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

 

Sikh spiritual leader honoured in Queen’s New Year list

BMS Portait 2 edited smallBhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Nishkam group of charitable organisations based in Birmingham has been appointed Officer of British Empire (OBE) 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.

Dr Mohinder Singh is the first British Sikh to receive the official title of “Bhai Sahib” from the highest religious Ministers (Jathedars) of the Sikhs’ spiritual and temporal seats of authority in India. Bhai Sahib means ‘a brotherly leader or one worthy of respect amongst the larger family of Sikhs’.

On the award in the Queen’s 2015 New Year Honours list, Bhai Sahib said, “It is a great personal honour to receive this prestigious award from Her Majesty the Queen, by the grace of God, the Defender of the Faith. All accolades are attributed to God Almighty who facilitates human puppets to perform. I have accepted this appointment 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.

From 1999, Bhai Sahib began to channel his energy into the growing area of global interfaith dialogue and cooperation to pursue the objective of global peace building. He is the founding convener of the proposed international Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, which aims to provide a framework for communities, organisations and Governments to promote forgiveness around the globe. He, along with other prominent international trustees, is actively involved in establishing the unique Museum of World Religions (MWR) in Birmingham, estimated to cost around £60m, to create cohesion amongst people of different faiths and none. The MWR will bring together youth and adults from different faiths to promote mutual respect and peace building. 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.

Bhai Sahib chairs the Boards of the Nishkam Gurudwara, established in 1977; Nishkam Community Cooperative (MSS Manufacturers Ltd) established in 1980; Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), a Centre for personal, community and sustainable development that is open to all communities established in 2006; and the Nishkam Healthcare Centre established in 2012 that provides a range of health care services and advice to hard to reach groups. He has been awarded 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 embraces the concepts of values driven education on one hand and interfaith cooperation on the other as tools to forge lasting and sustainable peace. Propelling this forward is the Sikh Gurus’ teaching to consider humanity as one family with the same light of the Creator in all. He is an international trustee of Religions for Peace International (RPI), which works in some 90 countries. He is also one of RPI’s 50 Co-presidents around the world. He is a senior member of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders and a Senior Ambassador of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative, which in 2014 bestowed upon him the annual award for embracing the concept of education for the common good by building schools and colleges essential for a sustainable world. In 2014, he was also awarded the highly coveted Guru Nanak Interfaith Peace prize by Hofstra University, New York.

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 the 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 Centre.

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 £50m. 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 details please contact:

Amrick Singh Ubhi

Director

Nishkam Civic Association.

Tel: 0121 515 4229

Mobile: 07771 817484

Email: amrick.ubhi@ncauk.org

 

 

 

 

Museum of World Religions AGM and project development meeting hosted in Birmingham

engagementThe Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) Gurudwara and Nishkam Centre were honoured to host the Museum of World Religions (MWR) Working Committee for a marathon two day gathering and Annual General Meeting this week.

The Museum of World Religions (MWR) will provide an opportunity for people of different backgrounds to get to know, understand, respect, and learn from each other. It will create an atmosphere that stimulates spiritual awareness and a sense of humility. The project was inspired and initiated by the Dharma Master Hsin Tao who founded the first Museum of World Religions located in Taiwan. The Working Committee is looking at the planning and coordination to establish a Museum of World Religions in Birmingham. The Museum is intended to be a shared space for dialogue and understanding between people from different faith communities as well as for people of no religious or faith affiliations. It is envisaged that it will serve as an educational resource for learners of all ages and provide an opportunity for individuals to explore the part that religion plays in contemporary life.

The Museum will be a twenty-first-century state-of-the-art spacious building to allow visitors a sense of freedom in exploring the exhibitions. The Museum will encourage respect for religion by introducing visitors to the core values, wisdom, and practices of all the major world religions, and in this manner illustrate the need for religion in an increasingly secular and environmentally threatened world.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh who had just returned from an interfaith trip to Amritsar, India where he hosted the Birmingham Faith Leaders to ascertain a better understanding of the Sikh Dharam (faith), said “The meeting hasmeeting been very productive; the passion of the working committee to ensure the project is thought through and planned meticulously is enlightening. As human beings we need a better understanting of the other; fear, hostility, anger and resentment are a result of a lack of understanding. We must empower people with knowledge of other faith traditions so that we can build a more cohesive society. I am honoured to be part of this Working Group, this is a landmark project that will become a focal point for faith literacy in this hemisphere in years to come”.

