Vaisakhi Message 2020

Spiritual Leader and Chairman of GNNSJ, Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh 

In these times of self-isolation and social distancing we must pray; we must pray alone and also find new ways of using technology to pray together. We are seeing Gurudwaras, Mosques, Churches, Temples, Synagogues and even people’s homes being used as makeshift sacred broadcasting studios. Whilst we may be physically isolated, we should remain spiritually connected in prayer and remembrance. As Sikhs we are compelled to be always optimistic and in the current climate we would encourage all to be positive where possible and be there for each other.

Today, humanity faces an imposing array of global issues. A pandemic, economic meltdown, abject poverty, food scarcity, political upheavals, social and societal challenges, oppression, apathy, extremism, terrorism and exploitation are all driving a climate of uncertainty and fear. With schools and workplaces closed and UK charities stretched to their limits in ways that are akin to humanitarian projects in the developing world, April this year is very different to previous years.

During these challenging times we must remember all those on the frontline who are serving humanity and those who have lost their lives or lost loved ones to the pandemic. The frontline workers are demonstrating enormous strength of character and values; despite the tsunami upon them, they bravely serve all.  Let us express gratitude to the government, to healthcare staff, volunteers and key workers in all areas who are helping to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

On the 30th March 1699, 321 years ago, a unique model of a good human being was created.  This model was enshrined in the order of Khalsa, with the Panj Kakaar (5Ks) and the Dastar (turban) marking its distinct identity.  The Khalsa’s birth was on Vaisakhi day, the first day of the month of Vaisakh, which coincides with the blossoming and rejuvenation of nature in spring. The Khalsa was established to set free the human spirit, to bring about a rebirth through a spiritual re-kindling which would ignite in people’s hearts and minds the virtues of utter humility, compassion, forgiveness, steadfastness, selflessness, altruism, truth, commitment, contentment and love.

The Khalsa was to embody Guru Nanak’s message, that peace-building starts with establishing peace within ourselves.  To establish such peace, we need to live in a state of constant connection with God.  Our spiritual disconnection spells death and destruction.  ‘Akha jeeva visray mar jaoakhan aukha sacha naa…’  – one is only truly alive and awakened when one is connected and attuned to the Infinite Creator.  The Khalsa embodies a commitment to lead a God-conscious life and to serve creation.

To the faithful, Vaisakhi, is a time of great religious significance, to inspire and to build up faith, to widen our orbit of human relationships and to foster virtues and values which enrich human lives.  It is a time for turning a new leaf, for being spiritually reborn, by taking the Khalsa initiation known as amrit sanchar.    It is also a time for joyous celebrations, reflections and resolutions, a time for expressing gratitude, a time to commit to being benevolent and ever-ready to make sacrifices, as well as a time for exercising an abundance of compassion, forgiveness and love for all. All of this should enable us to engage and deal with life and society with renewed depth of character, wisdom, courage and vision.

May Vaisakhi inspire us to dream of – and make possible – a better world, which is one of the greatest challenges of our time.  May it remind us too that, whilst strength may come with power, only love – which touches human hearts and minds – gives true authority.  May we better understand that it is not holding on to power that it important.  More important is the way that power can be lovingly exercised to discover that in diversity there is unity and that in unity there is strength.  As humanity now faces an unprecedented common threat, may we firmly realise that together, we all have a shared responsibility.  May we remain hopeful, knowing that, in our global village, we have unprecedented opportunities to share knowledge and ingenuity for the common good.

Finally, at Vaisakhi, I am impelled to remind myself and my brethren that we need to be authentic Sikhs and discard hypocrisy.  We need to reflect upon the primary goal of life, not just the desire for wellbeing, for pleasures and individual freedoms alone.  We need to realise more than ever that we are all inter-dependent and interconnected.  It helps us to remember that, from a spiritual perspective, we are not alone in managing our lives – ‘Guru mere sang sada hai nalay’   – for the Guru is always with us, by our side, continuously there to help, guide and direct us.  As the Guru’s Sikhs, we are required to serve the Creator and God’s entire creation to the best of our ability.  Let us wish happiness, prosperity, success and peace to all people of this world without exception:

Nanak naam chardi kala, tere bhaanay sarbat da bhalla.’

May the qualities and characteristics of the first Sikh Vaisakhi resonate within our human minds today in the 21st century, individually and collectively, for the universal good of all.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG 

Spiritual Leader & Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha  

Vaisakhi Message in PDF Format

 

Nishkam Campus welcomes visitors from the Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Dental Sciences in Amritsar, India

Prof Ramandeep Narang, Principal Dr Kavipal Singh, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and Dean Dr Ramandeep Singh

L-R: Prof Ramandeep Narang, Principal Dr Kavipal Singh, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and Dean Dr Ramandeep Singh

The Nishkam campus welcomed visitors from the Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Dental Sciences & Research last week. They were keen to understand what activities and programmes the campus was engaged in and how it was all managed. The guests were shown around the campus and able to engage in discussions with, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Nishkam Civic Association and Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh.

Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Dental Sciences & Research, Amritsar, established in 1992, is run by the Sikh Religious body, Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). The Institute is one of the best Dental Institutes in Northern India imparting training for Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and Masters Degree in Dentistry (MDS).

Visitors from this institute included Principal Dr Kavipal Singh, Dean Dr Ramandeep Bhullar and Professor Dr

Principal Dr Kavipal Singh, Professor Ramandeep Narang, Dean Dr Ramandeep Bhullar, Baldev Singh, and Amrick Singh

L-R: Principal Dr Kavipal Singh, Professor Ramandeep Narang, Dean Dr Ramandeep Bhullar, Baldev Singh, and Amrick Singh

Ramandeep Narang. They were first able to pay their respects in the Gurudwara Sahib and to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, before being taken on tour of the Gumad (dome) Darbar. Amrick Singh then took the visitors to see first-hand the Nishkam Five Centres of Excellence.

The visit commenced in the Gurudwara Sahib – the spiritual engine which drives, fuels and navigates GNNSJ’s wider endeavours locally, nationally and internationally in the pursuit of ‘Sarbat Da Bhalla – for the wellbeing of all humanity’. It has been involved in selfless intrafaith work in Kenya and India informally since 1950, and formally in the UK since 1978 as a registered Charity.

