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

 

Birmingham Sikhs convey personal message of gratitude and thanks to Honourable Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan

With the Almighty Waheguru Ji’s blessing having enabled group of 650 members of the congregation of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) to travel together to Pakistan, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh OBE KSG personally met with Prime Minister Khan to convey sincere heartfelt thanks. The yatree (pilgrims), of all ages from across the globe, travelled together for the sacred trip to Pakistan and India to mark the 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

A delegation led by Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG, Chairman Nishkam Group of Charitable Organizations, met with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, Syed Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari. Both of whom must be applauded for his support and assistance proffered to the Sikh community during this the 550th Birth anniversary year of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.  Thanks must go to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), and the Interior Minister for facilitating the possibility of such a large group to visit Pakistan. When you think of the logistics of a convoy of 16 coaches and two mini-buses being escorted from Gurudwara to Gurudwara and then returning to the hotel every evening, the magnitude of the task becomes aparent.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for the landmark decision of the Government of Pakistan to work with the India Government to open the Kartarpur Corridor and facilitate the Sikh community across the world in visiting their holy places. The opening of Corridor has made a 70-year-old dream of Sikhs globally come true to offer prayers by visiting the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib instead of getting a glimpse through binoculars from across the border.

During the conversation the possibility of further sewa for Sikh diaspora by way of infrastructure development projects, especially beautification of the sacred shrine, building rest houses in Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Corridor were also discussed. Prime Minister, Imran Khan welcomed the interest from the delegation. It is said the Kartarpur corridor would prove to be a milestone in promoting brotherhood and peace amongst Sikh community and the local nationals.

The fourteen-day pilgrimage of 650 individuals, of which seven days were spent in Pakistan and seven days in India, was planned, coordinated and meticulously carried out, respecting  and honouring the host nations whilst ensuring a message of unity and peace, as proclaimed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji was demonstrated throughout. For many the event started several months earlier as it required numerous visits to Pakistan to organise travel logistics, accommodation, step-by-step itineraries, seeking appropriate authorisations and paperwork, meeting high ranking officials and local Sikhs. In the UK, with out the support of the appropriate Consular services, India and Pakistan, the trip could not have been organised so smoothly.  A special vote of thanks must go to the Pakistan Consul General, Ismail Ahmar, his team in Birmingham and Mr Ibrar and the whole team at Gerry’s for the unrelenting support proffered to the securing of Visas for the whole group.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji, seen by many as a spiritual guide, social reformer and educationist – was born in 1469. His transformational attitude and messages were evident from a very early age. Traveling extensively he quietly went about his life’s mission of teaching and guiding people to be better human beings and to remember the creator at all times. The shabad (hymn) which came to many minds during the trip was:

Awal Allah noor upaya

Kudrat ke sab bandey

Ek noor te sab jag upjaya

Kaun bhale ko mande

‘First of all, God created light;

Mother Nature created all human beings equal;

from that one Light the entire world came into being;

so how do we differentiate that one is better that the other?’

During this auspicious period, HRH Prince Charles also visited India for the celebrations.  He was bestowed a ‘Siropa’, a robe of honour, and was given a warm welcome by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC). He paid obeisance at the Gurudwara and interacted with the Sikhs at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi.

The visit by the 650 strong group was a clear message from all that we are part of a much bigger community, we are all united regardless of faith, race, colour, gender whatever it may be is all secondary. The first thing is we are all human beings and this whole planet is a blessed sacred space that has been entrusted to us.  The messages from the Pakistan / Indian hosts and all those on the visit clearly enunciated the need for unity, peace, forgiveness, compassion and humility. The need for faith solidarity and the need for a better appreciation and acceptance has never been greater.

University of Birmingham Celebrates a Mega Event in Sikh History

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).

Located around the University’s iconic clock tower at its Edgbaston campus, the event titled ‘Celebrating and Learning from the Life and Legacy of Guru Nanak Dev Ji‘ was hosted in collaboration with Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) who provided a rich variety of activities, including continuous prayer recital, educational symposia, three exhibitions, interfaith dialogue and over 35 educational seminars for adults and children.

Three beautiful marquees were specifically commissioned and erected for this landmark event. One for the Sri Akhand Paath Sahib (48 hours of continuous reading from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji – the Sikh’s Eternal and Revered Guru) which was held from 8th to 10th August, one for Keertan (singing of sacred hymns to music) and one for the Langar area. All visitors throughout the duration of the event were provided Langar (free vegetarian food for all from the Guru’s kitchen), 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. The event epitomised what the Sikh Dharam (faith) and Birmingham was all about; service to humanity, cohesion, celebrating diversity, recognising and acepting all, multi-faith, no faith, young and old.

A unique and historic Civic Reception to honour the launch of the 550th Anniversary Celebrations marking Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s coming to the world took place in the prestigious Great Hall, University of Birmingham. The Civic Reception captured the hearts and minds of all attending, setting the tone of the messages for all humanity. The event, venue and distinguished speakers and guests provided a befitting setting to mark and bless the launch of an historical event in the UK, if not the World.

