Vaisakhi Message 2020

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

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh 

In these times of self-isolation and social distancing we must pray; we must pray alone and also find new ways of using technology to pray together. We are seeing Gurudwaras, Mosques, Churches, Temples, Synagogues and even people’s homes being used as makeshift sacred broadcasting studios. Whilst we may be physically isolated, we should remain spiritually connected in prayer and remembrance. As Sikhs we are compelled to be always optimistic and in the current climate we would encourage all to be positive where possible and be there for each other.

Today, humanity faces an imposing array of global issues. A pandemic, economic meltdown, abject poverty, food scarcity, political upheavals, social and societal challenges, oppression, apathy, extremism, terrorism and exploitation are all driving a climate of uncertainty and fear. With schools and workplaces closed and UK charities stretched to their limits in ways that are akin to humanitarian projects in the developing world, April this year is very different to previous years.

During these challenging times we must remember all those on the frontline who are serving humanity and those who have lost their lives or lost loved ones to the pandemic. The frontline workers are demonstrating enormous strength of character and values; despite the tsunami upon them, they bravely serve all.  Let us express gratitude to the government, to healthcare staff, volunteers and key workers in all areas who are helping to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

On the 30th March 1699, 321 years ago, a unique model of a good human being was created.  This model was enshrined in the order of Khalsa, with the Panj Kakaar (5Ks) and the Dastar (turban) marking its distinct identity.  The Khalsa’s birth was on Vaisakhi day, the first day of the month of Vaisakh, which coincides with the blossoming and rejuvenation of nature in spring. The Khalsa was established to set free the human spirit, to bring about a rebirth through a spiritual re-kindling which would ignite in people’s hearts and minds the virtues of utter humility, compassion, forgiveness, steadfastness, selflessness, altruism, truth, commitment, contentment and love.

The Khalsa was to embody Guru Nanak’s message, that peace-building starts with establishing peace within ourselves.  To establish such peace, we need to live in a state of constant connection with God.  Our spiritual disconnection spells death and destruction.  ‘Akha jeeva visray mar jaoakhan aukha sacha naa…’  – one is only truly alive and awakened when one is connected and attuned to the Infinite Creator.  The Khalsa embodies a commitment to lead a God-conscious life and to serve creation.

To the faithful, Vaisakhi, is a time of great religious significance, to inspire and to build up faith, to widen our orbit of human relationships and to foster virtues and values which enrich human lives.  It is a time for turning a new leaf, for being spiritually reborn, by taking the Khalsa initiation known as amrit sanchar.    It is also a time for joyous celebrations, reflections and resolutions, a time for expressing gratitude, a time to commit to being benevolent and ever-ready to make sacrifices, as well as a time for exercising an abundance of compassion, forgiveness and love for all. All of this should enable us to engage and deal with life and society with renewed depth of character, wisdom, courage and vision.

May Vaisakhi inspire us to dream of – and make possible – a better world, which is one of the greatest challenges of our time.  May it remind us too that, whilst strength may come with power, only love – which touches human hearts and minds – gives true authority.  May we better understand that it is not holding on to power that it important.  More important is the way that power can be lovingly exercised to discover that in diversity there is unity and that in unity there is strength.  As humanity now faces an unprecedented common threat, may we firmly realise that together, we all have a shared responsibility.  May we remain hopeful, knowing that, in our global village, we have unprecedented opportunities to share knowledge and ingenuity for the common good.

Finally, at Vaisakhi, I am impelled to remind myself and my brethren that we need to be authentic Sikhs and discard hypocrisy.  We need to reflect upon the primary goal of life, not just the desire for wellbeing, for pleasures and individual freedoms alone.  We need to realise more than ever that we are all inter-dependent and interconnected.  It helps us to remember that, from a spiritual perspective, we are not alone in managing our lives – ‘Guru mere sang sada hai nalay’   – for the Guru is always with us, by our side, continuously there to help, guide and direct us.  As the Guru’s Sikhs, we are required to serve the Creator and God’s entire creation to the best of our ability.  Let us wish happiness, prosperity, success and peace to all people of this world without exception:

Nanak naam chardi kala, tere bhaanay sarbat da bhalla.’

May the qualities and characteristics of the first Sikh Vaisakhi resonate within our human minds today in the 21st century, individually and collectively, for the universal good of all.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG 

Spiritual Leader & Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha  

Vaisakhi Message in PDF Format

 

Distinguished guests from the Pakistan British Council visit Nishkam Campus

L to R - Amrik Bhabra, Zulfigar Khan, Amtul Qudus, Gohar Ali Khan, Nishat Riaz, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Muhammad Ali, Jarnail Singh Bhinder, Ravinder Singh.

