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”.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

Chaplaincy from the Heart of Faith

Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh with the students at the Forgiveness event

Representatives from various faith traditions came together to develop a ( Level 4) ‘Understanding Chaplaincy from a Faith Perspective’ training course. The collaboration was funded by the Urban Church Fund through the Near Neighbours Programme and delivered by experienced project co-ordinator and tutor, Narinder Kaur.­

Participants helping in the formation of the course included those from the Buddhist, Christian, Ras Tafari, Islam and Sikh Dharam (way of life), with an objective to inspire, educate, train and empower others to deliver Chaplaincy from the heart of faith.

The Nishkam Centre became the source for the delivery of the training programme, registering 14 chaplains as students from various faith traditions who took a total of 60 voluntary hours each to complete the course.

Abbas Shah an Islam Chaplain from Clifton Road Mosque said: “What has been unique about this course is that it has provided a perspective from various faiths with genuine respect and enquiry”

Father Julian Sampson (speaker) with Narinder Kaur at St Micheal’s Church

Moqapi Selassie Ras Tafari Heritage Chaplain commented: “So the Level 2 Chaplaincy Course came at the right time. I finished the course and in 2015 I started working as a Ras Tafari Prison Chaplain and completing the Level 4 Course to further enhance my knowledge base and experience”

To enhance the training and better understand Chaplaincy in the 21st Century, Chaplains from Organisations and Faith Communities were invited as speakers. Presentations included insight into community, healthcare, police and prison chaplaincy procedures as well as the latest research in values led approaches.

Students had the opportunity to participate in the ‘Forgiveness Charter Reconciliation’ project to further understand and learn about the toolkit and steps to forgive oneself and others to deepen and build on broken relationships.

The key elements of the course were to understand faith and organisational policy, procedure, guidelines, ethos, ethics, mandatory requirements, equality and diversity. Cultivating dignity and respect, customer care and understanding the individual faith requirements of chaplaincy from the life cycle of conception, birth, childhood, middle age and old age through to the end of life cycle including all faith celebrations and solemnizations.

Prayer and Religious Care is the highlight of chaplaincy which go hand in hand with a listening ear, supportive care and kind words of comfort through faith ethos, values and a ‘culture sensitivity’ practice to serve all of humanity along with customer care. In addi

Students at Central Mosque

tion to develop the skillsets of the chaplaincy students they took part in role plays, communication skills, presentation skills and confidence building and an understanding of ‘practice what we preach’, seeing the image of the Divine in all.

The participants visited three local places of worship: St Michael’s Church, Central Lozells Mosque and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurudwara all in the Lozell’s and East Handsworth Ward, giving students a better understanding on how religious worship contributes in the healing process of the body, mind and soul. This allowed the participants to have a feel of the spiritual aura around the focal point of each place of worship.

A series of personal statements and evaluations where also captured as project evidence.

Mike Anderson verifying the course work with Narinder Kaur

Mike Anderson the Quality Advisor for Open College Network recently examined the student files and was very pleased with the achievements by the students and level of commitment by the Nishkam Centre.

Dayal Kaur presenting on Sikh Dharam and Sikh Rogi Aasra (chaplaincy)

Santander grant to enhance services to the community

santanderOn Friday 29th July 2016 senior members of Santander visited the Nishkam Centre to present a cheque for £5,000 from the Santander Foundation. This was a great opportunity to share information and better understand each other’s organisation. The Santander Foundation is at the heart of the bank’s community activities, providing grants to small charities and social enterprises working with disadvantaged people to fund skills, knowledge and innovation projects across the UK. The grant will enable the Centre to upgrade the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) suite and to provide essential services.

Ravinder Singh Sidhu, Branch Director from the Financial Centre in Birmingham and Branch Manager, Harry Singh Saggu, visited the Nishkam Centre to meet with Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director and Narinder Kaur, who developed and submitted the application. The meeting enabled the two organisations better understand each other’s priorities and activities and to discuss future collaboration. The grant was awarded by the Santander Foundation to upgrade the Nishkam Centre’s ICT suite. Opening the meeting Amrick Singh offered thanks on behalf of the Board, the team at the Nishkam Centre and all beneficiaries for the support Santander had provided to the Nishkam Centre.

The Nishkam Centre prides itself on the services that it provides, in particular those that are provided free at the point of use. The influx of mature and sometimes non-English-speaking people, with limited computer skills who wish to learn how to use a computer, has presented a challenge for the centre with the ageing equipment.