Wednesday 7th August 2019 saw history being made right here in Birmingham with a Civic Ceremony to celebrate the contribution and legacy of the Sikh’s first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The Civic Reception centred around the key messages of Guru Nanak Dev Ji that were shared by prominent speakers and also physically manifested in the days after the reception at the University of Birmingham. This manifestation was via services to humanity; Langar (free vegetarian, blessed food from the Guru’s kitchen) was served to all who attended the five-day program at the University. Attendees were able to participate in sewa – serving others / volunteering – in all guises from stewarding, guiding people around, washing dishes, serving food, sweeping, involvement in media team, first–aiding, attending and participating in prayer services, listening to Kirtan (spiritual hymns recited to sacred music) to mention but a few.

The Civic Reception was an opportunity to share Guru Nanak’s messages with the diverse audience and to inspire them to visit the Darbar Sahib (Prayer hall), listen to the Kirtan, attend the seminars and workshops to hear / discuss the key messages and the relevance of those messages in the 21st Century. The audience included the Sikh diaspora from around the world and all over the UK. The visitors were from India, Kenya, Canada, America, Scotland, Singapore and Australian. The 350 plus attendees included dignitaries, leaders from faith, education, business and the public and voluntary sectors from around the globe. The comments on social media by those who attended have confirmed that this historic event has touched the lives of so many people with Guru Nanak’s core message of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, social justice, equality and love for all of God’s creation.

Raaj Shamji as the Master of Ceremonies welcomed everyone to the auspicious evening. This was followed by a heart-warming overview of the international Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebratory event and programme of activities by Dr Gopinder Kaur Sagoo. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Mohammed Azim shared a beautiful m

essage of congratulations to the Sikh and broader community and the respect afforded to Guru Nanak Dev Ji by other communities. Other speakers included Preet Kaur MP for Edgbaston who spoke on Guru Nanak’s unique teaching on the role of women in society. Other speakers included Councillor John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities, Birmingham City Council and Dr. Neslyn Watson-Druée CBE, Professional International Public Speakers and Executive Coach at Beacon Organisation for Development Ltd.  Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at the University set the scene by outlining the importance and significance of community engagement from a widening participation and internationalisation perspective.

The reception evening saw in attendance many distinguished and honourable guests including:

  • The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Mohammed Azim,
  • The High Sheriff for the West Midlands
  • Many Deputy Lieutenants in their personal capacity
  • Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), University of Birmingham
  • Interfaith representatives and faith leaders
  • CEO of Birmingham City Council, Dawn Baxendale
  • Chairman of the Birmingham Commonwealth Association and President of the Birmingham Consular Assoc and President of the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce – Keith Stokes-Smith
  • CEO of Acorns, Toby Porter
  • Director of the Albion Foundation, Rob Lake
  • Members of the diverse communities
  • Academics and diplomatic representatives from several countries

Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, during the ‘Vote of Thanks’ highlighted the vast array of talent and networks in the Great Hall, all keen and striving to create a better world. He encouraged all to reach-out and network, to link up with others in the room to make a lasting difference. He spoke about transforming oneself and then working on one’s environment.

The University of Birmingham was a fitting location for the 550th birth celebrations of one of the greatest religious innovators of all time, who at a turbulent time upheld the principles of truth, gender equality and universal responsibility. The university’s ethos of spreading ideas to help transform the world are reflective of the progressive values of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Throughout the five-day event, over a thousand volunteers worked tireles

sly to ensure that all visitors were able to learn, reflect and be inspired in a safe and secure campus environment. International academic experts, faith executives from the public and private sectors led discussions and workshops on a variety of contemporary issues ranging from Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message for humanity, values-led education, equality and diversity, climate change and social and civic responsibility. All seminars were held in the Universities seminar rooms and auditorium.

The Chairman of GNNSJ, Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG who also holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Birmingham stated: “The 550th anniversary celebrations has illuminated many dimensions of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings, life and legacy. The event has proven to be a historic opportunity to rediscover and apply Guru Nanak’s teachings, to generate new possibilities for transforming our personal and collective lives and the lives of future generations. The event has been made possible by the dedicated and enthusiastic Nishkam Sewa (selfless service) by over 1,000 volunteers from around the UK, India, USA, Canada and Australia.”

Ends

Notes for Editors

For more information please visit www.uk550.co.uk

Please view case study from the University of Birmingham here.

Please see UOB article here.

Notes to editors:

  • Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh Dharam (faith), was born in November 1469 in Talwandi, Punjab, India (now known as Nankana Sahib, Punjab, Pakistan).
  • Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) serves the Gurudwara, which is based on Soho Road in Handsworth. The work of GNNSJ has resulted in the development of the Nishkam Group of Organisations. This group includes a civic centre, educational institutions (such as Nishkam Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools, as part of the wider Nishkam Schools Trust), and the Nishkam Healthcare Centre. The aim of the Nishkam Group is to embed virtues and values within all areas of society.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The University established its India Institute in January 2018. The Institute brings Birmingham and India closer together to deliver impactful research, create innovative education initiatives and extend the University’s influence across the globe.
  • The University’s relationship with India began in 1909 with the first cohort of Indian students attending the University to study for degrees in Mining and Commerce. Since then, the University has provided education to many outstanding Indian alumni.

