International Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation launched at the House of Lords

Leading experts and participants endorsing the launch of the Peace Charter at Westminster Hall.
Leading experts and participants endorsing the launch of the Peace Charter at Westminster Hall.

HOUSE OF LORDS, LONDON, UK, 21 NOVEMBER 2022 – Developed over a decade of international dialogue and consultation, the Peace Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation was launched at the 3rd Peace Forum held on 21 November 2022 at the House of Lords in Westminster, London.  The distinguished venue, at the heart of Westminster democracy, provided a most appropriate backdrop for the innovative Peace Charter that has the potential to be truly transformative..  At the event, the unveiling of its Preamble and 18 Principles were discussed through key sessions that exemplified the Charter’s applicability. In particular, the issues of peacebuilding and climate change were discussed through an alternative lens of forgiveness and reconciliation so that they could be approached to become a pivotal agenda for societies worldwide. 

The launch of the Peace Charter marked the culmination of more than a decade of international consultation, symposia and seminars between profound thinkers and peace practitioners across a spectrum of secular and religious standpoints.  In particular, the event aimed to raise awareness amongst civic leaders and parliamentarians about positive social outcomes where forgiveness and reconciliation are both identified and astutely implemented as core values to guide peace-building processes.    

Peace Charter launched at House of Lords
Peace Charter launched at House of Lords.

During the proceedings, Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief joined the event hosts, The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, the Lord Bishop of Coventry and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG, Co-convener of the Peace Charter and spiritual leader of the Sikh faith-based organisation, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha.  Speakers from the dynamic and highly experienced global delegation included: Professor Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace International, a key partner for the Peace Charter; Canon Sarah Snyder, Founding Director of the Rose Castle Foundation; His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, the first Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London; Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Executive Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers; Dr Chinmay Pandya,Pro Vice Chancellor, South Asian Institute of Peace and Reconciliation; and Dr. Carl Stauffer, senior expert on reconciliation for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

‘I commit to continuing to work together to make the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, a widely known, trusted, and often used framework for engagement in actively building peace in every corner of our world.’ – Professor Azza Karam, Religions for Peace.

‘If ever there was ever an international currency for peace and prosperity in our lives, it would be the currency of values that are sacred to us as humans.  It is this impactful, yet invisible, currency of values that inspires the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation…. As we edge towards a point of no return, a time has come for values and virtues like forgiveness to fully crystallise within our psyches and inform how we partner and plan to meet the unprecedented challenges before us.’ – Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Co-convenor & Co-Chair, Peace Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation.

“I think about peace, forgiveness and reconciliation a lot, both as a personal desire and one for the world. It is encouraging and reassuring to know there is a charter dedicated to these purposes. It feels like a wonderful starting point, a resource and a guide for anyone and everyone, wherever they are in the world, whose aim is to move beyond conflict.”James Davies, Oxford University, Peace Forum participant.

Ends

Notes for Editors:

The Peace Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation: Inclusive in its mission and development, the Charter has been globally co-created since its conception in 2011 and has travelled across the globe and received significant contribution, consultation, and endorsement from over 100 world religious leaders and humanitarians. It has been shared, discussed and noted by esteemed leaders including the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, Pope Francis, Desmond Tutu, Uhuru Kenyatta (former President of Kenya) and The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, amongst many others.

For further information about the Peace Charter, participant profiles and event proceedings, please contact;

Mr Amrik Singh Bhabra amrik@charterforforgiveness.org

Peace Charter UK headquarters: Nishkam Centre, 6 Soho Rd, Handsworth, Birmingham B21 8JQ

Queens Baton Relay receives spiritual blessing from Birmingham’s multifaith communities

A demonstration of Community Spirit in abundance was displayed as Birmingham 2022 stages the 16th official Queen’s Baton Relay – an epic journey across the Commonwealth’s 72 nations and territories, travelling 4,000 kilometres via land, air and sea over a period of 294 days before reaching Handsworth, Birmingham.