L to R – Amrik Bhabra, Zulfigar Khan, Amtul Qudus, Gohar Ali Khan, Nishat Riaz, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Muhammad Ali, Jarnail Singh Bhinder, Ravinder Singh.

The Nishkam family had the pleasure of welcoming members of the British Council (Pakistan) to the Nishkam Campus last week. The purpose of the visit was to build bridges and get to know each other to explore future collaboration opportunities.

On a surprisingly sunny January afternoon in Birmingham, British Council Pakistan members were taken on a tour of the Gurudwara Sahib, served by the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, Birmingham (GNNSJ). The British Council members were greeted by Prof Upkar Pardesi (Vice-Chairman of the Nishkam Centre), Amrick Singh (Director of the Nishkam Centre), Ajit Singh (Contracts Manager, Nishkam Centre), and Amrik Singh Bhabra (Chair of the Nishkam High School Governing Body).

The visiting members included;

  • Ms Nishat Riaz – Director Education, British Council (Pakistan)
  • Muhammad Ali – Head Ext Relations
  • Amtul Qudus – Educational Development (Punjab)
  • Gohar Ali Khan – Exec District Officer
  • Zulfigar Khan – CEO Great Health (UK)

Ms Riaz who has fifteen years of experience of managing development programmes, has supervised large scale programmes on health, gender, skills, culture and education, was intrigued by all that was undertaken. Ms Riaz, one of the founding members of Karakoram International University – the first university in mountain ranges in Karakoram and Himalayas throughout the day emphasized the importance of education. She is also associated with the Aga Khan Development Network as a director since 1999 so was in-tune with and aligned to social action and serving the common good. As part of her current role Ms Riaz manages the British Council’s education work in

The delegation on part of the campus tour

The delegation on part of the campus tour

Pakistan and her portfolio includes management and implementation of multi-million-dollar education programme covering schools, skills, higher education and British Council Services for International Education Marketing.

After a quick tour of the campus, and having paid their respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the delegation met with Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG to speak about future opportunities. The ‘meeting of the hearts and minds’ was clearly about getting to know each other and discussions about future collaboration in Pakistan.  The members of the delegation were in the UK attending the World Education Conference in London.

Topics of discussion included values-based education, which is the core idea around the Nishkam Schools Trust.

“We draw upon our spiritual heritage and the principle of being nishkam (selfless) to guide the education of children. Education begins with loving families that create a supportive and inspiring learning environment around the child.

“The foundations for learning are laid by the mother and father who are the child’s first teachers and role models. We

Nishkam School Trust Vision

Nishkam School Trust Vision

believe the parents’ role is not diminished when the child starts to go to school, but their responsibility in playing an equal part in the education process increases as the child grows. We also believe that the wider community has much to contribute to the child’s education. It is the bringing together of parents, teachers and the community that is the corner stone of our ambition to create a community-led and faith-inspired school which enables all children to flourish, both academically and spiritually; an education which opens up unimagined possibilities for children.” Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh.”

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh presented the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation to Nishat Riaz MBE, explaining the meaning and inspiration behind the idea and project.

The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation inspires and engages individuals, groups, communities and Governments, in public processes and in private settings, to practice forgiveness and reconciliation, seeking justice and sustainable peace.

The vision behind the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation is that forgiving is an activity necessary for healing and reconciliation to take place, when seeking justice and sustainable peace.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh also shared the significance of this year, Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th birth anniversary, for Sikhs all around the world, and spoke to the delegates about the mega event held at Birmingham University.3 An estimated 25,000 people joined in the celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh Dharam (Faith), at the University of Birmingham. Five continuous days of activities were arranged for all communities to reflect upon the inclusive, transformative human-values propagated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji – the founder of the Sikh Dharam (faith)

Nishat Riaz and her colleagues then shared their own experiences of visiting Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, in Pakistan. In November / December 2019 over 650 GNNSJ volunteer went of a special once in a lifetime pilgrimages to Pakistan to celebrate the 550th Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8_1Dw37hrQ

The outcome of this historic meeting between the Nishkam Group and the British Council (Pakistan) was very positive and encouraging, with the delegation keen to form collaboration and partnerships around values-based education, cultural awareness and peacebuilding.