World’s largest interfaith gathering begins in Toronto

Parliament of the World’s Religions runs from Nov. 1 -7 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre 

TORONTO, ON (November 1, 2018) – The Parliament of the World’s Religions – the single largest interfaith gathering in the world – kicked off its seven-day run today in Toronto, drawing an enthusiastic audience interested in learning more about interreligious harmony.

Opening Ceremonies began with a spiritual ceremony from the Indigenous Nations on Turtle Island with greetings from the host First Nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Mississaugas of the Credit, and special addresses from local and international leaders. Following this ceremony, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, The Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Chief Ava Hill, Chief of the 56th Elected Council of the Six Nations of the Grand River and Chief Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaguas of the New Credit First Nation joined Parliament leaders to officially welcome delegates to the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Nearly 10,000 participants are expected to attend Parliament from Nov. 1-7 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Featuring dozens of high-profile guest speakers and more than 1000 spiritual programs, lectures and interactive cultural experiences, the event offers programming for all, from scholars and activists to families and children. Participants can be individuals whose profession or personal interests lead them to the Parliament or delegations from the guiding institutions, such as states, universities or religious organizations.

The Toronto Parliament will explore three themes: The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation and Change.

Highlights of the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions include:

Film Festival

A collection of ground-breaking movies and documentaries will play throughout the week including Indian Horse, The Gate: Dawn of the Bahá’í Faith and Radical Grace. Attendees are encouraged to attend various screenings and take part in Q and A sessions after select screenings.

Sacred Music Night – Nov. 4, 6 – 8 p.m. – Exhibit Hall ABC, Level 300.

On Sunday, Nov. 4, Parliament will host a Sacred Music Night that will inspire, uplift and create a feeling of awe through the music of the world’s religions. The night will feature musicians and performers including Jack Lenz, John Anderson, lead singer of the band Yes, Red Sky: First Nations Contemporary Dance Ensemble and Aviva Chernick.

Margaret Atwood

On Monday, Nov. 5, Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher and environmental activist Margaret Atwood will join Parliament for an exciting session titled Women and Climate Change: A Conversation Between Margaret Atwood & Lucy Cummings. This conversation will explore the intertwined nature of climate change, conflict, and violence against women. The event begins at 4:15 p.m. in room 106.

A Dynamic Dialogue with the Right Honourable Kim Campbell

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell has served Canada as Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, Attorney General and Minister of Defence. She is the first woman to lead a government in North America and is a global thought leader of the highest order. This session will feature a lively dialogue with Jonathan Granoff and Audrey Kitagawa, Chair of the Parliament’s United Nations Task Force and President of the Light of Awareness Spiritual Family, followed by responses from retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire and Senator Douglas Roche. This session on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 4:15 p.m. in room 106 will delve into what wise leadership, values, vision and politics look like on the personal, national and global level.

For more information about the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions and all events, please visit www.parliamentofreligions.org

Follow them on twitter @InterfaithWorld and Instagram @InterfaithWorld and like them on Facebook

About Parliament of the World’s Religions

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

The 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions is being hosted by the city of Toronto from November 1 – 7, 2018 at The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC). In its distinction as the world’s most diverse city, Toronto will showcase its unique values, achievements, and aspirations as the 7th host of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Birmingham Faith Leaders remember 9/11 and bless the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group read the ‘Charter For Forgiveness & Reconciliation’ Scroll

The Birmingham Faith Leaders Group (BFLG) met on the 17th anniversary of the shocking events of September 2011. The Group is composed of the principal leaders of Birmingham’s six major faith communities – Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews. The Group grew out of the immediate aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11 and the threats made to the Muslim community at that time. An initial gathering of faith leaders on the steps of Birmingham Central Mosque on 12th September 2001 led to the formation of the Group. During the subsequent years the group’s members have worked together to generate understanding between communities and to develop a diverse, faith-based vision for the city.

Manar Morzouk from Reset addresses the Faith Leaders

The meeting was held at Birmingham Progressive Synagogue and opened with a reflection from the host, Rabbi Margaret Jacobi.

The first order of the day was to hear from Manar Marzouk from the Charity Reset. Reset is a new charity partnering with leading refugee, faith and community charities to promote community sponsorship across the UK. It is working closely with a range of organisations to shape the UK’s community response to the Syrian crisis by building on the existing goodwill and compassion of people across the country. They encourage communities to come together to welcome, support and help refugee families as they rebuild their lives in the UK.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh presents the Charter Scroll to His Holiness Pope Francis to get it blessed

The BFLG then carried on with its busy agenda of business covering various upcoming events, project updates, and other faith business. One agenda item was the updating on the Museum of World’s Religions and the Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation (CfFR). As part of the update Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, reported that excellent progress had been made with Patrons and supporters. He shared that His Holiness Pope Francis had recently blessed the CfFR scroll and Bhai Sahib Ji invited the Birmingham Faith Leaders to do the same.