Hundreds of members of Handsworth’s and Birmingham’s diverse communities, faith leaders and dignitaries joined together on 28th July 2022 to welcome the Queens Baton Relay (QBR) as it travelled through Soho Road, stopping first at Handsworth Library and then proceeding to the Nishkam Organisations on Soho Road, one of the final landmarks before reaching Alexandra Stadium for the Opening Ceremony for the Commonwealth Games.

Many local community organisations came together to welcome the Baton Relay and created a wonderful family day with many activities for children and adults, these included Legacy West Midlands, New Begin Trust, Children’s Trust, Humanify and many more to shine a light on the amazing communities of Handsworth.

Members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, local faith representatives, Councillors, dignitaries and the community recited a powerful prayer led by Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Chairman & Spiritual Leader of the     Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, and Patron of the Nishkam Civic Association.

The prayer epitomised all the Commonwealth Games, QBR and the gathering was all about; peacebuilding, community spirit, unity, empowering and uplifting, camaraderie, gratitude, collaboration and mutual respect.   

On behalf of the communities of this beautiful, super-diverse city of Birmingham

We welcome and pray for all the athletes, organisers and visitors.

We pray for peace and wellbeing for all here in this city, Her Majesty the Queen and all those in the commonwealth countries and the entire globe.

We commit ourselves, in a spirit of friendship and co-operation,

To work together alongside all who share our values and ideals,

To help bring about a better world now and for generations to come.

As we celebrate the commonwealth games, let us give thanks to God Almighty for the wellbeing of all nationally and globally.

The collective multifaith prayer brought a sense of serenity and purpose to the festivities and offered a moment of reflection and blessings for the QBR before it made its way onward, ultimately to the Alexander Stadium.

Bhai Sahib, Mohinder Singh OBE KSG said, “This is an auspicious occasion, we are pleased Prof Geoff Thompson [Deputy Chair for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham] was able to join us. We were honoured that Prof Thompson, requested a prayer and a sacred blessing be done right here at the Gurudwara. Distinguished colleagues from the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group and other local faiths representing the super-diverse city joined us to pray for all involved in the Commonwealth games and beyond – a truly spiritually uplifting and blessed occasion”

“A positive, long term and inspiring legacy of the games is crucial. The dignity of difference must be celebrated, and it is a folly to ignore and neglect any person or part of Creation. We see the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged continue, we need to stop this. We must accept that economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity. This can only be fought by acknowledging and upholding our responsibilities”

The stage was dressed in a monumental Archway. As part of the Queen’s 70th Jubilee celebrations in 2022, The Nishkam Group along with local stakeholders proposed to design and install a landmark archway highlighting the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution (c1740) and the development of the railway networks nationally and internationally (c1830 by George Stephenson).

This archway will provide a gateway to Soho House, and to Handsworth. Through the archway, the values of curiosity, knowledge, innovation, imagination, creativity, and being hopeful and visionary will be encouraged and promoted.

This new landmark archway will stand over Soho Hill where the famous Soho Road and Handsworth begin and will be positioned adjacent to Soho House – Matthew Boulton’s former residence and the epicentre of the industrial revolution. It is hoped that this new project will bring to the for Birmingham’s industrial history and its legacy of the Civic Gospel as well as mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games.

Prof Geoff Thompson on the day during an interview said, “The games are for everyone and Birmingham’s strength is its diversity, the communities and the location and sometimes I think it is not appreciated. Handsworth is known the world over – wherever I’ve travelled in the world, when in Soweto and I say Handsworth, they recognise and relate to Handsworth because of the diversity but also the life chances and struggles that exist every single day.

So, for me the games truly came alive by the baton coming here. Having organisations like Nishkam bringing in, from a subculture standpoint, the diversity of the community spirit, I’ve witnessed, but above all to bring the multifaith interfaith spirituality; now I believe gives the games the perfect, perfect starting point by which to see 11 days of sporting festival, leave a legacy opportunity for all.

