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.”

Ends

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

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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

 

European Council of Religious Leaders: Our heart goes out to the people of France

European Couencil of Religious Leaders Media Release


Muslim, Jewish, Christian and European Religious Leaders of all traditions stand united in grief and anger about the terrible attacks in Paris.

Upon witnessing the unfolding violence in Paris the Moderator of the European Council of Religious Leaders (ECRL) Revd. Dr. Thomas Wipf stated: “We, people of all religious traditions in Europe are united in our grief and anger about the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected. We strongly condemn all acts of violence and terrorism which can never be just justified on religious grounds. We want to commit ourselves even more intensively for peace and security wherever we live.”

He further added: “As members of different faiths and from different countries we stand in solidarity and pray for the victims killed, the injured and their nearest and dearest. Our heart goes out to the people of France for once again they been targeted and their peace shattered.”

French ECRL Council member H.E Metropolitan Emmanuel called “for national unity, strengthening of coexistence and protection of the fundamental values of our Republic.”

The Grand Mufti of the Republic of Slovenia added: “We are very shocked and deeply sad by the massacre of the innocent people in Paris. Terrorism is the evil and we must together condemn and combat any violence. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the French people.”

The Secretary-General of ECRL, the Zoroastrian Jehangir Sarosh, urged all faith communities to “reinforce our resolve to stand in solidarity to strengthen our work for liberty, equality and fraternity”.

Speaking at a Birmingham vigil, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha said:

On Friday in Paris we saw 129 people killed and many injured.Over
the last weeks we have seen many atrocities carried out in Lebanon, Syria, India – the list is endless. It is not about the number of lives lost – one life lost is one too many.

We need more faith in Solidarity. People of all faiths and none – good human beings need to come together and unite. 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.

“Every person has a responsibility to respect life. No one has the right to injure, to torture or to kill another human”

(Interaction Council, 1st September 1997)

Allow me to share a Prayer with you:

“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” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 853)

ENDS

The European Council of Religious Leaders – Religions for Peace (ECRL) brings together senior religious leaders from Europe’s historical religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam together with Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians. ECRL has participatory status with the Council of Europe. ECRL is one of five regional Interreligious Councils with the Religions for Peace network. Religions for Peace – accredited to the United Nations – is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action for peace since 1970. 

 

Former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue visits Gurudwara and Nishkam Centre

Guest oudside Gurudwara Sahib

Guests oudside Gurudwara Sahib

On Tuesday 10th November, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald visited the Gurudwara served by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and the Nishkam Centre as part of his trip to Birmingham. The visit was a session following the Archbishop’s first visit to the Nishkam Group of Organisations in 2000.  

Archbishop Fitzgerald, believes the impetus for interreligious dialogue in the Catholic Church stems from the Second Vatican Council, in particular the declaration Nostra Aetate (‘In our Time’) on relations with other religions. For the first time, the declaration Nostra Aetate, made a positive assessment of other religious traditions, emphasising dialogue between people rather than systems. The fact that this year represents the 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate was also poignant and relevant to the Archbishop’s

Archbishop Fitzgerald

Archbishop Fitzgerald

visit. The Archbishop was welcomed on behalf of Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh by a delegation from the Nishkam Education Trust and Nishkam Centre. Local members of the Focolare Movement were also invited because of creative partnership working they were developing with the Nishkam Education Trust. Until his retirement in 2012 the Archbishop was the Papal Nuncio to Egypt (envoy or permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See to a state or international organisation) and delegate to the Arab League. A strong advocate of interreligious dialogue, he is widely considered the Catholic Church’s leading expert on Islam.

On the Monday evening preceding the visit, Archbishop Fitzgerald was welcomed by faith colleagues from various members of the city’s faith communities at St Chads. Archbishop Bernard Longley hosted the evening and Archbishop Fitzgerald had the opportunity to have informal conversations with all present. The Archbishop also gave an address to Catholic colleagues at St Chads.

Archbishop in Main Darbar Sahib and about to present a bouquet of flowers to Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Archbishop in Main Darbar Sahib and about to present a bouquet of flowers to Guru Granth Sahib Ji

During talks the Archbishop said, “The more you understand a religion, the better it is. I think this helps to build relations”.  The Archbishop on arrival went to the Main Darbar Sahib and presented a bouquet of flowers to Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The entourage then proceeded to the rooftop Gumbad Darbar (Dome prayer room) and listened to the evening simran (prayers) being recited. On route to the rooftop Darbar the group walked past the Langar (free food prepared and served from the Guru’s Kitchen by volunteers). The Archbishop was struck by the amount of food that was prepared and served to people visiting the Gurudwara and also the Nishkam Help meals that go out to feed the homeless in Birmingham.