After the event, Dr Josef Boehle, Director of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, said, “The recent events including the appreciation and blessings of His Holiness Pope Francis are wonderful. The fact that the Faith Leaders regularly review and update each other on the Charter’s progress is excellent. Their blessing of the Charter on this auspicious date is even more poignant. The work on the Charter is going from strength to strength and we are planning a major event to launch the Charter next year. The vision of the Charter is to make a contribution to processes of forgiveness, reconciliation and sustainable peace, not only between individuals, communities and states, but also between faith traditions”.

Birmingham Lord Mayor, Cllr Yvonne Mosquito with the
Birmingham Faith Leaders Group at the Peace Garden

Following the reading and blessing of the Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation scroll, the faith leaders made their way to the multi-faith Peace Service held at the Peace Gardens in Birmingham. The aim of the service was to bring the city’s major religions even closer together. The Birmingham Faith Leaders group, which was created in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities, held its annual Inter Faith Service for Peace at the St Thomas Peace Garden in Bath Row.

The service originally began in response to hate attacks against Muslims following the Twin Towers attacks. The park itself is a tribute to those who have come to pass during times of unrest, who have suffered loss through terrorism, conflict and social upheaval. We have all experienced loss at some point in our lives and will continue to do so. Though grief is inevitable, it is important to remember those who have perished and to celebrate new life. This concept was clearly represented in the symbolic watering of a rose bush the Faith Leaders had planted in commemoration of the victims of the 9/11 attack. The coming together of humanity to prosper in troubling times and to triumph over strife in hopeful aspiration of the future.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh and the Lord Mayor
have a quick catch-up and discuss a visit to Soho Road Gurdwara

The Peace Garden event was attended by a diverse audience with people from many different faith groups coming together to have a minute of silence and pray together. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr Yvonne Mosquito, also attended the event.

Jonathan Gurling, Executive Secretary of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, said: “We try to keep the event very simple and short so more people will attend and stay for it. The Faith Leaders Group was formed when the then Chief Minister at Singers Hill Synagogue, Rabbi Tann, was so incensed by the attacks on Muslims post 9/11, he telephoned Dr Naseem, the then Chairman of the Central Mosque, and asked to visit on September 12th when community prayers were being held. He was joined by Christian and Sikh leaders and the Faith Leaders Group grew out of this simple act of brotherhood”.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association and Co-Convenor of the Charter, later said, “Forgiveness originates from the Divine and forgiveness is essential in a fractured world. The whole of humanity is one family and we are all interconnected and interdependent. The root cause of conflict is the mind; everything starts in the human mind. It is great to have the Faith Leaders bless the Charter”.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

RENOWNED SIKH LAWYER AND COMMUNITY LEADER HONOURED IN QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY LIST

ssmaward196Mr Sewa Singh Mandla (89), a high profile lawyer and a community and inter-faith leader in Birmingham has been appointed Officer of British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his 50 years’ legal, human rights and selfless community voluntary service in West Midlands.

As a long serving volunteer at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and a trustee at the Nishkam Civic Association Handsworth, Birmingham, Mr Mandla has been recognised for his significant contribution to community and inter-faith development work in the city and the region.

He has been able to successfully fuse his professional work in law with spirituality to make a difference to Sikh and wider communities in the UK.  Mr Mandla’s perseverance to take the issue of turbans worn by Sikh pupils in schools is a testament of his dedication to fight for a just cause.

His presence and strong personality enables him to successfully complete challenging social and professional tasks and projects. Mr Mandla has a gift of mobilising volunteers who are prepared to make selfless contribution to many different projects that he has initiated or led on behalf of other organisations.

He has an extraordinary passion and flair for serving the community in the pursuit of making a difference. His perseverance to follow through projects and tasks is one of his outstanding qualities. Mr Mandla is regularly invited to represent the views of the Sikh community in the media. He also volunteers to host television programmes on health and wellbeing and Kirtan on Sikh TV channels.

On being awarded the OBE in the Queen’s 90th birthday Honours list, Mr Mandla said “I am greatly humbled and feel privileged to be receiving this honour from HM the Queen. I thank Almighty God for this blessing and my spiritual master, Bhai Sahib Ji whose guidance has never failed me.

I pray that I live up to the expectations of all those who placed their faith, trust and confidence in me.” He added “I have accepted this appointment on behalf of the Sikh and wider communities that I am privileged to serve here in Birmingham and West Midlands.  This award is a recognition of the importance that community work and faith is playing in the secular world.”

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To arrange an interview, please contact Prof. Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice-Chairman, Nishkam Centre.  Mobile: 07974150320

Birmingham’s Sikh community marks the end of year and beginning of a New Year with prayer for World Peace

Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) invites all communities to unGNNSJ Birminghamite in prayers for peace during the festive season. The organisation has facilitated and organised eleven day prayer services for the benefit of all humanity twice every year since 1976. This year is even more poigniant in light of recent events carried out by misguided people in the name of faith. 