The world attention is on Birmingham and we feel very proud to be part of it 1.2 / 1.3 billion citizens will be watching the Opening Ceremony and then the eyes of the world will be on Birmingham.  Birmingham is ‘the world in one city’ and ‘the Commonwealth is visiting the Commonwealth of Birmingham’.

My only other message will be to the streets. Young people ultimately have to have hope and opportunity whatever their identity, background, whatever they feel they are not getting by way of an opportunity to realise their potential, these games are, and I will be committed in ensuring, that they get a chance to realise all that the games has pledged to provide. We have a Youth Charter that came to Manchester in 2002, to Glasgow 2014, to London 2012 to Birmingham 2022 – be patient, it will be provided.”

Everyone was invited to the Nishkam Heritage Centre to view an amazing exhibition which was created to mark The Queens Jubilee, the Industrial Heritage of Handsworth and map the Journey of Nishkam organisations in Handsworth and globally. The Exhibition was framed as a “Values Revolution” emphasising how essential values and virtues were to human development leading to of cohesive and sustainable communities.

Visitors and dignitaries enjoyed the refreshments that were prepared and served by selfless volunteers and benefitted from the range of activities for children and adults along with the numerous community support organisations who shared important information about the support services they offer for communities.

NishkamSWAT has been supported by Noon Products for several years

A chilled food manufacturer based in Southall has donated a van to a local charity to help with its distribution of food to those in need.

The new van will help support the homeless

Noon Products Ltd started supporting NishkamSWAT’s community support outreach programme at the time of the Grenfell fire. Noon provided the charity with microwavable ready meals for people while they were waiting to be re-homed.

The relationship between the company and NishkamSWAT has gone from strength to strength and in early 2020, a new initiative started to serve freshly cooked hot food by the Noon chefs.

In 2020, homelessness surpassed 10,000 in London with a 47% increase of 16-to-25-year old’s due to lockdown restrictions. The disappearance of commuters meant that no one was offering money at a time when most soup kitchens were closed and food banks were struggling to keep up with the demand. It was left to a few small groups of volunteers to provide thousands of meals a week through such a difficult year.

Noon wanted to make an increased commitment to the partnership and decided to donate the co-branded chilled van to NishkamSWAT to help even further with the distribution of food. The van was formally handed over at Noon Products Ltd, Windmill Lane on 24 November. Both parties are looking forward to developing their relationship and building an even stronger community support network.

Randeep S Lall, CEO of NishkamSWAT said, ‘We are so grateful to the amazing team at Noon, they have been supporting us for many years and always step up when the homeless community is in need as well as children and families in poverty, no questions asked. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, Noon served tens of thousands of meals to NHS Staff Members and Free School Meals to children as well as the homeless and elderly. Sumit and his team go above and beyond their call of duty. We feel so fortunate to have such a prestigious company on board as a Charity Partner.’

Nishkam Civic Association Chairman appointed Patron

The board of trustees of Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) has appointed Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia as Patron and member of the charity.  Otherwise known with affectionate regard as Bhai Sahib Ji, he is the founder of the NCA and served as its chairman for twenty years, directing the construction of the £7.5m iconic building adjacent to the Gurudwara on Soho Road, Handsworth in Birmingham. His visionary leadership and selfless service ensured the development of NCA as one of the leading civic engagement and community centres serving Birmingham and the West Midland region.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh KSG OBE Patron and member, NCA Board

Bhai Sahib Ji is highly regarded for his unstinting work over thirty years to promote peace and social regeneration through building innovative partnerships between multireligious and secular organisations to contribute to the common good. 

Some sixty years of his life have been dedicated to revitalising the understanding and practice of faith in changing contemporary contexts and to stimulating grassroots change within communities at large in the UK, Kenya, Zambia and India, as well as more globally.

The award-winning £7.5m Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) building was constructed with a £2.5m ERDF grant, £1.5m voluntary in-kind contribution and £3.5m from GNNSJ. NCA aims to engage positively with government within the civic context of rights and responsibilities to promote community cohesion; facilitate environmental enhancement; and economic regeneration. 