Ravinder Singh Sidhu and Harry Singh Saggu (both centre) present cheque to Amrick Singh and Narinder Kaur (L & R)

Ravinder Singh Sidhu and Harry Singh Saggu (both centre) present cheque to Amrick Singh and Narinder Kaur (L & R)

The grant will allow disadvantaged people to achieve basic knowledge and up-skill individuals in the use of computers.  Having the skills and access to IT will allow people to become self-sufficient in form filling, carrying out job searches and applying for jobs. Learning how to shop online will also enable individuals to make better use of their, often limited, funds as they will be able to buy goods more competitively and shop around for services such as utilities.

Narinder Kaur, who coordinates the Sikh Rogi Aasra (Chaplaincy Services) Team said, “The grant will go a long way to helping us provide the much needed services in the community. We were elated to hear the application had been successful and this is great news for the community.”

Having Ravinder and Harry present the cheque to the team at the Centre was a fantastic opportunity for the Santander team to better understand and appreciate the work of the centre. During the meeting the Santander team were impressed with everything the Nishkam Centre was doing to make a difference to the lives of the local, regional and international communities. They were particularly interested in how the Nishkam Centre, a Sikh inspired organisation that is sometimes misconceived to be only for the Sikhs / Punjabis was engaging with so many diverse communities across Birmingham.

Amrick Singh took great pleasure in explaining to the visitors the significance and ethos that underpinned all the activities that the Nishkam Centre and the Nishkam Group undertakes. He articulated the importance and significance of understanding the brand, ‘Nishkam’ – which literally translated means selfless service to all without expectation of reward or recompense. Both Ravinder and Harry were also impressed by the diverse variety of activities that were undertaken by the small team at the centre with the support of many volunteers yet managed to reach out to so many in a super-diverse city.

Ravinder Singh said: “We are always looking for opportunities to support local charities and communities in the great work that they do. The Santander Foundation makes hundreds of donations

(L-R) Amrick Singh, Ravinder Singh and Harry Singh in the newly refurbished ICT Suite

(L-R) Amrick Singh, Ravinder Singh and Harry Singh in the newly refurbished ICT Suite

every year to good causes throughout the UK. We are committed to playing a key part in the community and are delighted to be supporting the Nishkam Centre in this way and we hope the donation makes a real difference to local people. Having seen the ICT suite I am impressed with the new kit, the setup and the usage that this equipment will get at the centre. We look forward to further supporting this very worthy cause in the future.”

Ravinder Singh and Harry Singh were delighted to have a tour of the upgraded ICT suite after the cheque presentation and buffet lunch, giving them the opportunity to observe the results of the funding and some of the learners who benefitted.

After the meeting, Amrick Singh said, “It was inspiring to meet like-minded individuals from an organisation that was keen to work with community groups, charities and the third sector to see how they could support activities. It would be very difficult for us as an organisation to self-finance all the activities that we do and still offer them to those disadvantaged and deprived without the support of partners who enable us to provide the services that we do. Our parent organisation Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) has always stood by us and supported us in our time of need, and it is the support of other organisations like Santander who visited today, and all the other partners that have funded us in the past, that we have a great debt of gratitude.

“The meeting was very positive insofar as it enabled us to have a conversation around Santander’s charitable activities and some of the challenges the Nishkam Centre and other partner organisations were facing regarding grants. I must say we look forward to working with organisations like Santander to see how we continue to support the disadvantaged communities that we work with and serve.

 

Nishkam volunteer completes gruelling 130 mile bike ride to raise funds for Queen Elizabeth Hospital

To look at Tarlok Singh Virdee is your average 60 year old from Leicester’s Sikh community. However, the Nishkam volunteer is prone to taking on something quite extraordinary be it weightlifting, cycling, donating or pushing his body to the limit.

mr virdee
The year has been difficult for him and his family with the loss of two of his brothers Salinder Singh and Jasbir Singh. In memory of his brothers, he is participated in a 130 mile Sikh Arts and Cultural Association (SACA) Charity Bike Ride. The funds raised will provide a home from home for families of children and young people with cancer on-site of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

SACA Charity Bike Ride from Birmingham to London is testing and gruelling and Tarlok is asking friends, family and the public to donate to this fantastic cause. Having successfully completed the ride last weekend, he is keen to raise maximum funds for a great cause. Tarlok Singh is no stranger to punishing himself; he took part in last year’s bike ride. The whole event then raised over £71,000 for the Children’s Radiotherapy Ward at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital Birmingham.

me virdee 2SACA, a 100% volunteer charity organisation is the main organiser of the event – over the years it has ensured the need for safety and improvements. In 1984 a group of 14 aspiring youths decided to establish a challenge that could help both local and national children’s charities. They considered a number of sporting events that would test both their determination and personal fitness. They also considered the key element of working as a team and supporting each other. The challenge would require endurance, fitness and careful planning. They set the standard for what has now become a yearly summer event lasting 2 days. The Birmingham to London cycle ride now attracts riders from all over the country and international riders each year and involves months of planning and adherence to safety management disciplines.