Ends

  1. Patron’s Message for the Nishkam Schools – https://www.nishkamschooltrust.org/page/?title=Patron%27s+Message&pid=480
  2. Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation – https://www.charterforforgiveness.org/
  3. University of Birmingham Mega Event – https://nishkammediacentre.com/2019/08/11/the-university-of-birmingham-to-celebrates-a-mega-event-in-sikh-history/
  4. Nishkam School Trust Vision – https://www.nishkamschooltrust.org/page/?title=Vision&pid=406
  5. When Theresa May visited the Nishkam Primary School – https://nishkammediacentre.com/2017/05/16/prime-minister-theresa-may-praises-multi-faith-nishkam-primary-school-birmingham/

World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos invites Faith Leaders to participate in key discussions

The theme for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting this year (21-24th January 2020) was ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’. It brought together 3,000 participants from around the world and aimed to give concrete meaning to “stakeholder capitalism”; assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals; and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance. The Forum was established 1971 and World Faith Leaders were invited to take part in discussions, particularly in the area of Society and Future of Work.

The Forum’s first meeting in 1971 was established to further the idea put forward by Professor Klaus Schwab that

Kezevino Aram

Kezevino Aram

business should serve all stakeholders – customers, employees, communities, as well as shareholders. It was reaffirmed in 1973 in the ‘Davos Manifesto’ – a document that has shaped the work of the Forum ever since.

The Programme for the Annual Meeting prioritised several key areas – How to Save the Planet, Society & Future of Work, Tech for Good, Fairer Economies, Better Business, Healthy Futures, Beyond Geopolitics.

The initial discussion for Faith Leaders was ‘The Role of Faith for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’. Speakers included Lynette Wallworth, Assa Karam, Kezevino Aram, and Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh. Initially speakers discussed technology, Kezevino Aram, a leading voice in the faith and child health space and founder of the International Centre of Child and Public Health, stated, “When it comes to technology, we must remember that ethics does not belong to Faith communities alone. We all know values, principles that ensure human dignity but also the dignity of life per say, for me the presence of Faith communities is a re-articulation of the need to work together and the new challenge of deepening our discourses on ethics and values”.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh shared perspectives about the ethics in social media and technology. “God, the master Creator, along with the creation is very interlinked, so this immediately gives you this feeling of unity. So you start lovingly looking after things. I feel that there is disconnect from the Creator, you disconnect with His Creation. This nature has its own rhythm, it is perfectly balanced, and I am informed that there is 8.4 million species, all of this means that we are all brothers and sisters, we need to realise this and take care of each other, and technology and religion they should not be two opposite camps, they should complement each other.”

The next question was about climate change, “What is preventing us from urgent action and caring for our planet? How might we shift to radical action?”

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh continued to say; “The world is on fire, like Australia is on fire, and this fire comprises of

Assa Karam – Secretary General-elect, Religions for Peace

Assa Karam – Secretary General-elect, Religions for Peace

the fire of vices, like lust, anger, ego, greed, which are fuelling people to become apathetic (un-interested) to the situation we are in. So we have to create good values and a new consciousness of this interdependence so we can carefully start looking after each other. Even when one species is eliminated, it affects the balance of the whole world, so there is a famine of values, which is why people are not taking care of each other. ”

Azza Karam stated that, “Where we look for faith for that guidance, for that other self that is selfless and I think that is all things that Faith brings and can inspire. And at the end of the day it comes back to the human being, whether its media or technology or religious texts, how the human beings reads or understands, like you said, how we are. Where is it and how faith can inspire us to be different human beings, better human beings, inspire compassion, mercy, love, words that we do not hear often enough.”

Faith Leaders and communities have influence over more than 80% of the world’s population but have typically been left out of conversations beyond faith. Religious leaders and communities of faith have an important role to play in protecting vulnerable populations and creating safer communities where all can thrive. A discussion was held around Religious Leaders’ role in safeguarding communities. Speakers included Pinchas Goldschmidt, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Alem Tedeneke, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, Peter Kodwo Appiah, and Dana Humaid.

Dana Humaid, Chief Executive of the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities (IAFSC) stated that, “More than 85% of

Dana Humaid

Dana Humaid

the world population subscribe to a faith; however a lot of Faith Leaders have previously been excluded from discussions.” The reason she helped establish this Alliance was because they saw a need for the Faith Leader’s voice in discussions, and this would help bridge gaps between communities.

Patriarch Bartholomew stated that, “We should never forget what has been increasingly obvious in recent years, namely that the ecologist crisis is not a matter of science or even politics, it is primarily and essentially the result of moral choices and ethical conduct.”

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh was asked to share how we all have a place in this World Interfaith Alliance and how that agenda can be pushed and advanced forward;

His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

 “I believe we are trying to improve the state of the world. The world comprises of people and the planet and all things on the planet. First thing, I feel, humanity has to have that realization that all of us in this world are divinely interconnected and interdependent. We are all divine sparks, we are all brothers and sisters and that we have to have to have this shared responsibility to try and mend the state of affairs. It is a shared responsibility.