On his appointment, Bhai Sahib Ji said: “I was delighted to be asked to become a Patron and member of the NCA and accepted without hesitation. The NCA is at the forefront of advancing community and economic wellbeing; promoting interfaith, intercultural, intercommunity dialogue; and championing social justice and inclusion.  To deliver its mission, NCA has embedded within its policies the values of active volunteering and selfless service for the benefit of local and regional communities.”

The NCA board of trustees has appointed Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi OBE as its Chairman and Shaminder Singh Rai as Vice-Chair.  Prof Pardesi has served as the board’s Vice-Chair since 2005 and Mr Rai has chaired the trust’s Finance and General Purposes Committee. The board also recently announced Amrick Singh Ubhi’s appointment to the post of Director of Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnerships and Ajit Singh to the post of NCA Director.

Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi and Shaminder Singh Rai

Jarnail Singh Bhinder, NCA Trustee, said, “We are honoured to have Bhai Sahib Ji as patron at a time of change and uncertainty facing the voluntary sector. We have been hard at work, shaping a bold strategy for NCA’s future civic and community engagement, inclusion and education programmes to enrich communities when it matters the most; we aim to help local communities and businesses to rebuild after the long, dark months of lockdown. With the announcement of Bhai Sahib Ji as our Patron alongside the recent new appointments, NCA is well placed to lead the resurgence of our work for all our local and regional communities.”

ENDS

For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact Amrick Singh Ubhi, Director of Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnership at amrick.ubhi@ncauk.org or mobile: 07771 817484

Notes to Editors

The Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), fondly known as the Nishkam Centre, is a unique organisation charged with the task of developing a dynamic Sikh faith-inspired civic agenda. It is one of the key Centres for Excellence founded by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, a Sikh faith-based organisation dedicated to nishkam sewa (active, selfless volunteering) to serve the common good.  It is part of the Nishkam Group that is made up of the spiritual centre (the Gurudwara), the community cooperative – MSS (Marg Sat Santokh, meaning ‘path of truth and contentment’), the Nishkam School Trust and the Nishkam Healthcare Trust.

Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia is recognised as a greatly respected and influential international leader within the Sikh Dharam, or faith, by the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex organisation for some 26 million Sikhs worldwide.  It is from this Committee that he received the official dharmic title of ‘Bhai Sahib’, making him one of the first British Sikhs to receive such an honour in 2010. The term Bhai means ‘brother’ and Sahib means ‘leader’ or ‘one worthy of respect’ – making him a brotherly leader amongst the larger family of Sikhs. As a visionary leader, Bhai Sahib embraces the concepts of values-driven education and interfaith cooperation as tools to forge a lasting and sustainable peace.  Propelling this forward is the principle of seeing humanity as one family, and the light of the Creator in all, which is embedded in the heart of the Sikh worldview.  Bhai Sahib Ji was awarded an OBE in 2013 for his work in the fields of community cohesion, peace-building and interfaith.  He is also the first Sikh recipient of the Papal Knighthood of St. Gregory the Great (KSG).

UK faith leaders support the Queen’s Green Canopy

Faith Leaders from across the UK, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, are urging faith communities to plant trees in honour of Her Majesty’s lifetime of service to the nation, through The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative which was launched on Monday.

In a special video message, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders from the Buddhist Society, the Interfaith Council for Wales, Al-Khoei Foundation, Nishkam Centre, the Church of Scotland, the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, the Hindu Council UK, the Moravian Church of Northern Ireland, and the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, encouraged people to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee” in 2022.

The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) initiative is a unique, UK-wide tree planting initiative reated to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is Patron of the QGC and planted a tree in the grounds of Windsor Castle with Her Majesty earlier in the year to mark the start of the project. Everyone from individuals to Scout and Girlguiding groups, villages, cities, counties, schools and corporates will be encouraged to plant trees from October 2021 when the tree planting season begins, through to the end of the Jubilee year in 2022. The countdown to planting season begins now, giving people time to plan their planting projects.