The delegation then walked past the Nishkam Community Co-operative, Marg Sat Santokh Manufacturers Ltd. This translates to the ‘path of Truth and Contentment’. It was set up in 1979 as a builder’s merchant and specialist timber manufacturer and joiner. It upholds the philosophy that ‘work is worship’ and that profit is not the only motive in sustainable economic development. This has recently diversified into e-commerce and forklift training.

They were then delighted to see the endeavours of the Nishkam Healthcare Trust. Whilst still a project in early stages, GNNSJ remains committed to community care, in the community with compassion and humility. Intergenerational participation has continued to be a crucial part in every sphere of GNNSJ’s activities it plays a vital role in the health Centre too.

Delegation in dialogue with Bhai Sahib Ji regarding education and the role of educational institutions

Delegation in dialogue with Bhai Sahib Ji regarding education and the role of educational institutions

The academic visitors were encouraged to see the emphasis on education and values via the Nishkam School Trust (NST). NST is a pioneering group of academy schools with a ‘Sikh ethos, multi-faith, virtues-led’ approach to education.  Inspired by the inter-religious legacy of the Sikh faith, NST’s  belief is that the approach to education can be more than simply a means to acquiring factual knowledge. It should engage pupils more fully to what it might mean to be of the highest of human virtue and engage in the question of the purpose of life and beyond. NST has grown since the first wave of free schools in 2011; it now has the privilege of educating students across 5 schools and 2 nurseries in the West Midlands and West London.

The visit to the Nishkam Civic Association, or Nishkam Centre, enabled the guests to see the range of activities on offer and the challenges that were being addressed on behalf of the community. Established in 2006, the Nishkam Centre aims to serve and uplift society by delivering innovative education; training; health screening; wellbeing; art and heritage programmes; promoting intra-faith and interfaith, intercultural and intercommunity dialogue; and championing social justice and inclusion.

The visitors then spent some time with Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Nishkam Group of Organisations. The conversation focused on sewa, or service, and creating better human beings. Education, in particular values based education was the main theme. It was evident that many young people were leaving India to move West after studying, which is not beneficial for the progress of the Indian economy. Discussions were around methods of imparting values to young people so that they are better human being. Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh also highlighted the importance of The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, and the vision / ethos around the Nishkam School Trust and its values-led education. He emphasised the importance of guiding institutions to help encourage and create good human beings around this values based education.

Having shared the importance of langar, a free vegetarian meal served to all, regardless of religion, caste, gender, economic status, or ethnicity, a process started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji which daily feeds millions of people around the word and upholds the Sikh principles of selfless service and egalitarianism. Bhai Sahib Ji spoke about the opportunity to serve langar at the Parliament of World’s Religions events, in particular Barcelona, Spain.  The visitors were then able to have Langar together before leaving for their next commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Five Centres of Excellence – https://www.nishkamschooltrust.org/page/?title=Faith+Body&pid=560
  2. Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Dental Sciences & Research – http://www.sgrdidsr.in/
  3. The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation – https://nishkammediacentre.com/2019/08/25/peace-charter-for-forgiveness-and-reconciliation-adopted-by-10th-world-assembly-of-religions-for-peace-in-lindau-germany/
  4. Barcelona Langar https://youtu.be/_i1mknqEHpk

Distinguished guests from the Pakistan British Council visit Nishkam Campus

L to R - Amrik Bhabra, Zulfigar Khan, Amtul Qudus, Gohar Ali Khan, Nishat Riaz, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Muhammad Ali, Jarnail Singh Bhinder, Ravinder Singh.

L to R – Amrik Bhabra, Zulfigar Khan, Amtul Qudus, Gohar Ali Khan, Nishat Riaz, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Muhammad Ali, Jarnail Singh Bhinder, Ravinder Singh.

The Nishkam family had the pleasure of welcoming members of the British Council (Pakistan) to the Nishkam Campus last week. The purpose of the visit was to build bridges and get to know each other to explore future collaboration opportunities.

On a surprisingly sunny January afternoon in Birmingham, British Council Pakistan members were taken on a tour of the Gurudwara Sahib, served by the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, Birmingham (GNNSJ). The British Council members were greeted by Prof Upkar Pardesi (Vice-Chairman of the Nishkam Centre), Amrick Singh (Director of the Nishkam Centre), Ajit Singh (Contracts Manager, Nishkam Centre), and Amrik Singh Bhabra (Chair of the Nishkam High School Governing Body).

The visiting members included;

  • Ms Nishat Riaz – Director Education, British Council (Pakistan)
  • Muhammad Ali – Head Ext Relations
  • Amtul Qudus – Educational Development (Punjab)
  • Gohar Ali Khan – Exec District Officer
  • Zulfigar Khan – CEO Great Health (UK)

Ms Riaz who has fifteen years of experience of managing development programmes, has supervised large scale programmes on health, gender, skills, culture and education, was intrigued by all that was undertaken. Ms Riaz, one of the founding members of Karakoram International University – the first university in mountain ranges in Karakoram and Himalayas throughout the day emphasized the importance of education. She is also associated with the Aga Khan Development Network as a director since 1999 so was in-tune with and aligned to social action and serving the common good. As part of her current role Ms Riaz manages the British Council’s education work in

The delegation on part of the campus tour

The delegation on part of the campus tour

Pakistan and her portfolio includes management and implementation of multi-million-dollar education programme covering schools, skills, higher education and British Council Services for International Education Marketing.

After a quick tour of the campus, and having paid their respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the delegation met with Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG to speak about future opportunities. The ‘meeting of the hearts and minds’ was clearly about getting to know each other and discussions about future collaboration in Pakistan.  The members of the delegation were in the UK attending the World Education Conference in London.

Topics of discussion included values-based education, which is the core idea around the Nishkam Schools Trust.

“We draw upon our spiritual heritage and the principle of being nishkam (selfless) to guide the education of children. Education begins with loving families that create a supportive and inspiring learning environment around the child.

“The foundations for learning are laid by the mother and father who are the child’s first teachers and role models. We

Nishkam School Trust Vision

Nishkam School Trust Vision

believe the parents’ role is not diminished when the child starts to go to school, but their responsibility in playing an equal part in the education process increases as the child grows. We also believe that the wider community has much to contribute to the child’s education. It is the bringing together of parents, teachers and the community that is the corner stone of our ambition to create a community-led and faith-inspired school which enables all children to flourish, both academically and spiritually; an education which opens up unimagined possibilities for children.” Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh.”