 

Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, literally means ‘A body of people, dedicated to selfless service, in the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh Dharam’ (faith). The humble endeavour is to practice and promote Dharam and optimism through selfless service for the welfare of all. The word Nishkam means being committed to the practice of selflessness – going beyond oneself to unlock infinite potential to do more for the common good. Nishkam sewa can be described as the practice of voluntary service, without expectation of either monetary or even spiritual gain, as well as selflessly helping and providing benevolence to the needy.

Sant Baba Puran Singh Ji, the Founder Saint of GNNSJ             (1898 – 1983)

Sant Baba Puran Singh Ji, the Founder Saint of GNNSJ (1898 – 1983)

It was in this spirit that an enlightened soul Sant Baba Puran Singh Ji,

Bhai Sahib Bhai Norang Singh (1926 – 1995)

Bhai Sahib Bhai Norang Singh (1926 – 1995)

known affectionately as Baba Ji, founded GNNSJ in East Africa during the 1940s. Baba Ji’s left for their heavenly abode in 1983 and their successor, another blessed soul, Bhai Sahib Bhai Norang Singh embraced and continued the Nishkam legacy in the early 1980’s. From these beginnings, GNNSJ has become a recognised faith based organisation with Gurudwaras in the UK, India and Kenya. It has an estimated one million members worldwide, and since 1995 has been guided by its present Spiritual Leader and Chairman, Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia.

With almost 40 years of spiritual development and enrichment, the Gurudwara on Soho Road, Handsworth (Sikh place of worship) is at the heart and soul of GNNSJ’s activities. The Gurudwara started from humble beginnings as two houses previously Polish club on Soho Road in 1976. Following a concerted community effort redevelopment and refurbishment by devotees, the Gurudwara opened in 1977. The area has lovingly been regenerated and many refer to it as ‘the gateway to Soho Road’. GNNSJ has made a commitment and pledge to the inner-city area of Handsworth in an effort to uplift and regenerate the locality and also the people that reside within it. This cannot simply be done through bricks and mortar, albeit this is financially a big investment and requirement, GNNSJ has invested and lead in social capital, volunteers, civic renewal, education, capacity building, relationship building and holding civil partners to account for their actions. As a recognised trusted ambassador for the locality GNNSJ is able represent, liaise and negotiate on behalf of the local population through its facets in the Nishkam group of organisations.

Prayers being recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Prayers being recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Since 1976, prayers have continuously been read each day within the Gurudwara, and specifically, prayers for world peace have been held bi-annually. The Sampat Akhand Path is 11 days in length, consisting of the continuous reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh eternal revered living timeless Guru and scriptures. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji takes approximately 48 hours to complete when read continuously. The Sampat shabad, a specific verse taken from the scriptures, is read in between each line or sentence. This shabad metaphorically acts as a priceless box, encasing each verse of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, allowing us to absorb its meaning and essence.

The Sampat shabad being recited in this December program is Bhairao, Fifth Mehla and whilst translation is a poor substitute, the essence of the shabad is:

 

You are my Father, and You are my Mother.

You are my Soul, my Breath of Life, the Giver of Peace.

You are my Lord and Master; I am Your slave.

Without You, I have no one at all. ||1||

Please bless me with Your Mercy, God, and give me this gift,

that I may sing Your Praises, day and night. ||1||Pause||

I am Your musical instrument, and You are the Musician.

I am Your beggar; please bless me with Your charity, O Great Giver.

By Your Grace, I enjoy love and pleasures.

You are deep within each and every heart. ||2||

By Your Grace, I chant the Name.

In the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, I sing Your Glorious Praises.

In Your Mercy, You take away our pains.

By Your Mercy, the heart-lotus blossoms forth. ||3||

I am a sacrifice to the Divine Guru.

The Blessed Vision of His Darshan is fruitful and rewarding; His service is immaculate and pure.

Be Merciful to me, O my Lord God and Master,

that Nanak may continually sing Your Glorious Praises. ||4||18||31||

The 11 day prayer is done on behalf of Sarbat Da Bhalla (the welfare and good will of all humanity) Sikhs

The Sangat (congregation) listen to prayers being recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

The Sangat (congregation) listen to prayers being recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

believe that humanitarian work can be done in many ways, but specifically by invoking God’s blessings. The bi-annual prayers were initiated by GNNSJ’s founder and spiritual leader, Sant Baba Puran Singh Ji and are held at the end of July and in December, just before the New Year. These are times when most of the community can come together because of school holidays and the annual festive holidays. In Sikh history the month of December is notable for the many sacrifices and martyrdoms that occurred on behalf of righteousness and faith. So this is a period of reflection and remembrance for the 27 million Sikhs worldwide.