“We need cohesion; cohesion means unity and unity is strength. We have five fingers, each finger is weak, but the five make a hand, which is powerful. So we need this partnership and the hugely important works of interfaith alliance for safer communities is very much admired and respected together with the collaboration and partnership with the World Economic Forum.”

The delegates discussed further with a Q & A session.  Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh reiterated that the virtual world has lumped humanity into a global village. We are on this planet for a short period of time. We must understand where we come from, where we will end up and what is the purpose of life? Is it to fight or to have conflicts on this planet? What is the purpose of life? This brings us back to the important issue of peace building. Faith religions – the essence of this is peace building – peace building within ourselves first and foremost, and then we can generate peace outside. Peace requires reconciliation, and reconciliation requires mercy and forgiveness. Whatever has happened in the past, we must courageously forgive and reconcile to establish peace, without peace within you and peace outside then we cannot have any development, and we cannot improve the status quo.

Notes:

  1. Link to ‘The Role of Faith for a Cohesive and Sustainable World” – https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2020/sessions/the-role-of-faith-for-a-cohesive-and-sustainable-world?fbclid=IwAR0r1viYoBTv5FrhohPsWh9ETdmrn0GMBXaktFZyUvFaqMVc5cfuGySFqj0.
  1. Link to “ Religious Leaders’ Role in Safeguarding Communities” – https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2020/sessions/religious-leaders-role-in-safeguarding-communities

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 – Birmingham Faith Leaders #StandTogether

Mindu Hornick MBE, Holocaust Survivor, shares her harrowing story

Mindu Hornick MBE, Holocaust Survivor, shares her harrowing story

The Nishkam Centre Director was honoured to be invited to speak at this year’s Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, hosted by Birmingham City Council. The theme for this year was ‘Stand Together’ – it explored how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression. The candle lighting ceremony was followed by an afternoon of stories describing hope, strength, and survival.

‘Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and go some good.’ – Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from Nazi-occupied Europe, was the backdrop message on the screen. Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – this is a significant milestone and is made particularly poignant by the dwindling number of survivors who are able to share their testimony. It also makes the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia.

One such survivor included Mindu Hornick MBE, an inspirational 85 year-old grandmother from Edgbaston, who saw

Abdullah Rehman MBE

Abdullah Rehman MBE

the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Mindu was only 12 years-old when she was sent to the notorious Nazi extermination camp with her mother, sister and two younger brothers. When people ask her how she survived, she always tells them the same thing “sheer luck”. “When we arrived at the camp there was 70 of us, all women, mothers and children, in the wagon, there was an immediate air of shock and panic – SS guards set out to disorientate and scare you. A Polish man, in striped uniform spoke Yiddish to my mother and told her to send us ahead, and say we were 17 and 19 years old. We never saw her and my brothers again. Looking back he saved our lives.” She highlighted that through education we share what happened and to ensure that nothing like this happens again.

Near Neighbours shared a video called ‘Bringing People Together’, where they are challenging others to recognise their similarities during the current turbulent political time our nation is experiencing, encouraging people to unite over the one subject that unites us all: community.

Amrick Singh, speaks on behalf of, and accompanied by, some members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group

Amrick Singh, speaks on behalf of, and accompanied by, some members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group

Abdullah Rehman MBE, former CEO of Balsall Heath Forum, addressed the audience with a few questions; “I was taught as a young person growing up in Britain about history and World War 2, and questions always arose in my mind, why didn’t they stand up? Why didn’t they stand together? It kept going around in my head – how can a neighbour go against a fellow neighbour?”

The Kol Kinor Choir performed beautiful songs which were composed during the Holocaust such as ‘Even When God is Silent’ and ‘I Believe’.  The choir was formed in 1990 with the aim of sharing Jewish music with all faiths and cultures.

The Birmingham Faith Leaders offered their heartfelt prayers, and invited all attendees to remember all those fallen loved ones, who were all part of our human family.

Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, was invited to speak on behalf of the Faith Leaders Group. As Bhai Sahib,

Rabbi Yoshi Jacobs shares the Memorial Prayer

Rabbi Yoshi Jacobs shares the Memorial Prayer

Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG were scheduled to speak but could not be present, he started the address by offering Bhai Sahib’s heartfelt warm wishes and prayers on such an auspicious gathering. Amrick Singh then quoted Nelson Mandela;

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.”

