guests arriving, networking and sharing stories

Guests arriving, networking and sharing stories

Kaur (Media and Heritage Volunteer) and Surinder Singh, Electoral officer (Sandwell) who said “As a person who has a strong connection with working in both Birmingham and the Black Country it was wonderful to see so many people showing a passionate interest and also a willingness to work together on this unique project. With this passion and energy I am sure ‘My Story – Our Journey’ will create a lasting legacy for the contribution of the Sikh Community in our region and  we look forward to seeing and hearing some wonderful and amazing stories”

The diverse audience also included author Jatinder Kaur, who is currently promoting her recent biography of her father, Bhai Sahib Rajinder Singh Ji, titled ‘Chalda Vaheer Jatha: A Spiritual Journey’.

Jatinder briefly spoke about her father’s journey to the UK, settling in Dudley, and the motives behind the transition. She wrote the biography with the help of her father’s diary, which was his ‘voice and guidance’ in writing the book. In her journey in capturing his story, she conducted face-to-face interviews with each person he had met on his international travels in promoting Sikh values, and discovered first-hand the feelings behind the stories of persecution and challenged identity.

Jatinder Kaur: Author of 'Chalda Vaheer Jatha: A Spiritual Journey'.

Jatinder Kaur: Author of ‘Chalda Vaheer Jatha: A Spiritual Journey’.

Rachel Chui (HLF, Committee Member for the West Midlands) was also among the speakers. After hearing the detailed account of the aims and timescales of the project, she spoke about her thoughts on the research: “Heritage is about the intangible – you can’t touch stories. People from all walks of life can contribute to the various histories and shared experiences.” Rachel poignantly added that we have “more in common than our differences.”

Ajit Singh, Contracts Manager (Nishkam Centre) and Inderdeep Kaur Shambi, Project Lead, gave a detailed account of how the project started, and the proposed deliverables.

The project aims to record and collate 30 oral histories, ranging from first generation migrants to the present, and whilst doing so, recruit and train a large number of volunteers with a variety of skills. Photographs will also be collected, which will be used in the touring exhibitions at a number of high profile locations, including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, University of Wolverhampton among many others.

A website will also be developed, to include all the collated research in an accessible and user-friendly format. The project will leave a visible legacy after its completion, in the form of a publication and all contributions will be archived at the Library of Birmingham and Sandwell Archives and an education toolkit will be developed for local schools, encouraging young students to learn about oral history, stories and migration in fun and engaging ways.

The launch received positive feedback from those who attended, Ravinderjit Kaur Briah, a lecturer at De Montfort University, said the project

Listening attentively on how ‘My Story – Our Journey’ will be encapsulated

Listening attentively on how ‘My Story – Our Journey’ will be encapsulated

was an “inspiration”, and this had been a “long time coming and well overdue”. She added that the project would “provide a springboard for so many other projects, and will leave a lasting legacy.”

The ‘My Story-Our Journey’ project has already received coverage from BBC Midlands Today and is capturing the attention of not only the Sikh community, but also all those intrigued by remembering and sharing stories which would otherwise be left untold and

uncaptured.  Satnam Rana (Midlands Today) discussed with the team possible future input and her own very personal stories.

In order to create a full tapestry of Sikh migration in Birmingham and The Black Country the project is looking to interview and collaborate with a diverse range of Sikh voices as well as collate personal photographs that depict moments in time.

The project is also keen to capture experiences of non-Sikh people who have had experiences or opportunities of working or living with Sikhs.

If you would like to share your story or volunteer to help with the project, please get in touch with Inderdeep Kaur at inderdeep.kaur@ncauk.org or visit http://nishkamcentre.org/arts-culture-heritage/birmingham-black-country-sikh-migration-story/volunteer-project/

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Takhat Sri Harmandir Ji, Patna Sahib delegation meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding 350th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji taking place in January 2017

delegation-with-prime-minister-1A delegation from Takhat Sri Harmandir Ji, Patna Sahib met with the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi today at Parliament House, to invite him to attend the 350th Prakash Purb of Guru Gobind Singh Ji at the Takhat Sahib, during the first week of January 2017. The Prime Minister gladly accepted the invite to attend.