Last year, with the relentless effort from riders, a staggering £71,173 was raised for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Children’s radiotherapy ward. This year, the money raised by the SACA Charity Bike Ride 2016 will be used to fund a ‘home from home’ in association with Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham for families of children and young adults receiving cancer treatment. Every year a children’s charity is selected as the ride’s beneficiary. Over the last 31 years, the ride has raised in excess of £450,000 in aid of different children’s charity groups.

The Teenage Cancer Trust Young Person’s Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is for 16-24 year olds and has 11 in-patient beds and a day-care facility. The first unit in Birmingham was built at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in 2000 as one of the first Teenage Cancer Trust units in the country. This amazing unit was updated and re-provided in May 2011 when the new hospital was built.

Tarlok Singh said, “The Nishkam Centre and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) are always supporting charitable causes here in the UK and abroad. I respect the Chairman Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh who encourages us all to participate in charitable and benevolent acts.  I took part in this two day bike ride on the 16th and 17th of July to raise as much money as I can to help fellow human beings.

“It was a very difficult undertaking and I struggled. I was honoured to be amongst cycling professionals, novices, and people who generally wanted to raise funds for a good cause. I am glad I undertook my training and was able to participate in small events leading up to this big event. I would like to encourage as many people as possible to donate to good causes to help others. It would be great if people could find it in their hearts to support me to raise funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. I have exceeded the target I set myself but we welcome additional funds so that we can beat our total of £71,000 last year.”

The ride started from Birmingham (Smethwick) and proceeded through Coventry, Daventry and through Milton Keynes taking in the picturesque views of our British countryside. It then reached its centennial milestone in Luton where there was an overnight stay. The ride continued in the morning, in Luton and passed through St Albans, Radlet, Elstree and Harrow before reaching its final destination to Southall in West London.

To support Tarlok Singh on his quest please donate via his JustGiving page http://www.justgiving.com/Tarlok-Virdee1?utm_id=27

International President of Initiatives of Change visits Nishkam campus

Dr Omnia Marzouk, International President, Initiatives of Change

Dr Omnia Marzouk, International President, Initiatives of Change

On Friday 4th December, Dr Omnia Marzouk, International President of Initiatives of Change (IofC) accompanied by Elsa Vogal and Bill Ozanne visited the Nishkam Group of Organisations. This auspicious visit has paved the way for fruitful collaboration opportunities that will benefit humanity for generations to come.

On arrival to the Gurudwara Sahib and campus Dr Marzouk and the distinguished guests were welcomed and greeted by the Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh. An overview of the activities that took place at the Gurudwara and the other four centres was given. At this point a linkage back to Kericho (Kenya) and the work of the founder Saint, Sant Baba Puran Singh Ji and his successor Bhai Sahib Norang Singh Ji was also highlighted. The guests were intrigued to hear the journey and development of the Jatha and the contribution being made to humanity.

Amrick Singh then explained the fact that prayers had been ongoing

Dr Omnia Marzouk takes a bouquet for Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Dr Omnia Marzouk takes a bouquet for Guru Granth Sahib Ji

at the Gurudwara since 1974 and over 25,000 meals a week were served in the langar (blessed vegetarian food prepared by volunteers in the Guru’s kitchen and served to all). It became clear and evident to the guests that whilst structurally there were much larger Gurudwaras in the UK, GNNSJ was one having a big impact and involvement. The guests then made their way into the main Darbar Sahib to pay respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal and revered Guru of the Sikhs. Dr Marzouk was invited to present a bouquet of flowers to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

Dr Marzouk listens as prayers are recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gumbad Darbar (Dome Prayer Room)

Dr Marzouk listens as prayers are recited from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gumbad Darbar (Dome Prayer Room)

After visiting the Darbar Sahib the group made its way to the Gumbad Darbar or referred to as the Dome Prayer hall. The guests were clearly in ore when they got to the rooftop and took in the amazing views and unique presence of the dome. The history of the construction, decoration and completion of the dome was shared with the guests.