The guests then walked along Soho Road to be updated on development around the Nishkam Community Cooperative, the Retail outlets, Nishkam Health and Nishkam Schools before retreating to the  Nishkam Centre for refreshments and discussion. At the Nishkam Centre the Archbishop and guests saw videos and a presentation about the Sikh community activities around langar, education, civic engagement, health initiatives and generally interfaith dialogue projects. An insight of the Nishkam Group of Organisations’ work in the UK and internationally was shared. This included the vision behind education projects which involved taking a global view of child wellbeing and social responsibility to children. Also highlighted was the way in which inter-religious collaboration, in particular with Catholic / Jewish education bodies, had been of practical support to

Archbishop Fitzgerald, Catholic and Sikh colleagues discuss progress to date and looking to the future for collaborative projects

Archbishop Fitzgerald, Catholic and Sikh colleagues discuss progress to date and looking to the future for collaborative projects

Nishkam Education Trust.
The Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh, said ”We are delighted to welcome back the Archbishop; there was a lot to talk about since his last visit in 2000. He was extremely impressed with the progress that had been made to the infrastructure and from an engagement point of view.  There was a genuine heartfelt desire on the part of the guests to understand what we do and also how we could build on this in collaboration.”During discussions, William Ozanne, who is a big supporter of the work that GNNSJ undertakes and very influential within the Catholic community was keen to explore the idea of a 5th Sikh-Catholic Dialogue. This idea had been discussed previously between Bhai Sahib Ji and William with a view that it should be hosted in the Sikh’s

Nostra aetate, The ‘Leaven of Good’ - a film celebrating 5 historic decades; a story of vision, collaboration and encounter, and today, a demanding future. The film was shown during the conference and also contains an Interview

Nostra aetate, The ‘Leaven of Good’ – a film celebrating 5 historic decades; a story of vision, collaboration and encounter, and today, a demanding future. The film was shown during the conference and also contains an Interview

holiest city of Amritsar in Punjab (India). Whilst underlining that he was not directly responsible for enabling such developments Archbishop Fitzgerald said would welcome and support the opportunity for dialogue.

Amrick went on, “Unfortunately, Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE could not be present to welcome and host the Archbishop in Birmingham due to a conference engagement at Lambeth Palace. However, Bhai Sahib and the Archbishop will have an opportunity for discussion tomorrow in London”.

END

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

Nishkam Media Centre – www.nishkammediacentre.com

Dalai Lama hosts interfaith meeting ‘The Preservation of Religious Culture and the Cohesion of Faiths’

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and fellow participants during an interfaith meeting. Photo by Ian Cumming

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and fellow participants during an interfaith meeting. Photo by Ian Cumming

The 21st September 2015 saw dignitaries and distinguished guests invited to the House of Lords for a meeting organised by the Buddhist Society of which His Holiness the Dalai Lama is Patron. Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE was the Sikh representative at the prestigious meeting entitled ‘The Preservation of Religious Culture and the Cohesion of Faiths’.

Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Nishkam Civic Association, was honoured to be part of the meeting. The meeting was followed by a Celebration Lunch to mark a double celebration firstly, the 80th birthday of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and also the Buddhist Society celebrating its 90th Anniversary.

On arrival to the House of Lords, Baroness Caroline Cox and Desmond Biddulph, the Buddhist Society’s

The Dalai Lama speaking at the House of Lords. Photo Ian Cumming

The Dalai Lama speaking at the House of Lords. Photo Ian Cumming

President, received the Dalai Lama. They escorted him through the grand halls to the meeting, which was attended by Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Bhai Sahib Ji, the Sikh representative. Prior to the event, the Dalai Lama gave an interview to Christiane Amanpour of CNN where he said, “What’s important is that all human beings, wherever they are, whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, have a right to live a happy life. Many think that happiness is to be found outside ourselves in material things, but actually happiness is something that comes from within. So I try to present the importance of inner values not on the basis of religious quotations, but by taking a secular approach based on scientific findings and common sense.”

Sikhs understand the values that His Holiness referred to as Guru Granth Sahib Ji, The Sikhs eternal Living Guru has always said, ‘Man Jeetay Jag Jeet’ (by winning over your mind, you have won over the world).  For many years Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh has worked on education and later with SACRE in Birmingham facilitated and developed the 24 Moral and Spiritual Dispositions (disposition in Punjabi is ‘bhavna’)

“Education is the answer to many of society’s problems. We must educate children with good values and virtues. Good role models enable them to be good human beings”, said Bhai Sahib Ji.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji & Dali Lama, “ Being happy is not a matter of destiny. It is a matter of options. "Take care of your thoughts because they become words, Take care of your words because they will become actions, Take care of your actions. Painting by GNNSJ volunteer, Charan Singh.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji & Dali Lama, “ Being happy is not a matter of destiny. It is a matter of options. “Take care of your thoughts because they become words, Take care of your words because they will become actions, Take care of your actions. Painting by GNNSJ volunteer, Charan Singh.