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh presented the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation to Nishat Riaz MBE, explaining the meaning and inspiration behind the idea and project.

The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation inspires and engages individuals, groups, communities and Governments, in public processes and in private settings, to practice forgiveness and reconciliation, seeking justice and sustainable peace.

The vision behind the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation is that forgiving is an activity necessary for healing and reconciliation to take place, when seeking justice and sustainable peace.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh also shared the significance of this year, Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th birth anniversary, for Sikhs all around the world, and spoke to the delegates about the mega event held at Birmingham University.3 An estimated 25,000 people joined in the celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh Dharam (Faith), at the University of Birmingham. Five continuous days of activities were arranged for all communities to reflect upon the inclusive, transformative human-values propagated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji – the founder of the Sikh Dharam (faith)

Nishat Riaz and her colleagues then shared their own experiences of visiting Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, in Pakistan. In November / December 2019 over 650 GNNSJ volunteer went of a special once in a lifetime pilgrimages to Pakistan to celebrate the 550th Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8_1Dw37hrQ

The outcome of this historic meeting between the Nishkam Group and the British Council (Pakistan) was very positive and encouraging, with the delegation keen to form collaboration and partnerships around values-based education, cultural awareness and peacebuilding.

Ends

  1. Patron’s Message for the Nishkam Schools – https://www.nishkamschooltrust.org/page/?title=Patron%27s+Message&pid=480
  2. Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation – https://www.charterforforgiveness.org/
  3. University of Birmingham Mega Event – https://nishkammediacentre.com/2019/08/11/the-university-of-birmingham-to-celebrates-a-mega-event-in-sikh-history/
  4. Nishkam School Trust Vision – https://www.nishkamschooltrust.org/page/?title=Vision&pid=406
  5. When Theresa May visited the Nishkam Primary School – https://nishkammediacentre.com/2017/05/16/prime-minister-theresa-may-praises-multi-faith-nishkam-primary-school-birmingham/

World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos invites Faith Leaders to participate in key discussions

The theme for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting this year (21-24th January 2020) was ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’. It brought together 3,000 participants from around the world and aimed to give concrete meaning to “stakeholder capitalism”; assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals; and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance. The Forum was established 1971 and World Faith Leaders were invited to take part in discussions, particularly in the area of Society and Future of Work.

The Forum’s first meeting in 1971 was established to further the idea put forward by Professor Klaus Schwab that

Kezevino Aram

Kezevino Aram

business should serve all stakeholders – customers, employees, communities, as well as shareholders. It was reaffirmed in 1973 in the ‘Davos Manifesto’ – a document that has shaped the work of the Forum ever since.

The Programme for the Annual Meeting prioritised several key areas – How to Save the Planet, Society & Future of Work, Tech for Good, Fairer Economies, Better Business, Healthy Futures, Beyond Geopolitics.

The initial discussion for Faith Leaders was ‘The Role of Faith for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’. Speakers included Lynette Wallworth, Assa Karam, Kezevino Aram, and Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh. Initially speakers discussed technology, Kezevino Aram, a leading voice in the faith and child health space and founder of the International Centre of Child and Public Health, stated, “When it comes to technology, we must remember that ethics does not belong to Faith communities alone. We all know values, principles that ensure human dignity but also the dignity of life per say, for me the presence of Faith communities is a re-articulation of the need to work together and the new challenge of deepening our discourses on ethics and values”.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh shared perspectives about the ethics in social media and technology. “God, the master Creator, along with the creation is very interlinked, so this immediately gives you this feeling of unity. So you start lovingly looking after things. I feel that there is disconnect from the Creator, you disconnect with His Creation. This nature has its own rhythm, it is perfectly balanced, and I am informed that there is 8.4 million species, all of this means that we are all brothers and sisters, we need to realise this and take care of each other, and technology and religion they should not be two opposite camps, they should complement each other.”

The next question was about climate change, “What is preventing us from urgent action and caring for our planet? How might we shift to radical action?”

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh continued to say; “The world is on fire, like Australia is on fire, and this fire comprises of

Assa Karam – Secretary General-elect, Religions for Peace

Assa Karam – Secretary General-elect, Religions for Peace

the fire of vices, like lust, anger, ego, greed, which are fuelling people to become apathetic (un-interested) to the situation we are in. So we have to create good values and a new consciousness of this interdependence so we can carefully start looking after each other. Even when one species is eliminated, it affects the balance of the whole world, so there is a famine of values, which is why people are not taking care of each other. ”

Azza Karam stated that, “Where we look for faith for that guidance, for that other self that is selfless and I think that is all things that Faith brings and can inspire. And at the end of the day it comes back to the human being, whether its media or technology or religious texts, how the human beings reads or understands, like you said, how we are. Where is it and how faith can inspire us to be different human beings, better human beings, inspire compassion, mercy, love, words that we do not hear often enough.”

Faith Leaders and communities have influence over more than 80% of the world’s population but have typically been left out of conversations beyond faith. Religious leaders and communities of faith have an important role to play in protecting vulnerable populations and creating safer communities where all can thrive. A discussion was held around Religious Leaders’ role in safeguarding communities. Speakers included Pinchas Goldschmidt, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Alem Tedeneke, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, Peter Kodwo Appiah, and Dana Humaid.

Dana Humaid, Chief Executive of the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities (IAFSC) stated that, “More than 85% of

Dana Humaid

Dana Humaid

the world population subscribe to a faith; however a lot of Faith Leaders have previously been excluded from discussions.” The reason she helped establish this Alliance was because they saw a need for the Faith Leader’s voice in discussions, and this would help bridge gaps between communities.

Patriarch Bartholomew stated that, “We should never forget what has been increasingly obvious in recent years, namely that the ecologist crisis is not a matter of science or even politics, it is primarily and essentially the result of moral choices and ethical conduct.”

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh was asked to share how we all have a place in this World Interfaith Alliance and how that agenda can be pushed and advanced forward;

His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

 “I believe we are trying to improve the state of the world. The world comprises of people and the planet and all things on the planet. First thing, I feel, humanity has to have that realization that all of us in this world are divinely interconnected and interdependent. We are all divine sparks, we are all brothers and sisters and that we have to have to have this shared responsibility to try and mend the state of affairs. It is a shared responsibility.

“We need cohesion; cohesion means unity and unity is strength. We have five fingers, each finger is weak, but the five make a hand, which is powerful. So we need this partnership and the hugely important works of interfaith alliance for safer communities is very much admired and respected together with the collaboration and partnership with the World Economic Forum.”

The delegates discussed further with a Q & A session.  Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh reiterated that the virtual world has lumped humanity into a global village. We are on this planet for a short period of time. We must understand where we come from, where we will end up and what is the purpose of life? Is it to fight or to have conflicts on this planet? What is the purpose of life? This brings us back to the important issue of peace building. Faith religions – the essence of this is peace building – peace building within ourselves first and foremost, and then we can generate peace outside. Peace requires reconciliation, and reconciliation requires mercy and forgiveness. Whatever has happened in the past, we must courageously forgive and reconcile to establish peace, without peace within you and peace outside then we cannot have any development, and we cannot improve the status quo.

Notes:

  1. Link to ‘The Role of Faith for a Cohesive and Sustainable World” – https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2020/sessions/the-role-of-faith-for-a-cohesive-and-sustainable-world?fbclid=IwAR0r1viYoBTv5FrhohPsWh9ETdmrn0GMBXaktFZyUvFaqMVc5cfuGySFqj0.
  1. Link to “ Religious Leaders’ Role in Safeguarding Communities” – https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2020/sessions/religious-leaders-role-in-safeguarding-communities

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 – Birmingham Faith Leaders #StandTogether

Mindu Hornick MBE, Holocaust Survivor, shares her harrowing story

Mindu Hornick MBE, Holocaust Survivor, shares her harrowing story

The Nishkam Centre Director was honoured to be invited to speak at this year’s Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, hosted by Birmingham City Council. The theme for this year was ‘Stand Together’ – it explored how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression. The candle lighting ceremony was followed by an afternoon of stories describing hope, strength, and survival.

‘Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and go some good.’ – Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from Nazi-occupied Europe, was the backdrop message on the screen. Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – this is a significant milestone and is made particularly poignant by the dwindling number of survivors who are able to share their testimony. It also makes the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia.

One such survivor included Mindu Hornick MBE, an inspirational 85 year-old grandmother from Edgbaston, who saw

Abdullah Rehman MBE

Abdullah Rehman MBE

the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Mindu was only 12 years-old when she was sent to the notorious Nazi extermination camp with her mother, sister and two younger brothers. When people ask her how she survived, she always tells them the same thing “sheer luck”. “When we arrived at the camp there was 70 of us, all women, mothers and children, in the wagon, there was an immediate air of shock and panic – SS guards set out to disorientate and scare you. A Polish man, in striped uniform spoke Yiddish to my mother and told her to send us ahead, and say we were 17 and 19 years old. We never saw her and my brothers again. Looking back he saved our lives.” She highlighted that through education we share what happened and to ensure that nothing like this happens again.

Near Neighbours shared a video called ‘Bringing People Together’, where they are challenging others to recognise their similarities during the current turbulent political time our nation is experiencing, encouraging people to unite over the one subject that unites us all: community.

Amrick Singh, speaks on behalf of, and accompanied by, some members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group

Amrick Singh, speaks on behalf of, and accompanied by, some members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group

Abdullah Rehman MBE, former CEO of Balsall Heath Forum, addressed the audience with a few questions; “I was taught as a young person growing up in Britain about history and World War 2, and questions always arose in my mind, why didn’t they stand up? Why didn’t they stand together? It kept going around in my head – how can a neighbour go against a fellow neighbour?”

The Kol Kinor Choir performed beautiful songs which were composed during the Holocaust such as ‘Even When God is Silent’ and ‘I Believe’.  The choir was formed in 1990 with the aim of sharing Jewish music with all faiths and cultures.

The Birmingham Faith Leaders offered their heartfelt prayers, and invited all attendees to remember all those fallen loved ones, who were all part of our human family.

Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, was invited to speak on behalf of the Faith Leaders Group. As Bhai Sahib,

Rabbi Yoshi Jacobs shares the Memorial Prayer

Rabbi Yoshi Jacobs shares the Memorial Prayer

Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG were scheduled to speak but could not be present, he started the address by offering Bhai Sahib’s heartfelt warm wishes and prayers on such an auspicious gathering. Amrick Singh then quoted Nelson Mandela;

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.”

Amrick Singh shared that, through teachings of the Sikh Dharam (faith), all of us are a Divine Spark and we must practice and encourage others to practice, the liberal use of mercy, compassion, truthfulness, forgiveness, selflessness, and an abundance of love. “History cannot be forgotten, but we must understand what it is has taught us with a view to move forward to make a positive difference.”

Rabbi Yoshi Jacobs addressed the audience and spoke in memory of the six million Jews who perished during 1939-45;

“They went down alive into the nether-world singing the holy prayers. Their souls departed whilst they were wrapped up in the prayer shawls and phylacteries, let the murderers be put to shame and confusion and be as naught.”

At this point, the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said a big thank you to the City Council and all the organiser for putting together such an amazing event in the City. He then invited everyone to read the Statement of Commitment together.

The event concluded with a beautiful musical piece by Simone and Kirsty. 

End

Notes

  1. Quote from Mindu Hornick https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/auschwitz-survivor-mindu-hornick-attends-8514212
  2. Near Neighbours video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m0ccFyUUAg

Innovative Book Launch on Values

Author Dr. Mandeep Rai & Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh

Author Dr. Mandeep Rai & Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh

The Nishkam Centre had the pleasure of hosting a launch for the revolutionary book, The Values Compass on the 18th of January, where the author, Dr Mandeep Rai, took the audience on her journey as to how the idea began and flourished into this intuitive manuscript. Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, one of Mandeep’s main inspirations for writing this book, gave incredible insights into the essence and importance of values. The Nishkam Centre’s core mission is propagating and the practice of values in all aspects of life, and therefore the book launch was befitting. The evening was further uplifted by an inspirational address from a special guest His Royal Highness, Nene Tetteh Ayiku Abordonu IV from Ghana.

The ambiance in the room was immeasurable when Dr Mandeep Rai walked in with Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and His Royal Highness, Nene Tetteh Ayiku Abordonu IV from Ghana. After a quick introduction from our Centre Director, Amrick Singh, Dr Mandeep Rai delved straight into her journey, outlining her educational and spiritual background,

“When I got the chance to study, I studied Politics, Philosophy & Economics because I was keen to know how does the world work, why are injustices happening?…As I was travelling back through Asian countries through the economic crisis, I saw the resilience and the respect in Japan, there was so much beauty in all of these places, but then I realised that we have these gems within us.”

Mandeep outlined her biggest supports, inspirations and how every moment could simply be a coincidence, or a pivotal point in one’s life.

“I spent a year in India as a BBC reporter…I was reporting on the deep injustices… I went to pick up some rice, and I saw another hand coming to pick up the rice and I looked up and I saw Bhai Sahib Ji. This was the first time I met Bhai Sahib Ji, even though we were both from Birmingham, this was 17 years ago…so we got talking and they really ignited a fire, and really brought context to all of these values I was seeing across the world.”

Mandeep went on to share that from this initial meeting Bhai Sahib Ji was always her “Values Compass”, every time she came to a junction in her life. She spoke about her work at Harvard Business School, and how the first Sikh became Dean, because of his work with values, proving that the world is actually hungry for values to be included in all aspects of life. Mandeep introduced His Royal Highness from Ghana in an incredibly loving way;

“Here we have leaders from Ghana…the value from Ghana is ‘Hope’ in the book…and the first thing I noticed as I greeted them were the beads they are wearing on their wrists, and these beads represent things like hope or fertility, and basically every change or transition you have in your life are represented by these beads. So these beads have such significance, just like the Sikh Kara we wear on our wrist.”

The aim of the book, Mandeep specified; “the things that you admire are your values, right now as we start this new decade, during Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th birth anniversary, we can think about what is truly important, and be clear of the core values that will make us the person we want to be in 6 years or 1 year, and aim to embody these, and work for something much greater than ourselves.”

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh then followed Mandeep’s lovely words with their own, outlining how they both met, and delved deeper into the essence of values.

“All 200 people sitting here are all divine sparks of the almighty…the soul is the most important ingredient…I believe when you hear the saying Let There Be Light, you can kindle this divine spark with values, you can ignite the soul with love and forgiveness, otherwise it slumbers”.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh specified that all values belong to God, because all goodness emanates from God. “We have five basic values, Humility, Compassion, Truthfulness, Contentment (to accept God’s will), and love, and likewise we have five vices, Lust, Revenge, Greed, Attachment, Ego. Whatever we are given credit for; it should actually go to the Almighty, because He is controlling the divine spark. When we get disconnected with the Almighty, we become disconnected with all of Creation. The challenge is to connect, and He is the source of all values and virtues. Values are the ornaments of humanity, without them we are lost.”

HRH, Nene Tetteh Ayiku Abordonu IV from Ghana

HRH, Nene Tetteh Ayiku Abordonu IV from Ghana

He then went through some of the journey with Mandeep, the times that she came to them for guidance. Faith in God means trust, trust means hope; if you don’t have trust then there is no hope and the situation is hopeless. There is one God for all the divine spark; we are all interconnected and interdependent. There is a big connection with this book, values are a common human heritage, and they belong to all of us, across every country…we need to sacrifice for each other, going beyond self and help one another.” Bhai Sahib also told the audience that for the first time, Faith Leaders have been invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos to see how there can be cohesion – a major step for the forum, and potentially shows that Faith and values are needed across every aspect of the world.

The audience were then invited to ask questions of the Author and Bhai Sahib Ji. We saw economics was again touched up on. The special guest, HRH Nene Tetteh Ayiku Abordonu IV of Ghana had a chance to speak about when there is no faith or values in economics, and subsequently Africa is affected and exploited by this.

“Faith should be integrated into economics, we have to give love to humanity, we need to renegotiate and know that if we have borrowed from this continent, we should give something back. Without love nothing is possible.” The evening came to a close,    with Author Dr Mandeep Rai signing copies of the book.

END

Copies of the book are available to purchase on Amazon http://tiny.cc/f17xiz

The Nishkam Centre has done workshops with SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) and the Nishkam School Trust around the 24 Dispositions in Birmingham. For more information click here https://www.faithmakesadifference.co.uk/dispositions.  Virtues education is central to all of school life, whether it is in the informal curriculum, how we speak and conduct ourselves or through acts of regular service. Nishkam Schools focus on 50 core virtues below as described more fully in the Nishkam passport. https://www.nishkamschooltrust.org/page/?title=Virtue+Learning&pid=12

For more articles like the above please visit www.nishkammediacentre.com

Journeying in Dialogue; 100th Anniversary of Chiara Lubich’s Birth

Chiara Lubich

Chiara Lubich

A celebration marking the 100th Anniversary of Chiara Lubich’s birth was held on Saturday the 18th January at the Elgar Hall, University of Birmingham (UOB). Chiara Lubich was the founder of Focolare, and the Movement has now moved beyond its origins in the Roman Catholic Church and now involved Christians of many churches, followers of all the great world religions and people of goodwill. Local, national and international contributors shared experiences of building unity, inspired by the spirituality of the Focolare Movement.

One hundred years ago, Chiara Lubich was born into a world that was to be ripped apart by war. She and her friends began to put their Christian faith into practice by loving each neighbour, whoever that was, and transforming the community around them.

Guest speakers at the event included Reverend Bernard Longley, Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Sheikh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali, Director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Spiritual Leader of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and Chairman of Nishkam Group of Organisations.Guest speakers at the event included Reverend Bernard Longley, Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Sheikh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali, Director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Spiritual Leader of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and Chairman of Nishkam Group of Organisations.

Today we find our world fracturing under the strain of political division, economic inequality and climate emergency. Many want to work for unity, justice and peace, but where to start? The spirit of Chiara Lubich’s vision has been taken up across the world, through various faith leaders, bringing change through social action, political dialogue and unity amongst communities of faith.