As well as inviting the planting of new trees, The Queen’s Green Canopy will highlight and showcase 70 irreplaceable Ancient Woodlands across the United Kingdom and identify 70 Ancient Trees to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of service.

The QGC project will also create a pilot training programme for unemployed young people aged between 16-24 through Capel Manor College, London’s only specialist environmental college of which The Queen Mother was Patron, to plant and manage trees.

The Faith Leaders in their message to the interfaith community urged everyone to get involved with the QGC and highlighted the benefits of trees and green spaces for communities, mental health and the importance of creating a legacy that will benefit future generations. The Queen’s Green Canopy was launched at the Royal Horticultural Society’s
Virtual Chelsea event on Monday.

The Faith Leaders participating in the video message include:

• The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
• Desmond Biddulph CBE, The Buddhist Society UK
• Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh OBE, KSG, Chair of the Nishkam Group of Charitable
Organisations
• Ms Sarwat Tasneem, Al-Khoei Foundation
• The Rt Revd Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland
• Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great
Britain and the Commonwealth
• Kate McColgan, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Chair of Interfaith Council
for Wales
• The Rt Revd Sarah Groves, Moravian Church of the British Province, Northern Ireland
• Imam Qari Muhammad Asim MBE, Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque, Leeds, Chair of
Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board
• Ms Muna Chauhan, Hindu Council UK

More information about the QGC is available on http://www.queensgreencanopy.org
QGC social media channels.

Please follow The Queen’s Green Canopy launch at these handles:

Instagram: @queensgreencanopy / @theroyalfamily / @clarencehouse
Twitter: @qgcanopy / @royalfamily / @clarencehouse
Facebook: @queensgreencanopy / @thebritishmonarchy
LinkedIn: @queensgreencanopy / @theroyalfamily
Hashtags: #queensgreencanopy #plantatreeforthejubilee #jubileetree #qgclaunch

Nishkam Civic Association announces Strategic review

With lockdown easing, forward-thinking charities have been positioning themselves to be more resilient, service focused, strategically connected and relevant in the post-Covid world. As we witness cuts in public spending, reductions in the grants and other funding that became available for businesses and the third sector to reach out to the most disadvantaged communities, the landscape is changing. There is now a greater need to build on existing partnerships, given that interfacing with government agencies and other supporting organisations is crucial to innovating further solutions for communities affected by the pandemic.

Birmingham based Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), also known as the Nishkam Centre, is now strategically positioning itself for the challenges ahead. It has announced the appointment of Amrick Singh Ubhi to a newly created senior executive position of Director of Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnerships to guide the strategic development of the charity and its sister group of organisations over the challenging years ahead. An essential element of this new role will be to ensure that the spotlight placed on the humanitarian work of faith and business communities during the pandemic is supported, recognised and strengthened. The Nishkam Board is also pleased to announce the promotion of Ajit Singh to the position of Nishkam Civic Association Director

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh KSG OBE
Chairman, Nishkam Civic Association

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association, said: “We have appointed Amrick Singh to this post in recognition of his dedication and hard work over the past fourteen years. We also thank him for overseeing the Charity’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and for his support to many mutual aid projects and initiatives across the City and beyond. He has played a pivotal leadership role in linking faith communities together with multi-agency strategic teams during these challenging times. We know that, with Ajit Singh heading the NCA, the team will position the services to meet the new challenges that the sector and its communities will be encountering over the next three post-Covid years.”

Amrick Singh Ubhi Director, Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnerships

Amrick has led the NCA team since 2007 and – in the spirit of nishkamta or selflessness – has made outstanding contributions in the fields of community service, the development of interfaith relations and engagement, supporting the work of charities and cohesion-building. He has taken on many voluntary Board roles to support other organisations and to assist them where he can in building meaningful and productive partnerships. For many, Amrick’s drive to connect communities – and to strengthen and support many positive initiatives being generated locally, nationally and internationally – has been inspirational.

On his new appointment, Amrick Singh said, “I am delighted to be given an opportunity to consolidate the last fourteen years’ work with key local, regional and national civic, community and business organisations. We now need to guide the group of organisations to further develop strategic partnerships, to plan their growth in line with the highly dynamic new landscape whilst we bring to fruition the long-term strategic deliverables. I look forward with optimism to spending more time with faith, business, third sector and political leaders as we plan for an uncertain future, aiming to serve the most disadvantaged and to create a fairer, more just society.”

Ajit Singh Nishkam Civic Association Director

As Ajit Singh takes on the Nishkam Civic Association Director’s role, the team will also see a number of new posts being created to support the delivery of NCA’s exciting Strategic Plan for 2021 – 2024. Ajit has served as Operations Manager and, more recently, the Contracts Manager at the NCA for the past ten years.  He has made a significant contribution to the design, delivery and management of many services which benefit local and regional communities. “I’m thrilled to be promoted to the role of Director, leading the next phase of our development. The pandemic has enabled us to reflect and realign our priorities over the coming months and years – we see exciting and challenging times ahead.”

ENDS

For further information, a high-res photo, or to arrange an interview, please contact Prof Upkar Pardesi OBE, Vice-Chairman at Upkar.pardesi@ncauk.org or mobile: 07974150320.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), fondly known as the Nishkam Centre, is a unique organisation charged with the task of developing a dynamic Sikh faith-inspired civic agenda. It is one of the key Centres for Excellence founded by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, a Sikh faith-based organisation dedicated to nishkam sewa (active, selfless volunteering) to serve the common good.  It is part of the Nishkam Group that is made up of the spiritual centre (the Gurudwara), the economic cooperative – MSS (Marg Sat Santokh, meaning ‘path of truth and contentment’), the Nishkam School Trust and the Nishkam Healthcare Trust.
  • Amrick Singh is a proud Brummie who gave up his corporate consultancy career 15 years ago to participate in charity work. He has devoted his career to lead in the voluntary sector and to serve the needs of voluntary and community organisations.  Amrick Singh is a well-known and respected person for civic engagement, Sikh/interfaith engagement and representation on community forums/panels.  He brings vast commercial and project management experience to make a difference to the voluntary work he undertakes. He is values-driven, a supportive yet ‘critical friend’ and a proactive partner to many. His extensive experience in supporting people in organisations to ‘uplift themselves and others’ is commendable as is his passion to see everyone excel.
  • Ajit Singh, born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham, has a long-standing affinity to the locality. He has developed a strong understanding and tacit knowledge of local communities and the challenges faced by many. His background in business and in the advice sector, along with his extensive time at NCA, have provided Ajit with the ideal platform to develop and deliver innovative and creative projects designed to be client-centred and culturally appropriate, with an emphasis on self-reliance and empowerment.  Ajit has developed an excellent understanding of grant funding, forging a track record of securing and delivering projects, producing high quality measurable outcomes and impact and bringing sustainable benefits to communities.

Nishkam Centre Director honoured to receive vaccination from a distinguished West Midlands Fireman

As many leaders from across Birmingham and the nation step forward to take the vaccination and encourage communities to take the vaccination, the Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh joined them having been invited to take the jab. Amrick Singh was invited as part of the latest cohort to have the vaccination and wanted to encourage all those getting the invite to attend their appointments. 

 

Amrick Singh receives vaccination 
from Aghia Pal Singh
Amrick Singh receives vaccination from Aghia Pal Singh

On receiving the vaccination, Amrick Singh said “It is an honour to see the great work the NHS and other volunteers at the Nishkam Vaccination Centre in Newtown were undertaking as part of the global drive to combat Covid-19.  

 “In all humility it is important to recognise and accept we are very lucky to have access to the vaccination and should take the opportunity when offered. I encourage all those who feel hesitant to take the vaccine, to get the facts; speak to experts and dispel your concerns. We are privileged to have the NHS providing the services we get. The pandemic has also shown the power of community and faith organisation to step up to help in the fight against Covid.”  

In recent months we have seen Places of Worship, community settings, Football Clubs all step up and offer their premises, staff and volunteers to combat Covid-19. Community vaccination centres play an important part in the fight against Covid-19. Having local vaccination centres helps to make the COVID-19 vaccine more accessible to people. Importantly, it means that residents do not have to risk travelling far, often on public transport, to receive a vaccination.  

Amrick Singh, as Centre Director is also an active representative on other prestigious organisations including the Chairman of the Council of Sikh Gurudwaras in Birmingham; a Board Member & Vice Chair at the Birmingham Voluntary Sector Council; Vice Chairman at the Birmingham Faith Leader’s Group; Treasurer and Board Member at the National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum; Trustee at Acorns Children’s Hospice and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority Faith Strategic Partnership Group.  

He went on to say, “It was a pleasure to turn up at the Newtown Vaccination Centre set up by the Nishkam Healthcare Trust in collaboration with the NHS and be greeted by the energetic volunteers. This is great partnership initiative between the NHS and the Nishkam Health Care team and further uplifting to see the collaboration further strengthened by volunteers from the West Midlands Fire Service. I was thrilled to hear from Aghia Pal Singh, how WM Fire Service staff have been trained to give the vaccination and support centres as required”.  

After administering the vaccination, Aghia Pal Singh MBE said, “I am proud to be volunteering on the frontline and WM Fire Service staff cannot thank Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach enough for allowing us to be trained and vaccinate the communities we serve”.  

Aghia is no stranger to being in the limelight or on the frontline. In 2019 he received an MBE in recognition for his contribution to the community.  He is one of a group of WM Fire Service staff who volunteer their skills and expertise as members of UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) and on behalf of the UK Government they have been deployed on several occasions to disasters around the world. On this occasion Aghia was volunteering at the Nishkam Health Care Vaccination Centre in Newtown, Birmingham. He is also particularly proud of the links with the Matumaini Orphanage in Tanzania, which he and WMFS colleagues have visited several times to help improve facilities.   

Aghia Pal Singh MBE, WM Fire Service and Volunteer Vaccinator

It is great to see the WMFS strapline of ‘making our communities safer, stronger and healthier’ could not have been more pertinent than seeing firefighters volunteering to beat the pandemic. The vaccination centre is part of a wider initiative to empower the local community by providing vital information about the vaccinations, engaging with local communities, and administering vaccinations to help with the collective battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.  

To receive a vaccination, residents are encouraged to use the online NHS booking service, where they will be able to select their chosen centre. (www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination). 

For more information about the new Nishkam Vaccination Centre, please emailcovid19@nishkampharmacy.com or contact Dr Manvir Kaur Hayer (Chair of Nishkam Healthcare Trust) at 07812732857 or Ameek Bhogal (Superintendent at Nishkam Pharmacy) at 07961842069.  

Birmingham Cathedral hosts a Choral Evensong with special prayers for the Royal Family

As the country mourns the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh and pray for the Royal Family, Birmingham Cathedral during the Choral Evensong, The Second Sunday of Easter, remembered the Duke and Royal Family. In line with lockdown regulations the ceremony was attended by a very limited invited guest list. The guests were all seated at a safe distance from each other, and face masks were obligatory. Unlike a normal service, the singing was restricted to the Choir only in compliance with restrictions on Places of Worship.    

Image courtesy Birmingham Cathedral – a view of the Choral Evensong.
Image courtesy Birmingham Cathedral – a view of the Choral Evensong

Many leaders from across Birmingham came together to remember the Duke and participate in the service at Birmingham Cathedral.

The Very Reverend Matt Thompson, the Dean of Birmingham, welcomed the guests. He personally mentioned Right Reverend David Urquhart, The Bishop of Birmingham; Archbishop Bernard Longley; Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County of West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE; The Lord Mayor, Mohammed Azim; High Sheriff for the West Midlands, Louise Bennett; Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG; Leader of the Council, Cllr Ian Ward.

Following the prayers and hymns being sung, a reading from the Old Testament (Isaiah 26.1-9, 19) was read by Canon Sharon Palmer MBE. This was later followed by a reading from the New Testament (Luke 24.1-12) by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County of West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE.   

Right Reverend David Urquhart, The Bishop of Birmingham, and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh greet each other.
Right Reverend David Urquhart, The Bishop of Birmingham, and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh greet each other

We know The Duke of Edinburgh, the longest-serving royal consort in British history, was at the Queen’s side for more than her six decades of reign. Prince Philip and the Queen had four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Prince Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on 10 June 1921 and his father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes. His mother, Princess Alice, was a daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg and a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Shortly after his passing, the following announcement was made: 

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty the Queen announces the death of her beloved husband,   His Royal Highness the Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh.   His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.   Further announcements will be made in due course.   The Royal family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.   Friday, 9th April 2021  
The Funeral will take place on Saturday 17th April 2021

            

After the service all the guests made their way out of the Cathedral and exchanged brief reflections before they left.

The new High Sheriff of the West Midlands, Louise Bennett was introduced to some of the dignitaries. Bhai Sahib paid their condolences to all the dignitaries and exchanged warm reflections and greetings. The mood was sombre but there was an air of excitement at the same time as the dignitaries reflected on how nice it was to actually be in the company of each other rather than on a computer screen.

Bhai Sahib Ji met the new WM High Sheriff, Loisue Bennett and Sharon Palmer.
Bhai Sahib Ji met the new WM High Sheriff, Loisue Bennett and Sharon Palmer

After the auspicious service the Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh said he was honoured to be invited to accompany Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh to the service, “It was very moving but surreal due to the Covid-19 restrictions in force. The service was just perfect and so befitting for Birmingham’s faith, civic, business and academic leaders to remember the Duke and the Royal Family; it was also strange that so few people had come together in such a grandiose venue. I remember events at the Cathedral where it was full to the rafters so to speak and during the singing the volume and energy was extraordinary.”

Over the last year we have seen Places of Worship completely closed to congregations or only providing very limited services. Many resorted to virtual services and support, whilst others adapted their services to work with communities during the pandemic. We saw them step up and offer their premises, staff and volunteers to combat Covid-19. We eagerly look forward to Places of Worship once more being able to offer the full range of services in the communities they so lovingly serve.

Guests bid each other farewell whilst remaining socially distanced
Guests bid each other farewell whilst remaining socially distanced

The Gurudwara served by the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, on Soho Road, Birmingham where Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh is Spiritual Leader, commenced a special prayer (Sehej Paath) reciting the whole of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji on the announcement of the Duke passing away. The culmination of the special prayers will be on the day of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Funeral.

The Cathedral service can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/4dsZbOD0-Ow

A Statement from the Leaders of Birmingham’s Faith Communities

A Statement from the Leaders of Birmingham’s Faith Communities on the occasion of the death of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip

As the principal leaders of Birmingham’s major faith communities we wish to express our deep sadness at the news of the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, this morning.

Our thoughts and condolences are with Her Majesty the Queen and all the Royal Family, and with the family of the Commonwealth and the wider world, which the Duke sought to serve with such distinction.

We join with communities in this city and across the nation in mourning and in recognition of a long life of service.

Our various faith communities will wish, in due course, to pay their respects to a man who, throughout his life championed faith co-operation, but for today we mourn with the sadness of the nation.

The Members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group:

Rabbi Yossi Jacobs, Chief Ministers, Birmingham Hebrew Congregation

Mr Amrick Singh Ubhi, Nishkam Community Centre

Mr John Beard, Birmingham Buddhist Community

Rt Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham

Most Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham

Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha

Cllr Muhammad Afzal, Birmingham Central Mosque

Imam Mohammad Asad, Birmingham Central Mosque

Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue

Rev Ian Howarth, Birmingham Methodist Church

Mr Dinesh Chauhan, Birmingham Hindu Community

Ven Dr Uttaranyana, Birmingham Buddhist Community

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