The reading and service of Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Darbar Sahib (Guru’s Court/prayer hall) requires approximately 800 volunteer hours. This does not include all the regular volunteers that help to maintain, run and support the Gurudwara’s other activities. For example, the volunteers needed for langar (free kitchen where blessed food is freshly prepared and served) where approximately 25,000 meals are served every week.

The prayers undertaken for the benefit of the welfare and well-being of all humanity is a humble demonstration of the belief in the power of prayer. It is imperative that people of faith remain steadfast in their faith especially when faith is perceived as a problem not a solution. Faith should promote and lead to

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

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

greater cohesion and not be seen as a defining or differentiating barrier. A very significant and relevant project that Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh is currently leading on is the Museum of World’s Religions which will bring together in one place all the major faiths of the world. Currently, there is one museum of this type in Taipei and an international group of trustees is now working on a similar project in Birmingham. The project will be an opportunity to celebrate differences whilst promoting cohesion, unity, sacred space, values, sacred text and learnings, cultures and heritage.

Bhai Sahib Ji, the third in line of Sikh religious leaders of GNNSJ and since 1995, Chairman of the Nishkam Group of Organisations, is active in religious practice and propagation; social regeneration; heritage conservation; education, health and infrastructure development. He is passionate about empowering individuals and organisations with common religious values, through selfless service, education and exposure.

Bhai Sahib Ji’s other notable undertakings include:

· Spearheading the upgrading of the Holy Takhat of Patna. This is the birthplace of the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666) and for the 350th anniversary several million pilgrims are expected from Oct 2016 – Jan 2017 for which preparations are being made.

• The Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation,

• The development and establishment of ground-breaking Sikh ethos multi-faith school trust operating four state-funded schools in the UK. faith inspired education trust,

• Restoration and beautification of sacred shrines in India,

• Working on international peace initiatives as one of fifty co-presidents and trustees of Religions for Peace (RfP) International.

The Nishkam Civic Association, or Nishkam Centre as it is lovingly referred to, is the civic and engagement arm of GNNSJ and both organisations welcome members of all faiths, or traditions, all persuasions, and all backgrounds to come and see first-hand what the Nishkam Group of organisations and the Sikh community here in Birmingham is doing. To this end, if any organisation, individual or group of people wish to visit please contact the Nishkam Centre or GNNSJ directly on the following email addresses info@ncauk.org or visitors@gnnsj.org.

Notes to Editors:

 

For more information:

Phoenix Newspaper 5th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Awards Presentation Ceremony honours Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh

award

A delegation from the Nishkam Group of Organisations was invited to The Phoenix Newspaper 5th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony at Bethel Convention Centre to mark the newspaper’s achievements on Saturday 5th December 2015. The black tie, red carpet event was sold as it was marketed as ‘the event to be seen at for 2015’.

The evening started with canapés and drinks, an opportunity to
network and photographs as guests arrived and made their way down the red carpet. The Nishkam Group attendees were respected Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and Nishkam Civic Association, accompanied by his wife, Mrs Baldev Kaur, Mr Sewa Singh Mandla, and Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh and his wife Sharanjit Kaur.

The Nishkam table prior to dinner being served

The Nishkam table prior to dinner being served

Some 500 guests made their way to their tables to enjoy the meal and speeches. The Nishkam table as well as the Nishkam attendees also had Neena Gill, the MEP for the West Midlands, Ninder Singh Johal the current President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce (BCCC), member of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and his wife. Ninder took the opportunity prior to dinner being served to congratulate Bhai Sahib Ji on receipt of his OBE and the Papal Knighthood he received.

It was joyous to see so many colleagues and friends come together to celebrate a commendable achievement and to share the moment with Marcia and her team. Bishop Wollaston who had previously visited the UK from America and visited Bhai Sahib ji at the

Marcia McLaughlin catches up with Bhai Sahib Ji

Marcia McLaughlin catches up with Bhai Sahib Ji

Gurudwara, had returned to the UK especially for the awards ceremony. The Bishop came to say hello to Bhai Sahib Ji and they had a quick catch up. Another VIP that came to say hello to Bhai Sahib Ji was Mykal Brown, who was the other person who had a coin dedicated to him in Handsworth along with Bhai Sahib Ji and Merrise Crooks-Bishton.

During dinner there were performances from Community Gospel Choir, Ronald Dewit and Melika Queely. After dinner speeches from a number of invited Guest Speakers including Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE, Keith Stokes-Smith and Olusegun Dosumu.

Bhai Sahib Ji started by welcoming everyone to the event and congratulated Marcia on a great achievement. He also took the opportunity to promote key messages about values and virtues, community cohesion, the media being used in a positive means as opposed to promoting negative attitudes.