The guests were then taken for a brief walk on Soho Road to see the other enterprises. They visited the outside of MSS, spoke about the pharmacy, looked at and discussed the Nishkam School Trust where Ranjit Singh provided an overview for the guests so they could appreciate the amount of work, in particular, the volunteer hours, the unique vision and the leadership that had been invested for the benefit of future generations. Once they reached the Nishkam Centre they all visited the current exhibition and the Harmandir Sahib model – or referred to as the Golden Temple in the western world. The group were overwhelmed by the beautiful model and the work that had been done on the 24 Spiritual and Moral Dispositions that was also exhibited.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of GNNSJ and the Nishkam Civic Association, joined the delegation in the seminar room. After brief introductions Bhai Sahib Ji asked Dr Marzouk about the meaning of her name and her ancestral background. There then ensued a series of discussions around similarities between to two institutions. Bill was keen to draw parallels between what the Nishkam Group was involved in and what the IofC was doing.

Dr Marzouk said, “I am really impressed with what the Sikh

A memorable image outside the Gurudwara Sahib

A memorable image outside the Gurudwara Sahib

community is doing here; our values and ethos, we have so much in common. The philosophy of what you are doing is very similar to what Initiatives of Change is about. It is about how we enable people to be effective change makers. The three key areas we work are; trust building, ethical leadership – empowering the next generation, to take a values-based approach to the workplace, the third area is sustainable living i.e how do we promote an economy that is value-based and businesses are value-based and not just to make profit. There is also a focus on working with partners on sustainable environmental projects.”

“If we were to map the areas of the world where there is conflict and then also map the areas of the world where greenery is being destroyed and becoming desert the maps will show a relationship. Where there is conflict there is also desertification [land becomes desert like]. We have to look at our dialogue tools to help communities to work on the land to improve the productivity of the land.

The conversation around Kenya was of particular interest. The work GNNSJ was doing with education, healthcare provision, women’s prison work, sports facilities, orphanage work, HIV work, and general empowerment with ethics and values was something Dr Marzouk could relate to and she gave examples of projects they too were involved in. This involved faith communities coming together following trust building workshops over a period of time. This led nicely into a conversation around the Charter of Forgiveness and Reconciliation that Bhai Sahib Ji was leading on.

Bhai Sahib Ji spoke about ensuring our moral compasses were aligned right, “That should be our priority. Our different identities, mother, father, brother, sister etc need to be fulfilled and should not detract us from our purpose here on earth. We should be compassionate as being revengeful is double poison.” He then recalled the story of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. “The 5th Guru who was made to sit on a hot plate and had hot sand poured over his head, he gave us an example of how we should live in God’s will. The Guru’s friend and soul mate, Sai Mia Mir, a Muslim, wanted to help him but was told that this was God’s will. We can and should nurture good human beings with good values. We must bring out the best in people not the worst”.

“Our challenges are global they require global solutions which in turn will need global infrastructure. The United Nations (UN) is one such structure”. He recalled something Chiara Lubich said to him about the UN, “If the UN fails to deliver there will be no United Nations we will have a ‘United People’.” Bhai Sahib Ji continued, ”The power is within the ordinary people we need to empower them. The mind is like a mustang – a wild horse – it is uncontrollable; it is very shrewd. I am happy, we are on the same wavelength – we all want to see positive change.”

Bhai Sahib Ji thanked Dr Marzouk and said, ”We are all truly inspired by everything you have shared with us and are honoured that you are here with us today.”

The group then shared a blessed meal together at the Gurudwara where further heartfelt conversation took place. There was a general sense of anticipation and hope of what was possible by collaboration and partnership working. It was inspiring to see the inspirational and visionary leaders of two organisations in such harmony and agreement of what was required to make the world a better place for all who inhabit it and for mother Earth per se.

Bhai Sahib Ji then presented Dr Marzouk with an information pack and more importantly a copy of a book that both pictorially and narratively explained about Sikh heritage, faith, practices, places of worship and in general painted a picture of what is a Sikh.