The Prime Minister mentioned that the Central Government would look to work with the Bihar State Government regarding long term development plans beneficial to Patna City residents.

The delegation included President of the Takhat Prabhandak Committee, Avtar Singh
Makkar; General Secretary of the Takhat Prabhandak Committee, Sarjinder Singh; Chairman of the Takhat Celebration Committee, Gurinder Pal Singh; Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Religious Leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ); and Inderjit Singh, Projects Director of GNNSJ India, the charitable organisation responsible for the major beautification, restoration and conservation work taking place to prepare the Takaht for the sacred celebrations.delegation-with-prime-minister-2

delegation-with-prime-minister-3

Birmingham & Black Country Sikh Migration Story project up and running thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund

big-lottery

The Nishkam Civic Association has been granted £80,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop and deliver a project on ‘The Birmingham & Black Country Sikh Migration Story’. The project will capture the retrospective journey of the Sikh population in Birmingham and the Black Country, from the first generation to the current day.

The research will explore the sociological, political and economic perspectives to gain a rounded, contextual understanding of the migration. The project will not only focus on the history of the collective migration drivers, but also on individual narratives, to truly understand the change and impact on each migrant life. The famous Mandla vs Lee case will be explored, as an example of how the migrants worked with, and mostly resolved, the inevitable clash of cultures and ideals.

Vanessa Harbar, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “We’re delighted that HLF support will enable the Nishkam Civic Association to capture the rich heritage of Sikh migration in Birmingham and the Black Country. The research will help members of the Sikh community, as well as the wider community, to explore and appreciate the economic, cultural and social contribution of their forebears. Thank you to the National Lottery Players who have made this possible.”

The project which has taken nearly two years to develop will involve collaborations with a number of organisations, including Birmingham Museum Trust, University of Wolverhampton, Library of Birmingham, Sandwell Archives Services, Nishkam School Trust, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Sandwell MBC and many more.

Volunteers for the project will engage with first, second and third generation Sikhs to capture their individual stories of migration, and historical research will be carried out to contextualise the Sikh migration experience. A touring exhibition will also be curated for display in the main gallery of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for a number of months, after which it will be displayed in other prominent locations over the West Midlands.

Toolkits will be developed for local schools to accompany their learning, and a publication will also be produced, capturing the research and outputs of the project. A microsite will be will be used to collate the research, share the oral history ‘stories’ and photographs, videos and other findings. Archives will eventually be deposited at the Library of Birmingham and at Sandwell Archive Services, so the history of how the Sikhs came to Birmingham and the Black Country can be accessed by all now and in the future.

Sewa Singh Mandla (Trustee, Nishkam Civic Association) stated: ‘We greatly appreciate the contribution made towards the project by HLF, as it will mean the history of the Sikhs migrating to Birmingham and the Black Country will not go undocumented. The research will give us a deeper insight into how lives were (and are) impacted by this change, and will allow us to reflect on the great endurance and strength demonstrated by the Sikh migrants.’

For more information about the project, please contact Ajit Ubhi, Nishkam Civic Association.

 

ENDS

Notes to editors

About Nishkam Civic Association

The Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) was established in 2003, a relatively new and unique organisation charged with the task of developing a dynamic Sikh faith inspired civic agenda. It is one of the Five Centres for Excellence founded by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ), a Sikh faith-based organisation dedicated to nishkam sewa (active, selfless volunteering) to serve the common good. For more information, visit http://www.nishkamcentre.org/about-us/

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 36,000 projects with more than £5.9bn across the UK.

http://www.hlf.org.uk

For further information, images and interviews, please contact

Ajit Ubhi at Nishkam Civic Association on ajit.singh@ncauk.org.uk