“The media should promote community cohesion interfaith dialogue

and collaboration it should build on the existing 24 moral and spiritual dispositions that were created for the Birmingham RE syllabus in 2007. The media should share our understanding of religion and cultures and its coverage should be more frequent and consistent when covering interfaith events. Media should promote peace; it is peace that we all want; individual peace, family, community peace and global peace”. This comment received rapturous applause from the audience.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE addresses the VIP gathering

“We must have more dialogue and promote dialogue, without dialogue there is a fear of the unknown that leads to prejudice and conflict.” Bhai Sahib also referred to the Declaration of Universal Human Rights and asked the audience if anybody had heard of the Declaration of Responsibilities – no one had. He then quoted a clause from article 5 pertaining to non-violence and respect for life,

Keith Stokes-Smith delivers his messages and raises awareness of the Commonwealth Association

Keith Stokes-Smith delivers his messages and raises awareness of the Commonwealth Association

“Every person has a responsibility to respect life. No one has the right to injure, to torture or to kill another human person. This does not exclude the right of justified self-defence of individuals or communities.” Once again, this received a round of applause. “I feel humanity has to revisit and resuscitate this Declaration of Human Responsibilities”.

Bhai Sahib Ji also suggested that we should make sure all our media professionals are trained and educated to ensure proper coverage of events. In particular he said it was important that the media covered faith-based and religious events in a fair and balanced way so that the chance of any misrepresentation, misquoting, or abuse of reporting was minimised. “The media, like the mind, can be your best friend and also your worst enemy”, he said. “Finally I want to again congratulate Marcia and her staff for the excellent work they continue to do.”

All the guests captivated during the performances and Awards Ceremony

All the guests captivated during the performances and Awards Ceremony

Bhai Sahib Ji’s address was followed by Keith Stokes-Smith, Chairman of Birmingham Commonwealth Association. He reiterated many of the messages delivered by Bhai Sahib Ji and suggested that people take more responsibility for their actions. He also went on to say that the Phoenix was a great friend and ally of the Birmingham Commonwealth Association, congratulated them on their achievements over the last five years and wished him well for the next five years.

Once the guests had enjoyed dinner, they were shown into the auditorium which could accommodate up to 4000 people. Following the Dhol Blasters, Gospel Central, with Mark Dwayne and Sticky Toffee Dancers entertained the guests and set the scene for the awards. The audience was then presented with a series of performances and guest speakers presenting their thanks and gratitude to the Phoenix and in particular Marcia for her dedication and commitment.

The awards ceremony recognised many people for their

Bhai Sahib Ji receives Humanitarian Achievement Award from President of BCCC & GBSLEP Board Member, Mr Ninder Johal

Bhai Sahib Ji receives Humanitarian Achievement Award from President of BCCC & GBSLEP Board Member, Mr Ninder Johal

achievements and contributions. GNNSJ was a nomination for the ‘Best Place of Worship’ award. A surprise award not listed in the program was made by Marcia McLaughlin when she called Ninder Johal to announce a special award. He came on stage and said that the award was in recognition of the great contribution to Humanitarian Services. He then began to read key bullet points from Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh OBE’s biography. At this point he invited Bhai Sahib Ji on to the stage to collect his award to a great round of applause from the audience.

After the event Bhai Sahib Ji said,”I am truly honoured to receive this Humanitarian Achievement Award. In all humility, I believe I am fulfilling my service to humanity and doing what any human being should be doing. “I am privileged to be Spiritual Leader and Chairman of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, and to be able to undertake service to mankind. We must empower individuals, families and society with values and virtues that create

Group photo opportunity at the end

Group photo opportunity at the end

good human beings; this will ultimately create a much better society. The work that the Phoenix is doing is commendable. I would encourage it to undertake an even more proactive role in promoting faith from a practitioner’s perspective as opposed to a theological perspective. Once again we thank Marcia for her work on the Phoenix and to everybody responsible for my receiving this prestigious award. I accept this on behalf of the Nishkam family and all the people who work behind the scenes to help me achieve what we do.”

END

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

 

 

Prayers in Harmony attracts interest from all faiths and none

Jewish (Lior), Sikh (Mr Mandla) and Jain (Arvinder) friends have a catch-up and a group photo

Jewish (Lior), Sikh (Mr Mandla) and Jain (Arvinder) friends have a catch-up and a group photo

On Thursday 20th November the Nishkam Centre was honoured to host a multi-faith event, Prayers in Harmony, to mark Interfaith Week 2015. It also served as show of solidarity with the recent Paris events and the other atrocities around the world.

The event began with a meet and greet over light refreshments allowing all to get

Matloob Hussain shares some beautiful couplets with the audience

Matloob Hussain shares some beautiful couplets with the audience

to know someone new. Conversations became increasingly enthusiastic as people found common ground and related to one another on a more personal level. Chairs were set in cabaret style creating a welcoming atmosphere allowing conversations to flow.In the midst of a cold and windy Thursday morning, people from various faiths and none, gathered to spread warmth and love. Many people from the local community, as well as some dedicated faith leaders, came to reflect on the collective meaning of prayer with the aim of bringing the city’s major faiths religions even closer together.

All the guests were then invited into the Heritage Centre to view the specially resurrected the Sound & Silence Exhibition which had previously been on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition highlighted the 24 Moral and Spiritual Dispositions, which were created by the Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education (SACRE).