During the day Dr Marzouk was asked about her role and she humbly said,” My predecessors were very important and influential statesmen, the former head of Red Cross Switzerland, Kofi Annan’s personal assistant, and Rajmohan Gandhi. I had turned down the role and told them to find someone more important and relevant. When other candidates refused the job on the grounds they could not it, they pressed me to take it on. After prayer and reflection, three questions came to me. ‘Do you believe ordinary people are used by God can do great things?’ I thought ‘yes’.  The next question was, ‘Do you think God is calling you to do this?’ Again I thought ‘yes’. Finally ‘Are you prepared to leave your comfort zone?’ to which again I answered ‘yes’. It was at this point that I took on the role in all honesty. After the event, Bill Ozanne said to Amrick Singh that, Omnia (Dr Marzouk) and Bhai Sahib Ji seemed to have a great meeting of hearts and minds and this was probably because of their shared journey’s and similarities of how they got their calling to serve and took on the challenges they are addressing.

After the visit, Amrick Singh said, “It was a pleasure and honour to welcome our distinguished guests to the campus and share with them what we are privileged to do. I am sure we will be identifying collaborative opportunities here and abroad to work more closely together. We will also be seeing more of Elsa Vogal, she was part of the French Resistance and recalls phenomenal episodes where she was face-to-face with the enemy and lived to tell the tale. More importantly, she used her experience to help shape the world we see today by becoming instrumental in what IofC was all about”.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

 

 

 

 

Phoenix Newspaper 5th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Awards Presentation Ceremony honours Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh

award

A delegation from the Nishkam Group of Organisations was invited to The Phoenix Newspaper 5th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony at Bethel Convention Centre to mark the newspaper’s achievements on Saturday 5th December 2015. The black tie, red carpet event was sold as it was marketed as ‘the event to be seen at for 2015’.

The evening started with canapés and drinks, an opportunity to
network and photographs as guests arrived and made their way down the red carpet. The Nishkam Group attendees were respected Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and Nishkam Civic Association, accompanied by his wife, Mrs Baldev Kaur, Mr Sewa Singh Mandla, and Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh and his wife Sharanjit Kaur.

The Nishkam table prior to dinner being served

The Nishkam table prior to dinner being served

Some 500 guests made their way to their tables to enjoy the meal and speeches. The Nishkam table as well as the Nishkam attendees also had Neena Gill, the MEP for the West Midlands, Ninder Singh Johal the current President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce (BCCC), member of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and his wife. Ninder took the opportunity prior to dinner being served to congratulate Bhai Sahib Ji on receipt of his OBE and the Papal Knighthood he received.

It was joyous to see so many colleagues and friends come together to celebrate a commendable achievement and to share the moment with Marcia and her team. Bishop Wollaston who had previously visited the UK from America and visited Bhai Sahib ji at the

Marcia McLaughlin catches up with Bhai Sahib Ji

Marcia McLaughlin catches up with Bhai Sahib Ji

Gurudwara, had returned to the UK especially for the awards ceremony. The Bishop came to say hello to Bhai Sahib Ji and they had a quick catch up. Another VIP that came to say hello to Bhai Sahib Ji was Mykal Brown, who was the other person who had a coin dedicated to him in Handsworth along with Bhai Sahib Ji and Merrise Crooks-Bishton.

During dinner there were performances from Community Gospel Choir, Ronald Dewit and Melika Queely. After dinner speeches from a number of invited Guest Speakers including Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE, Keith Stokes-Smith and Olusegun Dosumu.

Bhai Sahib Ji started by welcoming everyone to the event and congratulated Marcia on a great achievement. He also took the opportunity to promote key messages about values and virtues, community cohesion, the media being used in a positive means as opposed to promoting negative attitudes.

“The media should promote community cohesion interfaith dialogue

and collaboration it should build on the existing 24 moral and spiritual dispositions that were created for the Birmingham RE syllabus in 2007. The media should share our understanding of religion and cultures and its coverage should be more frequent and consistent when covering interfaith events. Media should promote peace; it is peace that we all want; individual peace, family, community peace and global peace”. This comment received rapturous applause from the audience.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE addresses the VIP gathering

“We must have more dialogue and promote dialogue, without dialogue there is a fear of the unknown that leads to prejudice and conflict.” Bhai Sahib also referred to the Declaration of Universal Human Rights and asked the audience if anybody had heard of the Declaration of Responsibilities – no one had. He then quoted a clause from article 5 pertaining to non-violence and respect for life,

Keith Stokes-Smith delivers his messages and raises awareness of the Commonwealth Association

Keith Stokes-Smith delivers his messages and raises awareness of the Commonwealth Association

“Every person has a responsibility to respect life. No one has the right to injure, to torture or to kill another human person. This does not exclude the right of justified self-defence of individuals or communities.” Once again, this received a round of applause. “I feel humanity has to revisit and resuscitate this Declaration of Human Responsibilities”.