He went on, “The Dalai Lama is a very wise and humble man, he speaks from the heart and his message is delivered directly to the heart; that’s what makes it powerful. He is not saying anything alien or bizarre, he is giving us simple messages that all people of faith and those of no faith will recognise as good human values. That is the answer; good human values, not rhetoric but lived values, shared values, values that we are all proud of to embrace.”

His Holiness addressed the gathering of distinguished guests. He said it was a great honour for him to sit with spiritual brothers and sisters of various traditions. He went on, “In too many places today it seems religious and nationalistic feelings are giving rise to terrible conflicts. We have to find ways to bring peace. This is something that those of us who are religious have to do. Meetings like this are an opportunity to build and nurture friendship and trust among us. There is an impression in many people’s minds these days that Muslims are especially militant. However, we have to remember that there are militant Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists too.”

“Muslim friends have told me that if you shed blood you are no longer a genuine Muslim and that Muslims have a commitment to respect all the creatures of Allah. They also tell me that the word ‘jihad’ is misunderstood. It doesn’t have anything to do with fighting other people, but refers to combating disturbing emotions within yourself.”

Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, recalled growing up in Uganda with two Muslim children from Zanzibar and concluded by saying that we should all remember, “I am not my brother’s keeper; I am my brother’s brother.”

Archbishop Kevin McDonald conveyed greetings to His Holiness and members of the gathering from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the UK. He also recalled serving in the Vatican when Pope John Paul II convened the ground-breaking interfaith gathering in Assisi in 1986 that His Holiness had attended. Baroness Berridge, Chair of the All Party Group on International Religious Freedom, raised concerns for atrocities against Muslims and Christians in Burma and elsewhere. She eloquently said that those in public life had a responsibility to work for the rights of all. Her sentiments were taken further by the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, who iterated that violence has never helped and religious leaders needed to make this clear to their various governments. He said there was still too great a sense that military force was the way to solve problems, but in fact in the long run words are more effective than bullets.

The Dalai Lama repeated that love and compassion are what bring people together, while anger and suspicion push them apart. He drew attention to three aspects of religious tradition. The religious aspect concerns the common practice of love and compassion, tolerance and self-discipline. While philosophical views may be quite different, they are all dedicated to the same goal of reinforcing the practice of love. However, he said, there may also be cultural aspects of religious tradition, like caste discrimination, which the Sikhs do not subscribe to, that are no longer relevant and should be changed. He said he encourages religious leaders to speak out about these things whenever they can. The meeting concluded with the guests making their way for lunch in the Strangers’ Dining Room of the House of Commons.

 

END

Notes to Editors:

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Local visionaries celebrated by launch of memorable new coins

Merrise Crooks-Bishton, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and Mykal Brown

Merrise Crooks-Bishton, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and Mykal Brown

Inspired by the innovations and technical breakthroughs in coinage at Matthew Boulton’s Soho Mint in the 18th century, Birmingham Museums Trust, Soho House and artists Chris Poolman and Elizabeth Rowe launched ‘Good Money – A Currency Competition for Handsworth’. The launch event on Saturday 23rd of May attracted members of the community from all walks of life. The event saw Sikh, Christian, Afro-Caribbean, Muslim and many other traditions and denominations come together to celebrate the launch of three new coins.

Following a public vote, the three winners from a shortlist of 15 were selected. They included:

  • Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE, Chair and Spiritual Leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha UK, who has added so much to interfaith, social justice, regeneration and creating harmony.
  • Mykal Brown, who has helped thousands of youngsters back into education through music;
  • Merrise Crooks-Bishton, who has worked in community education in Handsworth for more than 40 years,

The artists worked with Soho House, the former residence of industrialist Matthew Boulton, and by drawing on the site’s history decided to produce a set of new Handsworth coins. The competition was to find local people to have their profiles cast on the coins and designs for the other side, a strategy that will write the local community into the history of the site. At the event the coins were handed out to the local community. For the tail side of the coins, 235 entries were submitted from the local Handsworth community including five local schools – Holyhead School, St. Theresa’s Catholic Primary School, Grove Primary School, Future First School and Handsworth Girls’ School.