The team that met this week included:

  • Josef Boehle, Coordinator of the UNESCO Chair in Interfaith Studies, University of Birmingham;
  • Rodney Dodds, Reader Emeritus, Church of England;
  • Marius Felderhof, former Senior Lecturer, Dept. Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham;
  • Maria Reis Habito, International Programme Director, Museum of World Religions, Taiwan;
  • Farida Hashem, Senior Consultant, Felixia Associates;
  • Sharif Horthy, President, Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, Brighton;
  • Tuti Horthy, Trustee, Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, Brighton;
  • Kurt Schreiber, Advisor, Museum of World Religions, Taiwan;
  • Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman, GNNSJ, Birmingham;
  • Sukhbir Singh, GNNSJ, Birmingham

The Museum will look at the central importance of religion in human life and create a common space for the many religious communities in Birmingham. It is envisioned that the project would have an educational value for the general public and would be the first of its kind in Europe, possibly the first outside Taiwan. It will celebrate the role and relevance of religion, both for individuals and for society. Furthermore, it will stimulate constructive and critical reflection on the role of religion in our global society. When we consider the misrepresentation, the hijacking, and the mis-use of faith to serve personal agendas, the need for such a museum is exceptionally timely. In today’s increasingly globalised and fractured world, members of different faith communities and ethnicities find themselves sharing a common space. At the same time, humanity is facing unprecedented challenges––environmental degradation, poverty, war, violence between groups and communities, uneven distribution of material wealth, social disparity, injustice, alienation, and many other problems. The proposed Museum is intended to provide information and resources for individuals to reflect on the meaning and role of religion amidst these challenges, and how religion can indeed be a positive force for global healing, social transformation, and personal growth in the twenty-first century.

By encouraging the recognition of the importance of inter-religious dialogue and religious education as vehicles contributing to social stability and world peace the museum will build powerful bridges. It will serve as a major educational resource for teachers and students of theology and Religious Education in Britain, Europe, and beyond.

Amrick Singh, Centre Director commented, “It is always a pleasure to host and serve such distinguished guests working on projects that will be for the benefit of all. The rich diversity of this team illustrates how vibrant the final outcome will be. The guests were really overwhelmed by the hospitality they received by Bhai Sahib Ji and the team and we are pleased we were able to contribute in a small way by hosting such a significant meeting”.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

Nishkam Media Centre – www.nishkammediacentre.com

Battle of Saragarhi brings British Army to Birmingham Gurudwara

Delegation gracefully listens to Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s message in the Gurudwara

Delegation gracefully listens to Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s message in the Gurudwara

Brigadier Abraham accompanied by colleagues from the British Army visited the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) Gurudwara and Nishkam complex as part of the high profile commemorations of the Battle of Saragarhi.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of GNNSJ, who manages the selfless services of the Gurudwara on Soho Road and Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association welcomed and hosted the Army Delegation.

The Battle of Saragarhi is considered by some military historians as one of history’s great last-stands. Sikh military personnel and Sikh civilians commemorate the battle every year on 12th  September as Saragarhi Day; the battle was given the honour of a regimental holiday.  The Battle of Saragarhi was fought on 12th September 1897 between 21 Sikhs of the 36th Sikhs of British India, defending an army post, and 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai tribesmen. The battle occurred in the North-West Frontier Province, which formed part of British India. It is now named the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and is part of Pakistan. The contingent of the 21 Sikhs from the 36th Sikhs led by Havildar Ishar Singh all chose to fight to the death to protect the army post.Brigadier Mark Abraham OBE, who recently received a Kirpan from the Akaal  Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh at Sri Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar (often called the ‘Golden Temple’) visited Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and the Nishkam complex as part of the Saragarhi commemorations.

Nishkam Centre Director and guests pay respects to Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the                      Gumbad (Dome) Darbar

Nishkam Centre Director and guests pay respects to Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gumbad (Dome) Darbar

All the 21 Sikhs who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time, which an Indian soldier could receive by the hands of the British crown, the corresponding gallantry award being the Victoria Cross. This last stand has inspired generations of Sikhs with an epic recollection of valour seldom matched.

Brigadier Abraham, part of a seven strong contingent of British Army Officers and Soldiers, visited the five centre of excellence; the Gurudwara, Nishkam Centre, Nishkam Schools, Nishkam Health Centre and Nishkam Community Cooperative and better understood the Sikh way of life and how “making work worship” brings spirituality and secularity together seamlessly in reality.

Recalling the receiving of the Kirpan, Brig Abraham said: “It was a great honour for the British Army to receive this [proudly holding up the 3 foot Kirpan] from the Akaal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh”.

Brigadier Abraham thanks Bhai Sahib Ji for hosting the British Army

Brigadier Abraham thanks Bhai Sahib Ji for hosting the British Army

During the visit to GNNSJ there were ongoing discussions about the importance of values, education and standards. This was done in the spirit of strengthening understanding and links between Sikhs and the British Army.

Brigadier Abraham went on to say, “ Our Sikh officers and soldiers are a crucial part of our organisation and seeing the 5 Centres of Excellence here today reinforces the community role and spirit that the Sikhs have”.

The delegation were in awe of what they saw at the Nishkam complex and were overwhelmed by the community spirit to serve humanity and society selflessly. The conversations with the 6th form students at Nishkam High School further reiterated the values that were clearly being developed to prepare good natured, values inspired and morally attuned humble individuals.In conversation with the delegation Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh shared his work on an International Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation. “The practice of forgiving can transform legacies and memories of injustice, conflicts and wars. It can liberate people from being imprisoned in their past and themselves, and allow the grace of the Divine to restore peace and harmony amongst individuals and communities” he iterated.  Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh aslo shared many sacred recollections from Sikh history to illustrate the importance of unity, partnerships, collaboration, peace, good human values, sacrifice and education. The significance of the Panj Kakar (or 5 K’s) and importance of the Dastaar (Turban) were discussed and their prominence to an Amritari (baptised Sikh / Khalsa) outlined.

Army learns about the Sikh Dharam (faith) in the Nishkam Anglo-Sikh             Heritage Centre

Army learns about the Sikh Dharam (faith) in the Nishkam Anglo-Sikh Heritage Centre

After the visit Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, recalled, “Today was an interesting visit from the British Army. The underlying message of The Battle of Saragarhi is one of great pride for the Sikhs and I’m glad to hear from the British Army that it is for them too. Today was about understanding, listening and exchanging viewpoints. Bhai Sahib Ji iterated the importance of Sikhs needing a justifyable cause, an opportunity to stand up for righteousness and those persecuted, whilst remaining compassionate, forgiving, peace-loving and humble. The concept of Sant-Sipihi (Saint-Solider) was discussed, where one must have Godly traits, be spiritually inspired and infused and then be prepared to give the ultimate sacrifice to protect and uphold the honour and dignity of others. Today was a learning for many during this visit”.

Guests listen intently to the ethos and values driving the Nishkam Health Centre

Guests listen intently to the ethos and values driving the Nishkam Health Centre

Nishkam Community Cooperative, MSS, welcomes Army guests

Nishkam Community Cooperative, MSS, welcomes Army guests

Birmingham Faith Leaders Group host Annual Interfaith Service for Peace at the St Thomas Peace Garden

Bishop Wolliston (Connecticut, USA) meets with Faith Leaders

Bishop Wolliston (Connecticut, USA) meets with Faith Leaders

A multi-faith Peace Service was held at the Peace Gardens in Birmingham with the aim of bringing 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. It was the fourth time the group came together for the service which originally began in response to hate attacks against Muslims following Twin Towers attacks.

As a renowned structure which embodies peace and promotes harmony on a global scale, St. Thomas’ Peace Gardens, a small obscured park near Birmingham City Centre, seemed the ideal setting to mark the 13th anniversary of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group.

The event and the park welcomes and values people from all walks of life, attracting individuals from various religious, cultural and social backgrounds. This resonates strongly with one of the Nishkam Centre’s fundamental considerations, accepting and respecting those of another faith; promoting interfaith.

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 was the integral message projected by Archbishop Bernard Longley of the Roman Catholic Church, who led the sermon.  Grief is identified as having the power to break us, but together it binds, strengthens and shapes us.

Starting with a call to prayer for the six major religions, a number or prayers were said before the Peace Rose was blessed with sprinkles of water. Faith leaders and attendees then pinned their own short prayers and messages on to the prayer board.

Jonathan Gurling, Executive Secretary of the 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, he telephoned Dr Naseem, the then Chairman of the Central Mosque, and asked to visit on September 12 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”.

At a time when racial tensions around the world have been running high the event was even more poignant and the super-diversity of the City was marked by this celebration of Birmingham’s mixed cultures.

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla, Trustee of the Nishkam Centre and member of the Faith Leaders Group said, “The faith leaders have a very good working relationship and we are proud that we are able to come together in unity to show that Birmingham’s faith traditions are stronger together”.

Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, noted, “This year was just as important as previous years to show a powerful message of togetherness. Whilst this is a great opportunity to take time out of our extremely busy schedules, it was also demonstrative of the strength of the communities here in Birmingham.”  He went on to say, “This year’s event was honored to welcome Bishop Dr Neville Wolliston, Bishop of the Lord’s Church in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. I have had the pleasure to spend some time with the Bishop who is a local Handsworth born and bred lad whose family moved to America over 30 years ago. He came back to visit and talk about his faith and youth work with various groups”.

It was clear that a real community spirit could be felt among the congregation, especially through the participation during collaboratively read prayers and with the handwritten contributions fastened to the prayer board. It featured messages which avidly requested greater love, happiness and peace to be spread around the world. Patricia Earle of the Woman’s Federation of World Peace labelled the occasion as nice and beautiful in its effective simple and symbolic approach in honouring those who have passed.

Mr Mandla went on to share with us that this year was a very special time for the Faith Leaders Group as Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Nishkam Civic Association, was going to be hosting the leaders in a unique meeting in Amritsar, India. Bhai Sahib will host the faith leaders and their partners in the most sacred city of Amritsar where Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara (or the Golden Temple) is located – one of the most sacred places for the 26 million Sikhs worldwide.  The Nishkam International Centre will be home for the guests in Amritsar to share moments of reflections and to learn about the Sikh Dharam whilst taking time out to discuss faith based issues.

 

The Third GCGI Award is to be presented to Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr. Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia

The Third Baba-Ji-240x240Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) Award for Public Service in the Interest of the Common Good

In current days of spiritual hunger, when the world of knowledge and competence is in a constant state of flux, the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, under Bhai Sahib’s visionary leadership has become a beacon of hope for a better, fairer and wiser world.

In his national and international work, Bhai Sahib has provided the leadership to galvanise all around him into a life of selfless service and prayer and has worked selflessly to preserve places of worship, encouraging intra- and interfaith dialogue and understanding, promoting peace and justice globally. Bhai Sahib has embraced the concept of education for the common good, by building schools and colleges essential for a sustainable world.

He continues to encourage and empower others to discover their own potential for change and to evoke their hidden strengths to bring more goodness into the world.

The Award will be presented at a special ceremony during the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative’s 12th Anniversary Gala Dinner hosted at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, (History – Harris Manchester College) on the evening of Wednesday 3 September 2014.

Prof. Kamran Mofid, Founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI)

*The first GCGI Award for Public Service in the Interest of the Common Good was presented to Dr. Vladimir Ivanovich Yakunin, Founding President of the World Public Forum, “Dialogue of Civilisations” (WPFDC) at the 10th Annual GCGI Gala Dinner at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford, on 4 September 2012:

Dr. Yakunin Receives First Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) Award

*The second GCGI Award for Public Service in the Interest of the Common Good was presented to the School of Economic Science, London, at the 11th Annual GCGI Gala Dinner at Maison des Polytechniciens, Paris, on 27 August 2013:

School of Economic Science, London, Receives Second Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) Award

Source:

Uplifting and spiritually infused Civic Service paves the way forward

IMG_6295The Civic Service held at St Martin’s Church in the Bull Ring provided a serene setting to officially mark the welcome of the new Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Shafique Shah. The opportunity to renew commitments to public service for Birmingham and its citizens and to ask God for his blessing set the scene for the next term of office.