There have been great forward strides in recent years of including faith dialogue in social and economic discussions, for the first time in history Faith Leaders have been invited to attend and participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos. Topics discussed included ‘The Role of Faith for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’ and the ‘Religious Leaders’ Role in Safeguarding Communities’.

At the UOB event Archbishop Bernard Longley gave a very warm welcome to all at the event and recalled meeting Chiara Lubich with her ‘mix of gentleness and passion’; one could clearly feel the very presence of a charism at work. Dialogue requires willing hearts; it calls for a generous response.” The Archbishop recalled many accounts of engagement including reference to the great community work done by Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh and he also passionately spoke about late Mr Sewa Singh Mandla OBE contribution to community relations.

Archbishop Bernard Longley

Archbishop Bernard Longley

Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali stated that “Chiara Lubich belongs to the whole community and this is the time of collective sainthood.”

Chiara is still asking us what she was asking in London 2004; How can we look at each other through the Father’s eyes? How can we go beyond tolerance and transform a multi-faith, multicultural society into an interfaith, intercultural society where we learn from each other?

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh lovingly said; “For me, Chiara Lubich was a saint, a blessed soul. I could feel the vibrations at her presence. She was welcoming and warm and you could talk to her freely.” Bhai Sahib Ji also underlined that, “dialogue is the first step to get close to people to resolve conflicts. Nishkam means selfless – we must serve with this in our hearts and mind. As people of faith we need to have humility, contentment, and an abundance of love.”

Bhai Sahib Ji recalled, Pope Francis spoke about peace; “Peace requires work, it is not merely absence of war but a tireless commitment. Until there is friendship, until everyone finds the solution for the problems of their land, their family.”

“We need to learn to open our hearts to one another”. The meaning of Chiara Lubich’s message is to engage with the heart and not just our minds.

Bhai Sahib Ji, accompanied by Kiran Kaur and Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director were all warmly welcomed to

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh

the event by Pat Whitney and Bill Ozzane on arrival.  Amrick Singh later said, “The event was very moving, although we could only stay for the morning session, it was a magical atmosphere. Everyone present seemed to be full of positive energy and vibes, this was further displayed by the speakers and performers on the stage.”

“It was truly inspiring to see that Chiara’s message is embedded and lived rather than empty rhetoric. The life examples people gave of how they practice compassion and love in their daily lives was refreshing. As Sikhs we are informed that there is no stranger or enemy; we are all one family of humanity, divine sparks created by God – these eternal messages were vibrating throughout the event.”

“The work Bhai Sahib Ji is doing on the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, and also the Museum of Worlds’ Religions, will be a phenomenal achievement to support the vision and work of Focolare and Chiara’s legacy for generations to come.”

End

Notes

  1. The Nishkam Group or Organisations has been working with Focolare for many years. Students from Nishkam High School have performed multiple times with the Gen Verde, a band whose members are part of the Focolare Movement, using various instruments across different Faiths. The musical styles reflected 13 different nationalities, and celebrated hope and shared commitment to build a better society through religious principles. https://nishkammediacentre.com/2015/11/30/students-host-exciting-interfaith-concert/
  2. World Economic Forum 2020 – ‘The Role of Faith for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2020/sessions/the-role-of-faith-for-a-cohesive-and-sustainable-world
  3. World Economic Forum 2020 – The ‘Religious Leaders’ Role in Safeguarding Communities’https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2020/sessions/religious-leaders-role-in-safeguarding-communities
  4. Museum of Worlds’ Religionsorg, https://nishkammediacentre.com/2014/11/05/museum-of-world-religions-agm-and-project-development-meeting-hosted-in-birmingham/
  5. Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation https://www.charterforforgiveness.org/, https://nishkammediacentre.com/2019/08/25/peace-charter-for-forgiveness-and-reconciliation-adopted-by-10th-world-assembly-of-religions-for-peace-in-lindau-germany/

For more articles like the above please visit www.nishkammediacentre.com

Nishkam Centre reaffirms commitment to prestigious Investor in Volunteers Standard

At the last Nishkam Civic Association Board Meeting of 2019 the Chairman and Board were presented with the prestigious certificate. The Nishkam Centre had been put through its paces by an assessor from Investing in Volunteers (IiV) who tested the organisation against nine indicators to confirm continued adherence to the IiV Standard. The Centre provides innovative support via group work activities that is creative, responsive and sensitive to the needs of many diverse communities. The ethos of the Nishkam Centre is based upon a framework which provides a pathway to community integration, empowerment, involvement and cohesion. As Nishkam means ‘selfless service’ the underpinning and cutting-edge differentiator is voluntary service. Our commitment towards the IiV standard demonstrates our commitment to volunteering.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Nishkam Group of Organisations with Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice Chairman of Nishkam Centre presented with IiV Certificate

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Nishkam Group of Organisations with Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice Chairman of Nishkam Centre presented with IiV Certificate

The Nishkam Centre provides many services to enable civic engagement and involvement. These services incorporate built-in progressions, enabling clients to improve coping strategies and work towards sustainable mental health recovery, increasing social networks and opportunities for training, volunteering, employment and community integration. The Investing in Volunteers website states, ‘Investing in Volunteers (IiV) is the UK quality standard for good practice in volunteer management. The benefits of doing so are claimed to be; ‘enhancing volunteers’ experience and increasing their motivation; strengthen the organisational reputation and encourage more people to volunteer; minimises risk, maintains knowledge, and plans for the future’.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Chairman of the Nishkam Group of Organisations said, ‘The Nishkam volunteers are our organisations’ cutting-edge. It is only possible for our organisations to deliver what they do because of the dedication of selfless volunteers who are inspired by their faith values to help others and give something back to the community. We are committed to supporting and developing our volunteers and the award is recognition of the importance we place on them. Volunteers bring real added value, the experience and skills they bring to the campus is truly inspirational. Many people do not realise that the Nishkam Group is a small independent charity that relies heavily on its volunteers to provide a lifeline of support for all the projects we undertake. We are delighted that we have again been assessed as providing best practice in the experience and support we provide for our volunteers”.

The Nishkam Team’s volunteers are more and more reflective of the communities served, helping to build deeper

Creative Healing Workshop delivered by Mental Health Professionals

Creative Healing Workshop delivered by Mental Health Professionals

understanding and cohesion as it is located in one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Birmingham and the UK.