Amrick Singh shared that, through teachings of the Sikh Dharam (faith), all of us are a Divine Spark and we must practice and encourage others to practice, the liberal use of mercy, compassion, truthfulness, forgiveness, selflessness, and an abundance of love. “History cannot be forgotten, but we must understand what it is has taught us with a view to move forward to make a positive difference.”

Rabbi Yoshi Jacobs addressed the audience and spoke in memory of the six million Jews who perished during 1939-45;

“They went down alive into the nether-world singing the holy prayers. Their souls departed whilst they were wrapped up in the prayer shawls and phylacteries, let the murderers be put to shame and confusion and be as naught.”

At this point, the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said a big thank you to the City Council and all the organiser for putting together such an amazing event in the City. He then invited everyone to read the Statement of Commitment together.

The event concluded with a beautiful musical piece by Simone and Kirsty. 

End

Notes

  1. Quote from Mindu Hornick https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/auschwitz-survivor-mindu-hornick-attends-8514212
  2. Near Neighbours video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m0ccFyUUAg

Saïd Business School shares ground-breaking art exhibition on interfaith dialogue

Life size portraits of faith leaders design by Nicola Green, at the entrance of Saïd Business School.

Life size portraits of faith leaders design by Nicola Green, at the entrance of Saïd Business School.

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford hosted a thought-provoking exhibition that celebrated and gave insight into interfaith dialogue and solidarity. Titled ‘A Witness to Power’ the exhibition combined two striking series of works by the artist and social historian Nicola Green to eloquently depict the messages of unity and strength in diversity; a message very much needed in the current times.

In Seven Days (2010) and Encounters (2018) was designed to draw on Nicola’s experiences observing and shadowing the world’s pre-eminent religious leaders, including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ji OBE KSG, Desmond Tutu. The exhibition also included two bodies of work the artist created during her remarkable access to President Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.

To create this work Nicola spent 10 years travelling the world attending interfaith meetings, from intimate private meetings, to global summits where she met leaders of the world’s major faiths.

In both The Encounter and The Light Series showcased the rich diversity and inclusivity of the faiths represented. These included:

  • 12 Christians (4 Anglican, 3 Orthodox, 3 Catholic, 1 Assyrian, 1 Coptic)

    Nicola Green discussing 'The Light Series’, exhibited at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

    Nicola Green discussing ‘The Light Series’, exhibited at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

  • 5 Muslims (2 Sunni, 2 Shi’a, 1 Sufi)
  • 4 Hindus (1 Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya, 1 Lingayat, 1 Dvaita, 1 Ramakrishna)
  • 4 Jews (2 Orthodox, 1 Sephardic Orthodox, 1 Reform)
  • 2 Buddhists (1 Tibetan, 1 Fo Guang Shang Humanist)
  • 2 African Traditional (1 Ifa and Yoruba, 1 Benin Kingdom)
  • 1 Baha’i
  • 1 Confucian
  • 1 Jain
  • 1 Sikh
  • 1 Shinto
  • 1 Zoroastrian

The Light Series included portraits painted on Giclée (a fine art digital printing process combining pigment based inks with high-quality archival quality paper to achieve an inkjet print of superior archival quality, light fastness and stability) with hand applied 24k gold, silver copper leaf and diamond dust. It has been suggested by visitors that this is the first artwork in history to depict all the world’s major religions together in a shared space, and of equal status.

Speaking on the exhibition Nicola Green commented, “My intention with Encounters is to reach people of all faiths (and none) in particular those that don’t often see themselves represented.

“I was really delighted to see how the work resonated with everyone and to hear stories from people that were so excited to see themselves or their faith portrayed in the artworks.”

Jyotveer Singh poses with a portrait of his faith leader Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ji OBE KBE.

Jyotveer Singh, Head of Web Development at Saïd Business School and attendee of the exhibition said: “The exhibition is a celebration of interfaith solidarity and cross-cultural dialogue. Saïd Business School is a global village of diverse communities who come together to solve world-scale problems which I feel is reflected in the art. Nicola Green creatively demonstrates a rich tapestry of interdependent people, practicing shared values for the good of others; whilst honouring uniqueness and the dignity of difference.

“I was deeply inspired to see international interfaith ambassador, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji depicted in the artwork, who continues to drive the agenda of peace and unity through projects. Namely, the Peace Charter (Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation) and the Museum of World’s Religions, this work by Nicola Green is most welcome and timely.”

The exhibition is available to the public at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford until 20th December.

Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awal Allah noor upaya

Kudrat ke sab bandey

Ek noor te sab jag upjaya

Kaun bhale ko mande

‘First of all, God created light;

Mother Nature created all human beings equal;

from that one Light the entire world came into being;

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

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

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

Declaration of the 10th World Assembly of Religions for Peace

Preamble

We – 900 women, men, and youth – have gathered in Lindau, Germany, coming from 125 countries for the 10th World Assembly of Religions for Peace. We are grateful for 49 years of determined focus on building peace and on speaking for those most in need. We are an alliance of care, of compassion, of love. We represent a far greater, ever growing, and ever-radiating alliance of “common action” that Religions for Peace gladly serves. In that light we acknowledge with sorrow the ways – subtle and gross – that we and our religious communities have fallen-short. Our hearts grieve over the misuse of our faiths, especially the ways they have been twisted to fuel violence and hate. Our alliance honors our religious differences, even as it serves the peace for which the human heart hungers. We gather in hope, convinced that the sacred calls all humanity into shared responsibility for our common good, care for one another, the earth, and its entire web of life.

The burdens of the human family are well-known to us. We know too well war, how it kills, maims, and destroys the lives of the innocent. We know the crushing weight of extreme poverty, how it stunts, humiliates, and plunders. Ten percent of our human family is desperately poor. We know that more than 70 million of us no longer find shelter in the sanctuary of their homes. They are refugees, internally displaced, and persons forced to be on the move. We know we have entered a terrifying new arms race, one that includes modernizing nuclear arms, weaponizing space and artificial intelligence, and new energy weapons. These burdens are profoundly exacerbated by the cataclysmic heating of the earth, decimation of the rainforests, poisoning of the seas, and choking of the web of life.

We are also experiencing what we call a “meta-crisis” of our modern order, which lies behind the United Nations and the agreements our states have made on human rights, the rule of law, and international trade. Freedoms of all kinds, the protections of minorities, and the fabric of our connection have come under attack around the world. On the economic front, a meager handful of the richest persons have more wealth than four billion persons. Adding to the political and economic dimensions of this meta-crisis of modern order, there is today a “meta-crisis” of truth, which challenges the notion of “truth,” while “fake news” is tailored for political or commercial gain. Today, we are buffeted between inconvenient truths and convenient fabrications. The hour is late: we are called to urgent action.

Caring for our Common Future: Advancing Shared Well-Being

Our heart’s inner-most experiences of the sacred and our outer-most social lives cry out to be connected in a state of positive peace that Religions for Peace calls, “shared well-being.” Our different experiences of the sacred make clear that we are, at root, relational: radically related to the sacred and to all that is caused or embraced by the sacred. As fundamentally relational, our

well-being is intrinsically shared. Helping the other, we are helped; injuring the other, we wound ourselves. We fully acknowledge the invaluable roles of women and youth among us and will continually mainstream their irreplaceable contributions. Our different traditions make clear that the sacred establishes us as both responsible for and dependent upon each other and the earth that sustains us. Shared well-being calls us to commit to all the ways the modern order supports our human dignity. It also calls us to offer in a constructive spirit any complementary contributions from our religions. We affirm the modern order’s recognition of the foundational importance of freedom. At the same time, we are called to show by example the sacred grounding of freedom. It leads through the despair of nihilism, rejects the narcissism of mindless consumerism, and expresses itself as radical care for all.

To our commitment to the importance of human rights, we add our foundational concern for the cultivation of virtues, those habitual orientations to value that sculpt our human potentials. These include our potentials for the most elevated states of mercy, compassion, and love. For us, the labor to become virtuous is not a solitary act; rather, it is an act of “solidarity;” one that can only be achieved by generosity and mutual love. The cultivation of virtue tackles the ignorance, individual egoism, and group egoism that mutilate authentic community.

Shared well-being also calls for a robust notion of the “common good” that can serve all of us in our efforts to virtuously unfold our rights-protected human dignity. The supreme good for us is the sacred, even as we understand it differently. The common good includes the earth with its air, water, soil, and web of life. The common good also includes just institutions that help each to develop her or his human dignity. These call all of us to a shared and grateful responsibility. Each person is to draw from the common good; each is to help build it up.

Advancing shared well-being is concrete. We commit to advancing shared well-being by preventing and transforming violent conflicts, promoting just and harmonious societies, nurturing sustainable and integral human development, and protecting the earth.

Preventing and Transforming Violent Conflicts

We commit to preventing violent conflicts by advancing peace education – from early childhood to adults across our religious communities – focusing on shared values, religious literacy, and narratives of peace. We will build skills in conflict management that address the drivers of conflicts non-violently. Our commitments to transforming violent conflicts are actualized in our Assembly by the religious leaders from Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, and South Sudan. Our commitment is also expressed in the religious women represented by those from the Middle East and North African Region in the Assembly plenary. Here, also, religious persons from North and South Korea have worked to construct conditions for peace on the Korean Peninsula. These religious leaders have convened privately in the Assembly to strengthen one another as partners, peacemakers, and healers. We commit to supporting their efforts in their respective countries and regions. We adopt The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, convinced that transforming violent conflicts requires the healing of historical wounds and painful memories, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We commit to integrating efforts for healing into all our conflict resolution work.

To renew our commitment to nuclear disarmament, we pledge to be a full partner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. We condemn the existence of nuclear weapons, affirm our support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and will educate, mobilize, and engage religious communities toward these ends. We also call for immediate steps toward general disarmament including all weapons of destruction – conventional, nuclear, chemical, biological, and those newly emerging.

Promoting Just and Harmonious Societies

We take heart that multi-religious actors and institutions are working to build just and harmonious societies with a vibrant spirit of care and commitment to justice. We commit to continued common action to tackle injustices, including the large scale displacement of persons, and resulting challenges from the migration crises – both for refugees and migrants and the societies where they settle. We will make the global forced migration crisis a priority for action. We will lead by example in “welcoming the other.” We commit to instilling the respect, mutuality, and solidarity that are essential to promote, build, and sustain just, harmonious, and diverse communities. A cross-cutting commitment can be education, including religious literacy, from early childhood to adults, that focuses on shared civic virtues and appreciation for social diversity. We will develop an Alliance of Virtue based on a declaration of virtues widely shared across religious traditions and other virtue heritages.

We pledge to protect children, vulnerable individuals and communities and advocate for their human rights and well-being in the face of grave suffering. We will speak up forcefully and take action against corruption and for good governance. We commit ourselves to caring and determined effort to address the causes and reality of widespread abuses and violence, especially against women and children. We also commit to common efforts within our communities, with civil society partners and governments to ensure principled freedom of religion worldwide. We, persons of faith, yearn to protect holy sites and feel safe within them. We will preserve and protect holy sites against violence and desecration, partnering with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations to form living rings for peace around them.

Sustainable and Integral Human Development and Protecting the Earth

We commit to human development as set forth in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We will foster sustainable and integral human development by promoting the justice, inclusive citizenship, and equal opportunities interwoven through the SDGs. We will champion personal accountability for sustainable consumption, the dignity of labor, and equitable distribution of wealth. We will honor the insights of science and steward progress in digital technology toward the good of all. We will advance universal access to education. We will continue to promote the role of women and youth in society and their leadership in institutions at the local, national, regional, and global levels.

We commit to urgent action against the climate crisis. We will mobilize religious communities to protect the earth – including the promotion of “green congregations.” Leaders and partners in the fight against environmental degradation, our Indigenous brothers and sisters remind us, “when

Mother Earth suffers, human beings suffer; when human beings suffer, Mother Earth suffers.” We, guardians and caretakers of earth, endorse the Faiths for Forests Declaration. We commit to raise awareness about tropical deforestation and to educate our religious communities about the dire spiritual and sustainability crisis. We will take action to live ecologically balanced and sustainable lifestyles and advocate for government policies to protect rainforests, defend the rights of Indigenous peoples, and fulfill their pledges to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Call-To-Common-Action

Guided by the principles of our own religious traditions, and respectful of religious differences, we personally commit to fostering positive peace as shared well-being. We will be partners with sincere believers of other religions and all women and men of goodwill to:

  • produce positive peace materials and workshops for multi-religious contexts with the Institute for Economics and Peace;
  • develop tools and training on the positive roles of women in preventing and transforming conflicts, and on the issue of violence against them;
  • acknowledge past hurts – including across religious traditions – and foster public acts of forgiveness and reconciliation;
  • work for the well-being of refugees and migrants and develop programs of accompaniment and support;
  • urge religious communities to invest their resources in alignment with achieving the SDGs;
  • raise public awareness about deforestation with the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative and through the acceptance and promotion of the Faith for Forests Declaration, take action against climate change in general, and advocate for policies that protect the earth;
  • advance reconciliation as a vital dimension of positive Peace within persons and among communities and nations as per The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation;
  • commit to being a full-partner to support the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons;
  • forge an Alliance of Virtue based on a declaration of virtues widely shared across religious traditions and other virtue heritages.

We speak with humility, asking for support and blessings.

Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation adopted by 10th World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Lindau, Germany

The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation was adopted by the 10th World Assembly of Religions for Peace(RfP) which convened from 20-23 August 2019 in Lindau, Germany. The World Assembly, opened by the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier on 20 August 2019, was
attended by some 900 global religious leaders and delegates. Religions for Peace International is the world’s largest and most representative coalition of religious and indigenous communities and operates in over 90 countries.