The Annual Service at St Martin’s Church in the Bull Ring on Sunday evening 20th July 2014, was a moving and inspiring service that all the guests and visitors seemed to enjoy. Led by Revd Elisie Blair-Chappell the service proclaimed the greatness of the City of Birmingham and the power of faith and spirituality to guide and inspire our civic leaders.   The event saw former First Citizens, their partners, distinguished guests from all walks of life at the Church service. Following the service at the Church the hosts and guests made their way on a beautiful summer evening to the Banqueting Suite at the Council House for refreshments.

The duty of Lord Mayor is a challenging one and requires time, commitment and dedication to balance all the diary commitments and still manage one’s own affairs. Despite all this Lord Mayor, Shafique Shah, has previously described being appointed Lord Mayor of Birmingham as one of the most special events of his life. Father-of-five Shafique Shah, who has represented Bordesley Green since 2005, accepted the Chain of Office at the City Council’s Annual Meeting. He said at the time: “This is one of the most special moments of my life and also one of the most nerve-wracking. The nerve wracking I should be used to, after all I am a Blues supporter.”

At the Civic Service and reception, The Lord Mayor was accompanied by his wife Sadia Shafique, the new Lady Mayoress, and two of IMG_6273their young daughters. They were introduced to Bhai Sahib, Dr Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha which manages the activities of the Gurudwara on Soho Road and Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association, who congratulated the Lord Mayor on his appointment and the great church service. The Lord Mayor was impressed to hear from Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh about the Museum of World’s Religions being created here in Birmingham and the international Charter on Forgiveness and Reconciliation that Bhai Sahib is leading on.

The selection of hymns and the order they were recited was very poignant and befitting. Following the welcome and greeting from Revd Elisie Blair-Chappell the congregation was absorbed in the spirit of the evening. The sermon was delivered by Cannon Stewart Jones, which emphasised how great the city of Birmingham was. He then shared the fact that Church leaders get together regularly, “We pray for the City to get God’s blessings”. He went on, “We do not need more technology, more bureaucracy, more structures – we need

to work more on having God in a hearts when we work. First and foremost we must be people of God”. Cannon Jones iterated the importance of humility, love, unity and justice: ”We must work together to build a city that stands up for justice; a place that cares for all. Respect for one and other must be lived out”. And let me say this, if it works in Birmingham, it will work in the World because the World is in Birmingham – a city without walls.”

IMG_6274Cannon Jones concluded with: “We are the stewards to make Birmingham an even better City than it is, a city to be proud of”. Similar sentiments were mentioned by the new Lord Mayor at another event when he said: “I have, as yet, not found any city as welcoming and warm as my home of Birmingham. I always feel proud to say I am a Brummie. I will work hard as an ambassador for our great city to show the world all the positive aspects Birmingham and its citizens have to offer.”

Bhai Sahib, Dr Mohinder Singh, commented on how pertinent and important the service was. “The fusion of spirituality and secularity is crucial. Our civic leaders empowered with faith virtues will always make the right decision for the common good and in the interests of the whole city. They need to operate from a values foundation; principally if they recognise the significance and importance of spirituality they will do well”. On leaving the Church, Bhai Sahib, Dr Mohinder Singh complimented both Revd Elisie Blair-Chappell and Cannon Jones on their contribution to the service and invited them to visit the Gurudwara and Nishkam Centre on Soho Road.

The four privileged charities the Lord Mayor will be supporting throughout the year are

  • The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • Birmingham Children’s Hospital
  • SIFA Fireside, a Digbeth based charity which works to tackle homelessness and alcohol dependency
  • Birmingham Focus a sight loss charity.

 

ENDS 

Notes to Editors:

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