Birmingham SACRE is made up of representatives from across Birmingham’s faith traditions, along with representatives from

Yann and Ann look at the 24 Spiritual & Moral Dispositions Exhibition

Yann and Ann look at the 24 Spiritual & Moral Dispositions Exhibition

the City Council and teachers’ unions, who come together to develop and monitor the implementation of the Religious Education (RE) syllabus across the city. The curriculum arising from Birmingham’s RE syllabus is designed to help pupils investigate twenty-four key ‘dispositions’ agreed by all of the city’s faiths. These ‘dispositions’, or qualities, are the goals of successful teaching of the RE syllabus.

Once the guests had viewed the exhibition, which also included an impressive model replica of the Harmandir Sahib (Amritsar, India) (referred to by many as the ‘Golden Temple’) they took their seats for the next phase of the day. A representative from each faith tradition was invited to share a prayer, reflection or a story in relation to their faith. Islamic, Christian, Quaker, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and Sikh stories, prayers and reflections were shared and enjoyed by all. A beautiful violin piece was played by Rabbi Dr Lior Kaminestsky.

Dr. Andrew Smith, the Bishop of Birmingham’s Director of Inter-faith Relations said, “For many Christians prayer is about entering in to the presence of God and the Father”.

Dr Andrew Smith sharing the Christian reflection on prayer

Dr Andrew Smith sharing the Christian reflection on prayer

Chris Martin from the Quaker faith, shared “This very much resonates with how I feel about prayer – ‘Prayer is not an occasional nod, given in passing to God. It’s more like a marriage, a closeness of living, a constant receiving and giving’.”

“God is everywhere, every place that you allow him to come in. And prayer is one of the ways to let God come into our hearts” echoed Rabbi Lior Kaminetsky from the Jewish community.

Arvinder Jain from the Jain faith said that every human being has the potential to become God in essence we could all be a ‘the liberated soul’.

Sister Brigitte from the Catholic faith contributed, “Every person is created in love, and all that was required of His Creation

 

was that we should love Him in return.”

“You don’t find anything about prayer or meditation in books. Only when you practice you find out what it’s all about” iterated Yann Lovelock from the Buddhist tradition.

“Islam itself linguistically, means peace, but also submission to God; submission to the ultimate reality which is God. And that’s the whole point of Prayer; prayer is submission and directing your heart to God.” said Shoaib Hafiz from the Islam faith.

Yann, Buddhist speaker, shares his key messages

Yann, Buddhist speaker, shares his key messages

There were many laughs and even a few tears as the various reflections touched the hearts of all who attended. Thanks and gratitude were exchanged and a feeling of spiritual bliss was left in the air. The Prayer Exhibition will be available to view by appointment at the Nishkam Centre, and many Interfaith Events are to be implemented in the future.

 

 

Paris terror attacks – A message from Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE

Press Release: Statement by Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE

Spiritual Leader and Chair of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (UK) regarding the recent attacks in Paris

As the horrific events of Friday 13th November in Paris unfold and we get more information about the tragic occurrence, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the loved ones of all who have lost lives and suffered. The incident has demonstrated the carnage that senseless individuals determined to take human life can cause.

We should also remember those around the world be it Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, India, Bagdad,

Bhai Sahib Ji address Vigil for Paris at outside Cathedral

Bhai Sahib Ji address Vigil for Paris at outside Cathedral

Syria or any other place. Such atrocities are becoming all too familiar reports on our daily news. We should not forget the value of life. It is not about the number of lives lost; one life lost is one too many. We need more faith and community solidarity. People of all faiths and none, and generally good human beings, need to come together and unite. Our planet’s peace has been disturbed through violence, exploitation, conflict and insecurity. It is not religion that is in crisis but rather those who hijack faith to suit their own merciless agenda. We should all condemn the inhumane, barbaric acts that threaten the very sanctity of our society; evil cannot and will not prevail.

People of faith are the conscience of the world. We have a duty to speak up and a duty to rally around during times of crisis. We cannot stand by and let the sanctity and value of human life be eroded. We must never forget, as people of faith, that the power of prayer is infinite. It is our shield; it is our saviour; it is our guardian in good times and bad.

As stated by the InterAction Council (1st Sept 1997) ‘every person has a responsibility to respect life. No one has the right to injure, to torture or to kill another human’.

Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 853 (Sikh’s Revered Eternal Guru) states,

“The whole world is suffering: engulfed in flames of many

destructive forces, primarily violent extremism, lust, revenge, greed, and ego.

We plead to you God, through your mercy, please protect and save us,

no matter which door or sanctuary or place of worship we come from,

take us into your fold and refuge. Pray, shelter and protect us”.

As we mourn the loss of loved ones around the world, we pray that God grants us all the strength to deal with the calamity that faces us. May the many faiths of the world come together in times of crises and stand together united in the face of adversity. There is no challenge that humanity cannot endure when united for the common good and when helping fellow humans. We call on all people of faith to look to your faith; pray for all those caught up in these atrocities and reach out to our fellow human beings.

May peace be with you all.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE