On the passing of Pope Benedict, Birmingham’s Sikh community pays condolences and remembers a rich legacy and loving relationship between two major faiths

As the world’s gaze and an estimated 100,000 Catholics descend on St Peter’s Square for the funeral of the former Pope Benedict XVI, the Sikh community of Birmingham pays condolences and fondly remembers the relationship with the Catholic Church.

It is with heavy heart the world bears witness to the passing of Pope Benedict XVI, who created history by being the first Pope to resign in nearly 600 years and, now in death, becomes the first former pontiff in the modern history of the Catholic Church to be buried by an incumbent Pope. As thousands went to pay their respects, Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Spiritual Leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and Patron of the Nishkam Civic Association was amongst the many distinguished guests at the funeral to pay his respects personally.

Photo caption: Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh in attendance at Pope Benedict’s funeral

The relationship between Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh with Pope Benedict XVI was special, historic and will be remembered fondly for many years to come. In April 2012, history was made in the Catholic Church, with the blessings of Pope Benedict XVI, during a special Mass and Investiture at Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, of Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia and Mr William Ozanne, as Knights of the Pontifical Order of Pope St Gregory the Great. The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, invested Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh with one of the highest Papal Awards.

Photo caption: Investiture of Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and Mr William Ozanne as Knights of the Pontifical Order of Pope St Gregory the Great

The Order of St Gregory is normally bestowed on Catholics but in rare cases it is also conferred on non-Catholics in recognition of meritorious service to the Catholic Church and the exceptional example they have set in their communities and country.

Photo caption: Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh with HisHoliness Late Pope John Paul II

The esteemed and respected relationship between GNNSJ and the Pontiff goes back over two decades when the first audience with The Holy See took place during the Christian ‘Year of Jubilation’ in May 2000. This meeting was arranged through the gracious assistance of William Ozanne KSG (Birmingham Archdiocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue).  Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh along with nine members of GNNSJ and one Greek Orthodox Christian, had a historic audience with His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

That was the beginning of a long fruitful relationship and friendship that has been passed down over the last two decades. It has also led to a series of productive dialogues to tackle contemporary issues in society. Through the sharing of knowledge, experience, information and faith wisdom progress has been made to create models of engagement for the betterment of society.

The first audience with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was when Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh attended the Basilica with ten other members of GNNSJ in Sept 2006. This was again graciously facilitated by William Ozanne.

Photo caption: Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh and Bill Ozanne meet with Pope Benedict Sept 2006

Following the resignation of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh was privileged to be part of an international delegation invited to the Papal inauguration of Pope Francis held in March 2013 in St Peter’s Square. 

As we bid farewell to Pope Benedict XVI, we offer prayers and warmest wishes to the departed soul with its onward journey to the Heavenly adobe. We also offer heartfelt condolences to the Catholic community and all those grieving at this moment of loss. We encourage all to pray for the continued strengthening of relationships and collaboration across all faith communities and denominations. As people of faith we must provide exemplar conduct to assist humanity during the challenging times the world faces.

Photo caption: In 2013 an international delegation was invited to attend the Papal inauguration of Pope Francis


Notes to Editors:

For more information:

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh receiving the Papal Knighthood – https://nishkammediacentre.com/a-historic-moment-in-sikh-history-bhai-sahib-mohinder-singh-ji-to-be-created-a-knight-by-the-holy-father-pope-benedict-xvi/

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

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

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

Manar Morzouk from Reset addresses the Faith Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes to Editors:

For more information:

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

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

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

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

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

Bhai Sahib Ji address Vigil for Paris at outside Cathedral

Bhai Sahib Ji address Vigil for Paris at outside Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May peace be with you all.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE


I Am Birmingham – Birmingham unites for victims of terror attacks

The people of Birmingham paid their respects to the innocent lives lost in recent terrorist attacks, at a candlelight vigil in St Philips Square.

The Birmingham branch of national charity Citizens UK held a vigil last night to remember the 129 people who died in Paris on Friday, following a terrorist attack on the city; and also for the hundreds who were murdered in Beirut, Baghdad and Kenya recently.

Candles, banners and posters were placed together at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Hundreds of people took part in a minute’s silence, laid flowers and candles; and heard speeches from leaders of different faith groups. Posters and placards featuring peace signs and the hashtags #Solidarity and #NoToTheRacistBacklash were also held aloft during the vigil before being placed beside a French flag and tea-lights.

Makhdoom Chisti from Birmingham Central Mosque described the murderous tirade in Paris, led by terror group Daesh (ISIL/ISIS), as “senseless and did not represent Islam”. He fears Muslims are facing a backlash in this difficult time for all.

Makhdoom Chishti from the Birmingham Central Mosque attends the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

He said: “Islam does not allow any Muslims to take the lives of innocent people regardless of their beliefs. We strongly condemn this incident.

“The killing of one innocent person is a murder of an entire humanity.”

Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart addressed the crowd at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

A blessing was led by the Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart.

He said: “This is a very solemn evening. We have gathered from all of our communities, traditions and backgrounds in our grief and in our dismay that there has been even more killing.”

“Terrorists seek to cause division and hatred and when we stand in peace and unity we refuse to let them win.”

Around 200 people attended the peace vigil 'for Paris' in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

An interfaith statement was read aloud by attendees at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The peace vigil was organised Lozells resident Saidul Haque Saeed, of Citizens UK Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The flag of France was surrounded by candles and messages as a mark of respect following the Paris terror attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Former Lord Mayor and current Labour councillor Shafique Shah attended the vigil to show solidarity.

He said: “The most important thing is today we have people from all faiths here and everyone is condemning these acts of terrorism.

Mr Shah does not believe the recent terrorist attacks have changed public opinion of refugees and states Birmingham City Council is committed to housing 50 Syrian refugees in the upcoming months.

He said: “In Birmingham we have a strong history of offering sanctuary to people looking for a better way of life.”

Former city council leader Sir Albert Bore attended the candle-lit vigil for peace in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Chairman of the Nishkam group, Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh, shares a message of peace for the victims of the Paris and Beirut attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The following statement was read out by all those who had attended the vigil:

“As citizens of Birmingham and as people from all faiths and none we have been horrified by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims and families at this traumatic and difficult time.

Knowing that this comes soon after the tragedies of the Russia airline, the bombing in Beirut and the ongoing conflicts in many countries including Iraq, Syria and Yemen deepens our grief.

We are gathered this evening to grieve and to show our compassion and solidarity with those innocent victims of the attacks.

We stand together for peace in our city, not allowing these events to drive us apart. We will not hold people here to account for the actions of others but commit to continuing our work to make Birmingham a place of safety and welcome for all.”

Candles were lit outside the Birmingham Cathedral as part of the peace vigil following international terrorist attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Anti-war, anti-racism and pro-refugee banners made up part of the tribute to the victims of the recent attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Rabbi Margaret Jacobi shares a moment with a Salvation Army volunteer at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Geoff Dexter and Adam Yosef of Stand Up To Racism Birmingham hold signs at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Also in attendance were representatives from the Jewish community including Ruth Jacobs and Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, Chairman of the Nishkam group Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh, prominent anti-war campaigner Salma Yaqoob, Dean of Birmingham Cathedral Catherine Ogle, former city council leader Sir Albert Bore and members of Stand Up To Racism Birmingham, a group promoting community cohesion and solidarity with refugees.

Maz Saleem, daughter of the late Mohammed Saleem who was murdered in an Islamophobic attack in the city two years ago, said in a Stand Up To Racism statement:

“My deepest sympathies and condolences go to all those that lost loved ones and were injured in the attacks in Paris and Beirut. I feel very strongly about such incidents because my father was murdered by a Ukrainian fascist terrorist and I am still struggling to cope with this tragic loss in my family.

“I also feel strongly about these events because my father was a Muslim and he was murdered by a fascist terrorist who bombed mosques in the West Midlands. Quite rightly, we do not equate all white people with this terrorist, but why are all Muslims treated as potential terrorists?

“My father and my family are Muslims and the victims of terrorism. In August Mushin Ahmed an 81 year old Muslim pensioner was murdered in Rotherham. I fear there could be more similar attacks if the approach of depicting all Muslims as terrorists continues.

“We must stand up to such attacks and also the racism and Islamophobia that follows. Don’t let the racists divide us.”

The Library of Birmingham was lit up in French tricolore following attacks in paris (Photograph: Adam Yosef)

A peace poster displayed outside the Birmingham Central Mosque today, a day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad (Photograph: Adam Yosef)

On Saturday, a day after the wave of attacks in Paris, the Library of Birmingham was lit up in the French Tricolore. The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Smethwick also paid tribute to the resilience of the French people by being lit up in red, white and blue. While in Highgate, condolences were shared at the Birmingham Central Mosque and at the Sultan Bahu Trust in Balsall Heath.

The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Smethwick, Birmingham, changed its lights to the French Tricolore

“We wish to share our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers, to the families and friends of those killed and injured in the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last night.

“We also stand in solidarity with the people of France and the world, who have been affected and are in mourning,” mosque Chairman Muhammad Afzal stated at an official press conference.

(Source: iambirmingham.co.uk)

Click here to read a message from Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Notes to Editors:

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Uplifting and spiritually infused Civic Service paves the way forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Notes to Editors:

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Aston University awards Nishkam Chairman Honorary Doctorate of Science

2014 04 16 Baba Ji Aston -®SandeepVirdee-3375In a graduation ceremony held in the magnificent surrounds of Birmingham Town Hall on Tuesday, 15th April 2014 three leaders joined more than 520 postgraduate students from across Aston’s four Schools to receive recognition. 

During the 2014 graduation ceremony, the University awarded three honorary degrees to leading religious and business figures. They were Sue Noffke, an equity fund manager; Bhai Sahib, Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and the Nishkam Civic Association and The Very Reverend Catherine Ogle, Dean of Birmingham. The Senate is empowered to award degrees ‘honoris causa’ as a means of honouring individuals who have distinguished themselves in a particular field or profession, or who have given meritorious service to the University.

The Honorary Degrees are the University’s public recognition of an individual’s outstanding achievements or service at a local, national or international level. It is particularly appropriate if the achievements or service are directly related to Aston University and / or Birmingham and the West Midlands, or to the principles for which Aston University stands: the advancement, dissemination and application of learning and knowledge, by teaching, and research, for the benefit of industry and commerce, and of the community generally.

Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia is the Spiritual Leader and Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, UK – a charitable 2014 04 16 Baba Ji Aston -®SandeepVirdee-3424organisation with its Headquarters in Birmingham and two sister organisations in Leeds and London with branches in India and Kenya.  He is also Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association which engages in a plethora of civic activities. He has previously been awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Central England in 2002 and from the University of Birmingham in 2006. Bhai Sahib is the first British Sikh to be awarded the official title of ‘Bhai Sahib’ by the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (the Sikh ‘apex’ organisation representing some 26 million Sikhs globally) for his selfless service in propagating the Sikh faith, engagement in interfaith work and heritage conservation.


Bhai Sahib said ”It is indeed a privilege and an honour to be recognised by such a prestigious University well known for its world-class teaching, and strong links to industry, government and commerce”.

Within the interfaith context, Bhai Sahib is a senior member of the Elijah Board of World’s Religious Leaders and the European Council of Religious Leaders.  He is Co-President and Trustee of Religions for Peace International, New York, and President of Religions for Peace UK.  He supports the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Chicago.  Bhai Sahib is Patron of the Divine Onkar Mission, Anon Care (UK), the Nishkam Healthcare Trust and the Nishkam School Trust which has pioneered a multi-faith ethos in values-based education at its Nishkam Nursery, Primary, High School and Sixth Form.  He is currently working on two landmark projects; an ‘International Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation’ and a Museum of World’s Religions to be located in Birmingham.

During his address to the gathered graduates and their families he said, “While this is a day of celebration for those who are graduating, it is also an occasion that represents departure from studying at Aston University to a new world stage where graduates have the opportunity to make their mark in the wider community, whether that is at a local, regional or indeed at global level. The true value of your education lies in how you transfer the knowledge you have gained for the greater good of communities and humanity at large”.

2014 04 16 Baba Ji Aston -®SandeepVirdee-3331He concluded his address “I strongly believe that it is imperative to fuse the sacred and the secular in order for humanity to share the bounty of our common good. I was honoured, privileged and humbled to be asked to address the UN General Assembly on the occasion of UN World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2012. I stated the following:

‘The whole of the human race is but one large family’ states Guru Gobind Singh Ji our tenth Guru. With this universality of the Almighty, we humans have common origins, common destiny and common goals. Pain, suffering, grief and tears are all common to us. We inhabit the same planet and share the same common environment.

We all aspire to be better human beings wishing for happiness, prosperity, success and peace which unfortunately deludes us mainly due to our negative values of lust, vengeance, greed, possessiveness, and arrogance. ‘The world is burning with the fire of these’ states Guru Nanak Dev Ji our first Guru and pleads to God, ‘save us, wherever and with whatever means possible.’

“Once again, I am deeply humbled by this honour and I trust that as graduates you will take advantage of the rich legacy of our great city“.2014 04 16 Baba Ji Aston -®SandeepVirdee-3419


Flood of generosity to support flood victims of India

Mayor of Sandwell with Nishkam Centre TeamA month has passed since the devastating floods occurred in Uttarakhand in India. The disaster which tore down villages, numerous roads and other vital infrastructure has claimed over 800 lives and several thousand are still missing. The Nishkam Centre is working with Divine Onkar Mission (DOM) raising cash, clothing and awareness for the international flood disaster appeal. The Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Linda Horton and Tom Watson MP for West Bromwich East were amongst some of the dignitaries invited to a reception by DOM and sponsors, Mann Brothers, to see donated clothing be loaded on to a container destined for India.

The disaster has claimed many lives and left more still missing. Divine Onkar Mission along with other faith based and relief organisations has pledged to support the victims. The Nishkam Centre partnered with DOM to provide humanitarian aid and support to fellow human beings in their hour of need so that they start to rebuild their lives.  Friday 19th July saw the first visible manifestation of the campaign with the donated clothes being transferred in to a 40ft container to make its way to the flood stricken area of India. The container and shipping arrangements have been undertaken by one of DOM’s patrons, Mr Paramjit Singh Mann operating Mann Brothers Ltd in West Bromwich. As the magnitude of the tragedy continues to unfold many people are donating clothes and money to help in whatever way they can.

Tersam Lal, the Founder and Chairman of DOM said, “It is very important that people realise the calamity of what has happened. The disaster may have been last month but the effect will be felt for many generations. We see children orphaned, whole communities washed away and so many still missing; our aim of helping the needy in some of the most remote parts of India has never been more challenging. DOM’s local aid teams in India have distributed clothing, food, medicine and solar powered cookers to villages that were affected by the disaster. These cookers were much needed as people affected by the disaster have food but no means or facility for heating or cooking it”.

He continued, “Today is important, the Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Linda Horton and Tom Watson MP being here shows the support we have from the locality Container being prepared for Indiaand the Nishkam Centre is a great partner for us. I must also acknowledge the fantastic support from others in particular our patron, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh and Parmjit Singh Mann for their assistance. Mann Brothers are the sponsors, coordinators and donors of the whole operation today – we thank them for their ongoing support”.

Sewa Singh Mandla, Trustee of Nishkam Centre said, “Whilst it disheartens me to be standing here watching yet another humanitarian aid container leaving West Bromwich, it warms me to see that so many people have come together to donate generously whatever they can to support the campaign. I know we have had clothes, money, the container and many volunteer hours gifted to this cause not to mention the vast amount of prayer services that have taken place globally for the welfare of all humanity”.

Director of the Nishkam Centre, Amrick Singh Ubhi, said, “We need to continue the campaign relentlessly. DOM has made a commitment to build a new school for the children in the affected areas. The appeal continues to move forward with a request for further support from those who can give. The clothes and cash donations will always only be a drop in the ocean. We are working with DOM because Mr Lall and his team are on the ground in India, they will be there for the long-term – long after the world’s attention has shifted to the next breaking news. We will continue to support DOM to ensure the people of this disaster receive our assistance to rebuild their lives”.

To donate clothing to the disaster relief project please drop off at the clothes recycling point at

Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurudwara, Soho Road, Handsworth.

Or call 0121 515 4229

Cash donation can also be made at the Nishkam Centre Reception, or via, bank transfer to:

Account No: 31337939, Sort Code 40-11-12, Ref: FLOOD13

To view appeal flyer please click here


Released by: Nishkam Centre

Telephone: 0121 515 4229

Email: amrick.ubhi@ncauk.org


Notes to Editors:

1.   Divine Onkar Mission is a UK registered charity. Founded by Tersam Lal in 1991 with the aim of helping the needy in some of the most remote parts of India. Their projects are based in Jharkhand and Orissa, two of the poorest states in India. Many live in miserable conditions without basic necessities such as clean water, medical care, employment and daily food and the charity addresses these areas. They extend their hands, hearts and funds to enable them to break out of the cycle of poverty through the provision of basic human rights, by providing education and training opportunities to enable people to eventually be self-sufficient.

DOM Patrons include:

Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh Chairman Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Nishkam Centre
Cllr John Rowley J.P., B.A. (Hons.), M.A., Cert. Ed
Cllr Judith Rowley B.Ed.
Paramjit Singh Mann – Mann Brothers Ltd

Divine Onkar Mission

Drayton Street, Wolverhampton, WV2 4EA, UK

Registered Charity Number: 1074527, Company Number: 3566158

Tel: 01902 453453


2. Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) is a multi-faceted, faith based organisation practicing and propagating the Sikh Dharam (faith) in the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539). It has been involved in selfless intra-faith work in Kenya and India informally since 1950, and formally in the UK since 1978 as a registered Charity through five centres for excellence in the inner-city area of Handsworth, Birmingham, where its Headquarters are based. GNNSJ also has sister organisations in Leeds and London (UK) and branches in Kericho (Kenya) and Amritsar (India). Significant achievements have been made by GNNSJ in the conservation and restoration of historical Sikh shrines.

Chaired by Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh it aims to serve and uplift society through the practice of core values – nishkamta, or the spirit of selflessness, being one of them. Inspired by Dharam (religion) GNNSJ has generated a flourishing culture of volunteering, which has contributed immensely to transforming visionary projects into reality.  For his services to religious faith propagation, community service, education and research, Bhai Sahib has been awarded two Honorary Doctorates from Birmingham’s Universities. Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh was also created a knight by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of his dedicated work for Roman Catholic-Sikh relations and for his enthusiastic commitment to working for peace among people of all faiths. He is passionate about values-based education and is the Patron of the Nishkam Education Trust which has set-up Nishkam Nursery (2009), Nishkam Primary Free School (2011) and Nishkam Secondary School with 6th Form (2012).

For more information, visit www.nishkammediacentre.com

Handsworth community celebrates as one family

Hundreds of community members from across Handsworth and the surrounding areas joined together to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a Year of Service and the shaheedi (sacrifice) of the Guru Arjan Dev Ji – the 5th Guru of the Sikhs.

Event partners included Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ), Birmingham Faith Leaders, Birmingham Council of Faith, WM Faith Forum, the Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council, Central Mosque, Buddhist Vihara, Religions for Peace, Hindu Council of Birmingham, Nishkam Nursery, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Nishkam Primary and High Schools, Birmingham Churches Together, Soho Traders, Faizul Qur’an Jamia Masjid and of course Job Centre Plus who made the venue available. Organisers celebrated in style by setting up a marquee so that the forecasted rain did not disrupt proceedings.

Hosted on the busySoho Road, the event included personal reflections, stalls and exhibitions, children’s events, free food and a traditional “shabeel” serving refreshment to attendees and those simply passing-by. For some, the highlight was an exclusive showing of art work by Daniel Connell, which gave visitors the opportunity to meet the artist, watch him at work and view his latest collection. The exhibition created opportunities for dialogue and reflection between diverse communities using portraiture.

Birmingham’s faith representatives took to the stage to share their message of peace and tolerance and also give their personal congratulation to Her Majesty the Queen, expressing their gratitude for the freedom, dignity and generosity with which she rules her great diverse nation. The speakers sharing personal reflections included inspirational figures like Moqapi Selassie, Arvinder Jain, Ramona Kauth, Matloob Hussain, Dinesh Chauhan, Sajida Madni, Bill Ozane, Cllr M Hussain and Parmjit Kaur. Each of them gave a clear message of thanks to Her Majesty and also messages of cohesion, unity, peace, love and the welfare of all.

Speaking at the event, Chairman of GNNSJ and the NCA, Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh said, “Today is significant on many levels, but the key messages are about commitment with an unambiguous sense of duty / Dharam or righteousness. There is a need to uphold values, sacrifice, selfless service and a belief system based on the dignity of others. We need to have a clear understanding of justice, whilst being a role model for others to aspire and emulate.

“All religious traditions and faiths are based on the foundations of compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Justice must be within the context of practising compassion, mercy and forgiveness. These virtues and values cannot be discarded even for a millisecond.”

Bhai Sahib concluded his address to HM the Queen with, “We pray God grants the Queen many more years to reign.”

The Year of Service, a Government sponsored initiative, highlights the voluntary service people of faith carry out in their local communities. It gives each faith community an opportunity to share their faith or a project with the wider population. The Sikh community chose June for Year of Service because it allowed the marking of the shaheedi of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who lived a life in service to humanity and devotion to God.

Event Organisers were grateful to Cllr Paulette Hamilton and Cllr Waseem Zaffar MBE who joined the celebrations and congratulated all for their commitment and passion. Cllr Mahmood Hussain addressed the community by reflecting on the success of the event. He said, “It was a great event that was very well put together by the partners. I am very pleased to have seen the diversity of people that came out to celebrate with us. The turnout was exceptional. I am sure that HM The Queen must be delighted that her citizens of diverse communities are celebrating her Diamond Jubilee together showing solidarity and social cohesion.”

Cllr Hussain went on to say “I was also very inspired by the fantastic artwork displayed by the Australian Artist who was simply marvellous bringing different people together by his sketches. Through his creativity he is making a great impact across the globe on perceptions of minority groups.”

Cllr Hendrina Quinnen said, “What we have seen today is a great gathering of different communities to celebrate the Jubilee and other faith related events. It’s lovely to get together and share things of common interest and where possible, I feel we need more of these events. I have seen that the understanding of other faiths is important and is the baseline of bringing people together through shared values and responsibilities. The event really demonstrates we can work together and become united through understanding each other’s beliefs.”

The pictures of the day have been shared with the HandsworthCelebrates website. This is a website celebrating the success of events in Handsworth and Lozells to allow people to share stories with all – see www.handsworthcelebrates.com.


Released by: Nishkam Centre

Telephone: 0121 515 4229


Notes for Editors


1. For more information on Daniel Connell and his artwork can be viewed at http://danielconnell.net

2. For more information on the Year of Service, please visit http://ayearofservice.org.uk

3. Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) is a multi-faceted, faith based Organisation practising and propagating the Sikh Dharam (faith) in the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539). It has been involved in selfless intra-faith work inKenyaandIndiainformally since 1950, and formally in theUKsince 1978 as a registered Charity through five centres for excellence in the inner-city depressed area of Handsworth,Birmingham, where its Headquarters are based. GNNSJ also has sister organisations in Leeds and London (UK); as well as in Kericho (Kenya) andDelhi/Amritsar(India). Significant achievements have been made by GNNSJ in the conservation and restoration of historical Sikh shrines.

Chaired by Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh, who holds two honorary degrees from the city’s universities, it aims to serve and uplift society through the practice of core values – nishkamta, or the spirit of selflessness, being one of them. Inspired by spirituality, GNNSJ has generated a flourishing culture of volunteering, which has contributed immensely to transform its visionary projects into a reality.

Bhai Sahib was also recently created a knight by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of his dedicated work for Roman Catholic Sikh relations and for his enthusiastic commitment to working for peace among people of all faiths.

4. Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) is the civic arm of GNNSJ and more details can be found at www.nishkammediacentre.com