International Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation launched at the House of Lords

Leading experts and participants endorsing the launch of the Peace Charter at Westminster Hall.
Leading experts and participants endorsing the launch of the Peace Charter at Westminster Hall.

HOUSE OF LORDS, LONDON, UK, 21 NOVEMBER 2022 – Developed over a decade of international dialogue and consultation, the Peace Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation was launched at the 3rd Peace Forum held on 21 November 2022 at the House of Lords in Westminster, London.  The distinguished venue, at the heart of Westminster democracy, provided a most appropriate backdrop for the innovative Peace Charter that has the potential to be truly transformative..  At the event, the unveiling of its Preamble and 18 Principles were discussed through key sessions that exemplified the Charter’s applicability. In particular, the issues of peacebuilding and climate change were discussed through an alternative lens of forgiveness and reconciliation so that they could be approached to become a pivotal agenda for societies worldwide. 

The launch of the Peace Charter marked the culmination of more than a decade of international consultation, symposia and seminars between profound thinkers and peace practitioners across a spectrum of secular and religious standpoints.  In particular, the event aimed to raise awareness amongst civic leaders and parliamentarians about positive social outcomes where forgiveness and reconciliation are both identified and astutely implemented as core values to guide peace-building processes.    

Peace Charter launched at House of Lords
Peace Charter launched at House of Lords.

During the proceedings, Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief joined the event hosts, The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, the Lord Bishop of Coventry and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE KSG, Co-convener of the Peace Charter and spiritual leader of the Sikh faith-based organisation, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha.  Speakers from the dynamic and highly experienced global delegation included: Professor Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace International, a key partner for the Peace Charter; Canon Sarah Snyder, Founding Director of the Rose Castle Foundation; His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, the first Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London; Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Executive Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers; Dr Chinmay Pandya,Pro Vice Chancellor, South Asian Institute of Peace and Reconciliation; and Dr. Carl Stauffer, senior expert on reconciliation for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

‘I commit to continuing to work together to make the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, a widely known, trusted, and often used framework for engagement in actively building peace in every corner of our world.’ – Professor Azza Karam, Religions for Peace.

‘If ever there was ever an international currency for peace and prosperity in our lives, it would be the currency of values that are sacred to us as humans.  It is this impactful, yet invisible, currency of values that inspires the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation…. As we edge towards a point of no return, a time has come for values and virtues like forgiveness to fully crystallise within our psyches and inform how we partner and plan to meet the unprecedented challenges before us.’ – Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Co-convenor & Co-Chair, Peace Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation.

“I think about peace, forgiveness and reconciliation a lot, both as a personal desire and one for the world. It is encouraging and reassuring to know there is a charter dedicated to these purposes. It feels like a wonderful starting point, a resource and a guide for anyone and everyone, wherever they are in the world, whose aim is to move beyond conflict.”James Davies, Oxford University, Peace Forum participant.

Ends

Notes for Editors:

The Peace Charter for Forgiveness & Reconciliation: Inclusive in its mission and development, the Charter has been globally co-created since its conception in 2011 and has travelled across the globe and received significant contribution, consultation, and endorsement from over 100 world religious leaders and humanitarians. It has been shared, discussed and noted by esteemed leaders including the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, Pope Francis, Desmond Tutu, Uhuru Kenyatta (former President of Kenya) and The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, amongst many others.

For further information about the Peace Charter, participant profiles and event proceedings, please contact;

Mr Amrik Singh Bhabra amrik@charterforforgiveness.org

Peace Charter UK headquarters: Nishkam Centre, 6 Soho Rd, Handsworth, Birmingham B21 8JQ

Queens Baton Relay receives spiritual blessing from Birmingham’s multifaith communities

A demonstration of Community Spirit in abundance was displayed as Birmingham 2022 stages the 16th official Queen’s Baton Relay – an epic journey across the Commonwealth’s 72 nations and territories, travelling 4,000 kilometres via land, air and sea over a period of 294 days before reaching Handsworth, Birmingham.