Fun packed day at Soho HouseThe fun packed day at Soho House, in Handsworth, included speeches exhibitions and photo opportunities for people to celebrate the launch event. Handsworth is now a densely populated super-diverse area of Birmingham. Historically though, it was located in the county of Staffordshire and remained a small village from the 13th century to the 18th century. When Matthew Boulton lived at Soho House he set up the Soho Manufactory in 1764. The Soho Manufactory was the largest factory in the world. Handsworth today is regarded part of Birmingham and home to many cultures, identities, faiths, languages and traditions.

At the launch, 300 free coins were given away, and there was an opportunity to witness the handprint project archive and a Nishkam display, the Wassifa sound system and archive, the ‘Tails’ exhibition as well as enjoy live Kirtan – Sikh spiritual hymns. There was also plenty of food to sample and tempt people.

Whilst the coins are cherished by many they also have a ‘cultural value’. Visitors who bring one of the coins to the museum are entitled to half price entry until 1st November to Soho House. Furthermore, half price entry to four other heritage sites in Birmingham (Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Sarehole Mill) until 1st November.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE coin

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE – Chairman of Nishkam Group of Organisations

Mykal Brown

Mykal Brown  coin

Mykal Brown – founder of Wassifa Sound System

Merrise Crooks-Bishton

Merrise Crooks-Bishton  coin

Merrise Crooks-Bishton – Soho Road Handprint project

Oliver Buckley, Curator Manager at Soho House said: “New Expressions 3 is about uniting heritage sites, their local communities and contemporary artists – unlocking creative potential, and placing museums at the heart of their local areas. Chris Poolman and Elizabeth Rowe enticed local people to find out more and participate in events celebrating local heroes and the history of Soho House. What more fitting a way to celebrate this creative exchange than a special series of coins, minted in Birmingham, the ‘workshop of the world’, to be used as tokens symbolising local achievement and entitlement.”

Notes to Editors:

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Sikh spiritual leader receives OBE for services to interfaith and peace

IMG-20150506-WA0006Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Nishkam group of charitable organisations based in Birmingham today received the Officer of British Empire (OBE) from The Prince of Wales in recognition of his unstinting and inexorable work over forty years to promote peace and coexistence by bringing people of different faiths together to contribute to the common good of humanity.

On receiving the award, Bhai Sahib said “It is a great personal honour to receive this prestigious award from The Prince of Wales. All accolades are attributed to God Almighty who facilitates human puppets to perform. I have accepted this award on behalf of the founders and members of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and the wider communities that I am privileged to serve here in the UK and internationally.”

Bhai Sahib is a selfless religious visionary leader propagating peace, serving society through spiritual inspiration, infrastructure creation, heritage conservation, interfaith engagement and promoting values-led education. As chairperson of GNNSJ, one of the UK’s largest Sikh faith registered charities, he is engaged in an astounding range of civic and spiritual initiatives. He is respected as a bridge-builder within communities in the local and global, secular and spiritual, intra and interfaith contexts. In 2013, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI bestowed a Papal Knighthood of ‘Saint Gregory the Great’ upon Bhai Sahib for his interfaith work in the UK and around the world. In 2014, he was awarded the highly coveted Guru Nanak Interfaith Peace prize by Hofstra University, New York.

He has received Honorary Doctorates from Birmingham City University in 2002, the University of Birmingham in 2006 and the University of Aston in 2014 for services to religious faith propagation, community service, education and research.

Bhai Sahib is Patron of the Nishkam School Trust that has successfully established Nishkam nurseries, primary and secondary schools with a multi-faith ethos in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and London.  Nishkam High School and Sixth Form in Newtown was judged as ‘Outstanding” by OFSTED in its very first inspection in 2014.

His greatest legacies will be the transformation of many lives across faiths; the restoration and conservation of sacred historical Sikh shrines, including Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in India; construction and management of outstanding quality Sikh places of worship – Gurudwaras – in England, India, Kenya and Zambia; and the ingenious conservation of listed buildings on Soho Road, in Birmingham, that now house the Nishkam Nursery, Nishkam Primary School and the Nishkam Healthcare Trust.

Under his leadership over the span of some twenty-five years, the Nishkam Group has become a major player in the social and economic development of Handsworth in the city of Birmingham, UK and a number of other cities internationally, investing over £60m. He believes in the policy of “service delayed is a service denied” which demands great speed to complete whatever he undertakes to do.

As a highly respected spiritual and community leader, he propagates the deeper Sikh sacred teachings that demand the practice of values in everyday life such as humility, compassion, selflessness and courage.  As a role model, he generates in others a tremendous capacity for undertaking selfless voluntary service to improve the wellbeing of all communities.

ENDS

For more detailed profile and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Amrick Singh Ubhi

Director

Nishkam Civic Association

Tel: 0121 515 4229

Mob: 07771 817484.

Email: amrick.ubhi@ncauk.org