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

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

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

 

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