Hundreds of members of Handsworth’s and Birmingham’s diverse communities, faith leaders and dignitaries joined together on 28th July 2022 to welcome the Queens Baton Relay (QBR) as it travelled through Soho Road, stopping first at Handsworth Library and then proceeding to the Nishkam Organisations on Soho Road, one of the final landmarks before reaching Alexandra Stadium for the Opening Ceremony for the Commonwealth Games.

Many local community organisations came together to welcome the Baton Relay and created a wonderful family day with many activities for children and adults, these included Legacy West Midlands, New Begin Trust, Children’s Trust, Humanify and many more to shine a light on the amazing communities of Handsworth.

Members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, local faith representatives, Councillors, dignitaries and the community recited a powerful prayer led by Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Chairman & Spiritual Leader of the     Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, and Patron of the Nishkam Civic Association.

The prayer epitomised all the Commonwealth Games, QBR and the gathering was all about; peacebuilding, community spirit, unity, empowering and uplifting, camaraderie, gratitude, collaboration and mutual respect.   

On behalf of the communities of this beautiful, super-diverse city of Birmingham

We welcome and pray for all the athletes, organisers and visitors.

We pray for peace and wellbeing for all here in this city, Her Majesty the Queen and all those in the commonwealth countries and the entire globe.

We commit ourselves, in a spirit of friendship and co-operation,

To work together alongside all who share our values and ideals,

To help bring about a better world now and for generations to come.

As we celebrate the commonwealth games, let us give thanks to God Almighty for the wellbeing of all nationally and globally.

The collective multifaith prayer brought a sense of serenity and purpose to the festivities and offered a moment of reflection and blessings for the QBR before it made its way onward, ultimately to the Alexander Stadium.

Bhai Sahib, Mohinder Singh OBE KSG said, “This is an auspicious occasion, we are pleased Prof Geoff Thompson [Deputy Chair for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham] was able to join us. We were honoured that Prof Thompson, requested a prayer and a sacred blessing be done right here at the Gurudwara. Distinguished colleagues from the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group and other local faiths representing the super-diverse city joined us to pray for all involved in the Commonwealth games and beyond – a truly spiritually uplifting and blessed occasion”

“A positive, long term and inspiring legacy of the games is crucial. The dignity of difference must be celebrated, and it is a folly to ignore and neglect any person or part of Creation. We see the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged continue, we need to stop this. We must accept that economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity. This can only be fought by acknowledging and upholding our responsibilities”

The stage was dressed in a monumental Archway. As part of the Queen’s 70th Jubilee celebrations in 2022, The Nishkam Group along with local stakeholders proposed to design and install a landmark archway highlighting the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution (c1740) and the development of the railway networks nationally and internationally (c1830 by George Stephenson).

This archway will provide a gateway to Soho House, and to Handsworth. Through the archway, the values of curiosity, knowledge, innovation, imagination, creativity, and being hopeful and visionary will be encouraged and promoted.

This new landmark archway will stand over Soho Hill where the famous Soho Road and Handsworth begin and will be positioned adjacent to Soho House – Matthew Boulton’s former residence and the epicentre of the industrial revolution. It is hoped that this new project will bring to the for Birmingham’s industrial history and its legacy of the Civic Gospel as well as mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games.

Prof Geoff Thompson on the day during an interview said, “The games are for everyone and Birmingham’s strength is its diversity, the communities and the location and sometimes I think it is not appreciated. Handsworth is known the world over – wherever I’ve travelled in the world, when in Soweto and I say Handsworth, they recognise and relate to Handsworth because of the diversity but also the life chances and struggles that exist every single day.

So, for me the games truly came alive by the baton coming here. Having organisations like Nishkam bringing in, from a subculture standpoint, the diversity of the community spirit, I’ve witnessed, but above all to bring the multifaith interfaith spirituality; now I believe gives the games the perfect, perfect starting point by which to see 11 days of sporting festival, leave a legacy opportunity for all.

The world attention is on Birmingham and we feel very proud to be part of it 1.2 / 1.3 billion citizens will be watching the Opening Ceremony and then the eyes of the world will be on Birmingham.  Birmingham is ‘the world in one city’ and ‘the Commonwealth is visiting the Commonwealth of Birmingham’.