Last year the Nishkam Centre was supported by 50 regular volunteers and many more occasional volunteers who offered support on an informal basis. The volunteers offer a very wide range of support to the centre ranging from strategy and governance, business development, teaching, centre support, administration, welfare services, wellbeing services, maintenance and many more. Due to the wide range of activities and roles the Centre is able to connect individuals wishing to volunteer and can offer more opportunities for their personal development.

The Nishkam volunteers have grown in confidence, had fun, transformed their own and other lives, boosted their career opportunities, benefited from a variety of training, gained a sense of community spirit and involvement, feeling of having made a difference to someone’s life, made friends and had an overall improvement in their health and wellbeing.

Ajit Singh, Nishkam Centre Contracts Manager said, “It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to work with and support our volunteers. Our volunteers are our best ambassadors, who selflessly volunteer to support others in the community whilst developing themselves along the way. For many, volunteering has been a life-changing experience supporting the individual’s general wellbeing in so many ways. We have coined the phrase ‘measureless measures of volunteering’. Whilst there are many tangible benefits of volunteering there are so many more intangible benefits which are very difficult to measure due to their very nature. The Nishkam Centre’s ongoing success and ability to flourish further is aligned with how we work with our selfless volunteers and recruit more. Further to our IiV assessment, we will be piloting our ‘Measureless Measures of Volunteering’ template to capture the actual, perceived and intangible benefits of volunteering as well as the volunteering journey.

It would be impossible to provide many of the services the Centre provides without the volunteers who contribute their time willingly. Based on a conservative calculation it is estimated that the volunteers give some 17,000 hours on an annual basis and one could quite easily put a figure of £230,000 against that.

Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, said, “It is amazing to have been assessed against the Standard for the third time and to be told by the assessor that we were better than last time. We applaud and recognise the enormous value our volunteers add on a daily basis. Volunteering provides an excellent mutual benefit to the volunteer and us as an organisation. We are able to do more great work and offer services that might otherwise not be possible. The volunteer is able to get priceless experience and exposure. For some it is a genuine desire to give back, to serve, to help and to develop new skills. For others it may be an escape from isolation, depression, loneliness or even a sense of guilt that they are not putting their skills to use to help others.

“The award sets a benchmark of high standards, good practice and quality in respect of volunteering, this is a great accolade for all concerned. The Nishkam Centre has yet again demonstrated its commitment towards, and appreciation of, its volunteers. I would encourage all organisations to look at the standard and see how they can support volunteers and encourage them to contribute and grow.”


Volunteer journey case study

One of Nishkam’s volunteers, we will call Mrs A, was a new arrival into the UK. Her husband was struggling to find work and came to the Centre for help with his welfare benefits application. He spoke very little English and on the day of the workshop for their welfare benefits application, he was unable to attend and sent his wife, Mrs A.

Mrs A showed great aptitude and was supported to complete her own application form. Mrs A was encouraged to volunteer and given training to gain more knowledge in welfare benefits. Mrs A is now a regular volunteer who supports the IAG team to run and deliver workshops, administration work and supports others to be self-sufficient.

Within less than a year Mrs A has grown in self-esteem, knowledge and able to support others. Mrs A is able to speak four languages, which is a vital asset in the diverse local demographic, which she uses to support others. She often confides how the dynamics and her status within her home have also improved due to her newfound self-esteem and confidence.


ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information visit Investing in Volunteers – https://iiv.investinginvolunteers.org.uk

Saïd Business School shares ground-breaking art exhibition on interfaith dialogue

Life size portraits of faith leaders design by Nicola Green, at the entrance of Saïd Business School.

Life size portraits of faith leaders design by Nicola Green, at the entrance of Saïd Business School.

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford hosted a thought-provoking exhibition that celebrated and gave insight into interfaith dialogue and solidarity. Titled ‘A Witness to Power’ the exhibition combined two striking series of works by the artist and social historian Nicola Green to eloquently depict the messages of unity and strength in diversity; a message very much needed in the current times.

In Seven Days (2010) and Encounters (2018) was designed to draw on Nicola’s experiences observing and shadowing the world’s pre-eminent religious leaders, including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ji OBE KSG, Desmond Tutu. The exhibition also included two bodies of work the artist created during her remarkable access to President Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.

To create this work Nicola spent 10 years travelling the world attending interfaith meetings, from intimate private meetings, to global summits where she met leaders of the world’s major faiths.

In both The Encounter and The Light Series showcased the rich diversity and inclusivity of the faiths represented. These included:

  • 12 Christians (4 Anglican, 3 Orthodox, 3 Catholic, 1 Assyrian, 1 Coptic)

    Nicola Green discussing 'The Light Series’, exhibited at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

    Nicola Green discussing ‘The Light Series’, exhibited at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

  • 5 Muslims (2 Sunni, 2 Shi’a, 1 Sufi)
  • 4 Hindus (1 Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya, 1 Lingayat, 1 Dvaita, 1 Ramakrishna)
  • 4 Jews (2 Orthodox, 1 Sephardic Orthodox, 1 Reform)
  • 2 Buddhists (1 Tibetan, 1 Fo Guang Shang Humanist)
  • 2 African Traditional (1 Ifa and Yoruba, 1 Benin Kingdom)
  • 1 Baha’i
  • 1 Confucian
  • 1 Jain
  • 1 Sikh
  • 1 Shinto
  • 1 Zoroastrian

The Light Series included portraits painted on Giclée (a fine art digital printing process combining pigment based inks with high-quality archival quality paper to achieve an inkjet print of superior archival quality, light fastness and stability) with hand applied 24k gold, silver copper leaf and diamond dust. It has been suggested by visitors that this is the first artwork in history to depict all the world’s major religions together in a shared space, and of equal status.

Speaking on the exhibition Nicola Green commented, “My intention with Encounters is to reach people of all faiths (and none) in particular those that don’t often see themselves represented.

“I was really delighted to see how the work resonated with everyone and to hear stories from people that were so excited to see themselves or their faith portrayed in the artworks.”

Jyotveer Singh poses with a portrait of his faith leader Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ji OBE KBE.