The concluding declaration of the World Assembly stated, “We are grateful for 49 years of determined focus on building peace and on speaking for those most in need. We are an alliance of care, of compassion, of love … We adopt The Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, convinced that transforming violent conflicts requires the healing of historical wounds and painful memories, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We commit to integrating efforts for healing into all our conflict resolution work.” The Peace Charter was presented to the 10th World Assembly by the co-convenors Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia (Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, UK, and Co-President of Religions for Peace) and Dr William F. Vendley (outgoing Secretary-General of Religions for Peace), and by the Peace Charter’s Director Dr Josef Boehle (University of Birmingham, UK). The Peace
Charter’s organisational development began in 2011 and has received support from a wide range of religious, political, academic and civil society leaders.

The Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace (UK), the Fetzer Institute (USA), Religions for Peace International, the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ), UK, and the Nishkam Centre, Birmingham (UK) were amongst the early core group of supporting organisations.

The Preamble of the Peace Charter begins with the following introduction:

“The vision of the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation is that the process of forgiving is vital if healing and reconciliation are to take place, as part of our collective efforts to seek justice, harmony and sustainable peace. Fostering and practising forgiveness has the power to transform memories and deep-seated responses to legacies of injustice, conflict and war. It can liberate people from being imprisoned in their pasts and long ingrained mental and emotional conditions. Faith and spiritual traditions guide and inspire us to awaken the best of our human potential, by practising compassion, mercy, kindness, love, forgiveness and reconciliation, and to positively reshape our
destinies.”

Ends

For more information please visit:

Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Religions for Peace International

Creating a Movement for a Peaceful World

A Seminar on the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation was held on the 2nd November 2018 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Canada

TORONTO, ON (November 1, 2018) – The Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR) – the single largest interfaith gathering in the world – commenced its seven-day programme today in Toronto, drawing an enthusiastic audience interested in learning more about interreligious harmony. It was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world. The themes for this year’s Parliament are: The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation and Change.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, the Co-convenor and Co-chair of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation addressed the opening plenary at the Parliament. He reflected: “Humanity’s journey with the interfaith movement has been long and arduous. The world is still in agony and the learning continues. Peace eludes us.”

He expressed continuing support of his organisation, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (UK), for the work of the Parliament. He also highlighted a proposal for advancing and accelerating the work of the interfaith movement, to achieve harmony and peace. “However, before we seek peace outside, we have to generate peace within ourselves. To create and sustain peace, we must reconcile. But to reconcile we must forgive. This is why in a humble effort we are proposing together, with committed friends, a Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation. The love in our hearts has to be stronger than the disagreements in our minds.”

Having heard other faith leaders share their commitments to reconciliation, Bhai Sahib finished his address with a prayer for the days ahead, “May the promise of oneness of humanity guide us as this Parliament begins.”

The Preamble of the Charter states:

“The vision of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation is that the process of forgiving is vital if healing and reconciliation are to take place, as part of our collective efforts to seek justice, harmony and sustainable peace.”

A Seminar on Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Perspectives from the World’s Religions, hosted by the Charter project, took place on 2 November 2018 and was very well attended by 140 participants. They listened to the highly informative presentations of the world class speakers on the panel. Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh (Sikh), Rabbi David Rosen (Jewish), Prof Mohammed Abu-Nimer (Muslim) and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati (Hindu) spoke with great passion about forgiveness and reconciliation in the context of their respective faith traditions. The panel was moderated by Dr Josef Boehle, the Director of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

With over 6000 participants attending the Parliament, with dozens of high-profile guest speakers and more than 1000 spiritual programs, lectures, and interactive cultural experiences, the event offers an opportunity to advance interreligious dialogue and cooperation, responding to the critical issues of our times. The initiators of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation sincerely hope that the Charter will be embraced and acted upon, to foster forgiveness, reconciliation and peacebuilding worldwide.

The Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation

For more information about the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, and a copy of the text please visit: http://www.charterforforgiveness.org

Follow the charter on Twitter: @charterforgive or using the hashtag: #charterforgive #forgiveall

The full opening plenary speech can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfSQIpwLlKg&t=1s

For more information please contact Dr Josef Boehle at: office@charterforforgiveness.org

 

World’s largest interfaith gathering begins in Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Festival

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

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

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

Margaret Atwood

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

A Dynamic Dialogue with the Right Honourable Kim Campbell

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

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

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

About Parliament of the World’s Religions

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

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