My only other message will be to the streets. Young people ultimately have to have hope and opportunity whatever their identity, background, whatever they feel they are not getting by way of an opportunity to realise their potential, these games are, and I will be committed in ensuring, that they get a chance to realise all that the games has pledged to provide. We have a Youth Charter that came to Manchester in 2002, to Glasgow 2014, to London 2012 to Birmingham 2022 – be patient, it will be provided.”

Everyone was invited to the Nishkam Heritage Centre to view an amazing exhibition which was created to mark The Queens Jubilee, the Industrial Heritage of Handsworth and map the Journey of Nishkam organisations in Handsworth and globally. The Exhibition was framed as a “Values Revolution” emphasising how essential values and virtues were to human development leading to of cohesive and sustainable communities.

Visitors and dignitaries enjoyed the refreshments that were prepared and served by selfless volunteers and benefitted from the range of activities for children and adults along with the numerous community support organisations who shared important information about the support services they offer for communities.

Nishkam Civic Association Chairman appointed Patron

The board of trustees of Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) has appointed Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia as Patron and member of the charity.  Otherwise known with affectionate regard as Bhai Sahib Ji, he is the founder of the NCA and served as its chairman for twenty years, directing the construction of the £7.5m iconic building adjacent to the Gurudwara on Soho Road, Handsworth in Birmingham. His visionary leadership and selfless service ensured the development of NCA as one of the leading civic engagement and community centres serving Birmingham and the West Midland region.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh KSG OBE Patron and member, NCA Board

Bhai Sahib Ji is highly regarded for his unstinting work over thirty years to promote peace and social regeneration through building innovative partnerships between multireligious and secular organisations to contribute to the common good. 

Some sixty years of his life have been dedicated to revitalising the understanding and practice of faith in changing contemporary contexts and to stimulating grassroots change within communities at large in the UK, Kenya, Zambia and India, as well as more globally.

The award-winning £7.5m Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) building was constructed with a £2.5m ERDF grant, £1.5m voluntary in-kind contribution and £3.5m from GNNSJ. NCA aims to engage positively with government within the civic context of rights and responsibilities to promote community cohesion; facilitate environmental enhancement; and economic regeneration. 

On his appointment, Bhai Sahib Ji said: “I was delighted to be asked to become a Patron and member of the NCA and accepted without hesitation. The NCA is at the forefront of advancing community and economic wellbeing; promoting interfaith, intercultural, intercommunity dialogue; and championing social justice and inclusion.  To deliver its mission, NCA has embedded within its policies the values of active volunteering and selfless service for the benefit of local and regional communities.”

The NCA board of trustees has appointed Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi OBE as its Chairman and Shaminder Singh Rai as Vice-Chair.  Prof Pardesi has served as the board’s Vice-Chair since 2005 and Mr Rai has chaired the trust’s Finance and General Purposes Committee. The board also recently announced Amrick Singh Ubhi’s appointment to the post of Director of Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnerships and Ajit Singh to the post of NCA Director.

Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi and Shaminder Singh Rai

Jarnail Singh Bhinder, NCA Trustee, said, “We are honoured to have Bhai Sahib Ji as patron at a time of change and uncertainty facing the voluntary sector. We have been hard at work, shaping a bold strategy for NCA’s future civic and community engagement, inclusion and education programmes to enrich communities when it matters the most; we aim to help local communities and businesses to rebuild after the long, dark months of lockdown. With the announcement of Bhai Sahib Ji as our Patron alongside the recent new appointments, NCA is well placed to lead the resurgence of our work for all our local and regional communities.”

ENDS

For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact Amrick Singh Ubhi, Director of Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnership at amrick.ubhi@ncauk.org or mobile: 07771 817484

Notes to Editors

The Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), fondly known as the Nishkam Centre, is a unique organisation charged with the task of developing a dynamic Sikh faith-inspired civic agenda. It is one of the key Centres for Excellence founded by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, a Sikh faith-based organisation dedicated to nishkam sewa (active, selfless volunteering) to serve the common good.  It is part of the Nishkam Group that is made up of the spiritual centre (the Gurudwara), the community cooperative – MSS (Marg Sat Santokh, meaning ‘path of truth and contentment’), the Nishkam School Trust and the Nishkam Healthcare Trust.

Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia is recognised as a greatly respected and influential international leader within the Sikh Dharam, or faith, by the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex organisation for some 26 million Sikhs worldwide.  It is from this Committee that he received the official dharmic title of ‘Bhai Sahib’, making him one of the first British Sikhs to receive such an honour in 2010. The term Bhai means ‘brother’ and Sahib means ‘leader’ or ‘one worthy of respect’ – making him a brotherly leader amongst the larger family of Sikhs. As a visionary leader, Bhai Sahib embraces the concepts of values-driven education and interfaith cooperation as tools to forge a lasting and sustainable peace.  Propelling this forward is the principle of seeing humanity as one family, and the light of the Creator in all, which is embedded in the heart of the Sikh worldview.  Bhai Sahib Ji was awarded an OBE in 2013 for his work in the fields of community cohesion, peace-building and interfaith.  He is also the first Sikh recipient of the Papal Knighthood of St. Gregory the Great (KSG).

UK faith leaders support the Queen’s Green Canopy

Faith Leaders from across the UK, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, are urging faith communities to plant trees in honour of Her Majesty’s lifetime of service to the nation, through The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative which was launched on Monday.

In a special video message, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders from the Buddhist Society, the Interfaith Council for Wales, Al-Khoei Foundation, Nishkam Centre, the Church of Scotland, the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, the Hindu Council UK, the Moravian Church of Northern Ireland, and the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, encouraged people to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee” in 2022.

The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) initiative is a unique, UK-wide tree planting initiative reated to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is Patron of the QGC and planted a tree in the grounds of Windsor Castle with Her Majesty earlier in the year to mark the start of the project. Everyone from individuals to Scout and Girlguiding groups, villages, cities, counties, schools and corporates will be encouraged to plant trees from October 2021 when the tree planting season begins, through to the end of the Jubilee year in 2022. The countdown to planting season begins now, giving people time to plan their planting projects.

As well as inviting the planting of new trees, The Queen’s Green Canopy will highlight and showcase 70 irreplaceable Ancient Woodlands across the United Kingdom and identify 70 Ancient Trees to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of service.

The QGC project will also create a pilot training programme for unemployed young people aged between 16-24 through Capel Manor College, London’s only specialist environmental college of which The Queen Mother was Patron, to plant and manage trees.

The Faith Leaders in their message to the interfaith community urged everyone to get involved with the QGC and highlighted the benefits of trees and green spaces for communities, mental health and the importance of creating a legacy that will benefit future generations. The Queen’s Green Canopy was launched at the Royal Horticultural Society’s
Virtual Chelsea event on Monday.

The Faith Leaders participating in the video message include:

• The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
• Desmond Biddulph CBE, The Buddhist Society UK
• Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh OBE, KSG, Chair of the Nishkam Group of Charitable
Organisations
• Ms Sarwat Tasneem, Al-Khoei Foundation
• The Rt Revd Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland
• Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great
Britain and the Commonwealth
• Kate McColgan, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Chair of Interfaith Council
for Wales
• The Rt Revd Sarah Groves, Moravian Church of the British Province, Northern Ireland
• Imam Qari Muhammad Asim MBE, Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque, Leeds, Chair of
Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board
• Ms Muna Chauhan, Hindu Council UK

More information about the QGC is available on http://www.queensgreencanopy.org
QGC social media channels.

Please follow The Queen’s Green Canopy launch at these handles:

Instagram: @queensgreencanopy / @theroyalfamily / @clarencehouse
Twitter: @qgcanopy / @royalfamily / @clarencehouse
Facebook: @queensgreencanopy / @thebritishmonarchy
LinkedIn: @queensgreencanopy / @theroyalfamily
Hashtags: #queensgreencanopy #plantatreeforthejubilee #jubileetree #qgclaunch

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.