Jyotveer Singh, Head of Web Development at Saïd Business School and attendee of the exhibition said: “The exhibition is a celebration of interfaith solidarity and cross-cultural dialogue. Saïd Business School is a global village of diverse communities who come together to solve world-scale problems which I feel is reflected in the art. Nicola Green creatively demonstrates a rich tapestry of interdependent people, practicing shared values for the good of others; whilst honouring uniqueness and the dignity of difference.

“I was deeply inspired to see international interfaith ambassador, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji depicted in the artwork, who continues to drive the agenda of peace and unity through projects. Namely, the Peace Charter (Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation) and the Museum of World’s Religions, this work by Nicola Green is most welcome and timely.”

The exhibition is available to the public at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford until 20th December.

Ends

Historic visit to Pakistan and India to mark 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji

A group photo outside Nankana Sahib Gurudwara

A group photo outside Nankana Sahib Gurudwara

On Friday 1st November 2019 Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, accompanied by an internationl cohort of 650 members of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha decended on Lahore, Pakistan and made history. Never before had a group from so many countries, forming a single group, visited Pakistan with the sole purpose being to pay homage and obeisance to the blessed land where Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469 – 1539) had frequented centuries earlier.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji travelled far and wide, teaching people the message of one God, who dwells in every one of His creations and constitutes the eternal Truth.

“It was an honour and a humbling privilege to visit the holy, sacred shrines that we were able to in Pakistan and later in India. I would like to congratulate the whole of humanity on the 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj. We applaud the actions of the Indian and Pakistan Governments in the fantastic work done to establish the Kartarpur Corridor. I was honoured to be there for the formal opening on the 9th November 2019.”

“We should remember that all sacred shrines are precious. The sanctity of places of worship and the sacred revered

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, continually works for more faith solidarity and better interfaith relations

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, continually works for more faith solidarity and better interfaith relations

text of each faith are the responsibility of all faiths. We should respect and preserve the rich heritage of all faith traditions in the World. We have a duty of care for looking after each other – we cannot love God if we cannot love his creation.”

“The Sikh’s tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly and emphatically stated that ‘saach keho sun laeho sabhay, jin prem keeo tin hee prabh paaeyo’ – ‘I speak the truth, listen everyone: Only the one who is absorbed in True Love shall attain the Lord’. Human beings must preserve the sanctity and sacredness of ALL religious texts. When we look around the world we see the desecreation of sacred shrines and this must stop. This cannot be in the name of faith or religion – these are barbaric acts of violence.” Recalled Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh.

Local sangat welcomed the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) pilgrims from around the world; U.K, Kenya, Botswana, India, U.S.A, Canada and beyond who had made the journey to Pakistan to partake in the celebrations.

Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, said how privileged he felt to have been on this sacred pilgrimage. “I remember the ecstatically warm, friendly, family welcome all the 650 guests got – it was like a home-coming as one of our Pakistan brothers put it. We could not have imagined the warmth that was portrayed toward the Sikh community right across the country. The passion that the local people had for greater faith solidarity was moving. You would continuously hear ‘may Allah bless you all and provide peace to us all’.”

“We must thank the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), Interior Minister and of course Prime Minister Imran Khan, for facilitating the possibility of such a large group to visit Pakistan. When you think of the logistics of a convoy of 16 coaches and two mini-buses being escorted from Gurudwara to Gurudwara and then returning to the hotel every evening, the magnitude of the task becomes apparent. A special vote of thanks must also go to the Pakistan Consul General, Ismail Ahmar, his team in Birmingham and Mr Ibrar at Gerry’s for the unrelenting support given to secure Pakistan Visas for the whole group. On the Indian side, Dr Aman Puri, Indian Consul General, Birmingham and his team were a great support, they facilitated the smooth issuance of the relevant documents to enable the congregation to move freely.”

Local community welcome the pilgrims with flowers

Local community welcome the pilgrims with flowers

The Sikh tradition informs us that the foundation of any faith is daya, which can be translated as compassion.  Our very existence on the planet is supported by daya, the bedrock of faith. Daya is not simply an obligation but an inherent quality of being. It is a powerful force that unfolds when we see the universal light of God in all creation. As humans, we walk upon the same earth, breathe the same air; share the same basic hopes and joys, whilst enduring the same suffering and pain. This acknowledgement demands a responsibility to share. Theses messages were epitomised by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and during this blessed anniversary period we should all take a long look within ourselves and calibrate our behaviour and conduct accordingly.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh reiterated, “We are all part of the Lord’s infinite plan, creation and design, it is important that we understand each other. We all have multiple identities as individuals. We are mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, sons and daughters, we belong to certain professions and our passports are reminders that we have certain national identities.  Our absolute identity however, is that of a human being.  We must remember that we are here on earth as mere travellers, this is not our permanent domicile. Remembering this, will encourage us to change the way in which we engage with the world and think about life in general.  Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Sikh’s Eternal Guru) reminds us that the temple of Mecca is within your soul, if you try to realise it.”

“Finally there is an increasing recognition that faith constitutes a vital part of our vibrant communities and that there is no singular secularism in our global world. The family of faiths, who are the backbone of civil society, must seriously reflect on their own traditions and collaborate with others to jointly harness spirituality and empower the mortal individual to achieve success in attaining a greater understanding of ‘the other’.

It would appear that despite Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message to all humanity, we are facing a crisis of selfishness and spiritual poverty in the collective human psyche. Our secular efforts to achieve anything will remain impoverished until we harness the spiritual power that remains latent within us. Together, the spiritual and the secular are the beacons that will ensure that we can serve the Creator and creation, making this a better world for all.

After visiting many of the sacred shrines across Pakistan, the group then crossed the border into India, and carried on sacred anniversary celebrations in Sultanpur Lodhi, where Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent many years with his family. The group were able to take part in Langar Sewa and serve food to the many Sikhs and visitors that were travelling to blessed location from across India and the world. It was in Sultanpur Lodhi where Guru Nanak Dev Ji first conveyed the message of ‘Ik Onkar’ (One God) to the rest of the world.

END

For more information:

  1. Visit to Nankana Sahib, Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Birthplace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQjveqFfgB8
  2. University Of Birmingham Mega Event for Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Birth Anniversary: https://nishkammediacentre.com/2019/08/11/the-university-of-birmingham-to-celebrates-a-mega-event-in-sikh-history/

For more articles like the above please visit www.nishkammediacentre.com