Bhai Sahib Ji also suggested that we should make sure all our media professionals are trained and educated to ensure proper coverage of events. In particular he said it was important that the media covered faith-based and religious events in a fair and balanced way so that the chance of any misrepresentation, misquoting, or abuse of reporting was minimised. “The media, like the mind, can be your best friend and also your worst enemy”, he said. “Finally I want to again congratulate Marcia and her staff for the excellent work they continue to do.”

All the guests captivated during the performances and Awards Ceremony

All the guests captivated during the performances and Awards Ceremony

Bhai Sahib Ji’s address was followed by Keith Stokes-Smith, Chairman of Birmingham Commonwealth Association. He reiterated many of the messages delivered by Bhai Sahib Ji and suggested that people take more responsibility for their actions. He also went on to say that the Phoenix was a great friend and ally of the Birmingham Commonwealth Association, congratulated them on their achievements over the last five years and wished him well for the next five years.

Once the guests had enjoyed dinner, they were shown into the auditorium which could accommodate up to 4000 people. Following the Dhol Blasters, Gospel Central, with Mark Dwayne and Sticky Toffee Dancers entertained the guests and set the scene for the awards. The audience was then presented with a series of performances and guest speakers presenting their thanks and gratitude to the Phoenix and in particular Marcia for her dedication and commitment.

The awards ceremony recognised many people for their

Bhai Sahib Ji receives Humanitarian Achievement Award from President of BCCC & GBSLEP Board Member, Mr Ninder Johal

Bhai Sahib Ji receives Humanitarian Achievement Award from President of BCCC & GBSLEP Board Member, Mr Ninder Johal

achievements and contributions. GNNSJ was a nomination for the ‘Best Place of Worship’ award. A surprise award not listed in the program was made by Marcia McLaughlin when she called Ninder Johal to announce a special award. He came on stage and said that the award was in recognition of the great contribution to Humanitarian Services. He then began to read key bullet points from Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh OBE’s biography. At this point he invited Bhai Sahib Ji on to the stage to collect his award to a great round of applause from the audience.

After the event Bhai Sahib Ji said,”I am truly honoured to receive this Humanitarian Achievement Award. In all humility, I believe I am fulfilling my service to humanity and doing what any human being should be doing. “I am privileged to be Spiritual Leader and Chairman of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, and to be able to undertake service to mankind. We must empower individuals, families and society with values and virtues that create

Group photo opportunity at the end

Group photo opportunity at the end

good human beings; this will ultimately create a much better society. The work that the Phoenix is doing is commendable. I would encourage it to undertake an even more proactive role in promoting faith from a practitioner’s perspective as opposed to a theological perspective. Once again we thank Marcia for her work on the Phoenix and to everybody responsible for my receiving this prestigious award. I accept this on behalf of the Nishkam family and all the people who work behind the scenes to help me achieve what we do.”

END

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

 

 

Musical First at the Nishkam Centre gets full house – Sangeet Baithak attracts admirers!

Attendees attentively listen as the concert begins.

Attendees attentively listen as the concert begins.

On Saturday 28th November music lovers from many parts of England gathered to enjoy an evening of Indian classical performances at the Nishkam Centre. This event was held to support students – the next generation of artists – and build a platform for their future musical careers. This was the Nishkam Centre’s first Sangeet Baithak. Sangeet is a Sanskrit word for music, and Baithak is a social gathering, usually with everyone sitting on the floor.

The atmosphere was one of anticipation and excitement as 5pm

Roopa Panesar’s Sitar Students from the Nishkam Centre

Roopa Panesar’s Sitar Students from the Nishkam Centre

approached. Performers were setting up and tuning their instruments, while attendees waited patiently to take their seats. The Nishkam Centre sitar students, tutored by professional Sitarist Roopa Panesar, student of world renowned Sitarist and educationalist, Ustad Dharambir Singh MBE, were first to take centre stage. Nishkam Sitar students Jaswir Sandhu, Mohammed Bashir, Wasim Hussein, Ishani Mackan (Leeds), Fait Punia (Leeds), Basant Bhogal, Beena Mehay-Bennett, Gurmukh Singh Chandan, and Naam Kaur Deogan captured the attention of the audience as they played in Raag Bimpilasi with mesmerising and well-rehearsed confidence and ease.

Ustad Dharambir Singh MBE

Ustad Dharambir Singh MBE

Roopa Panesar said, “I feel elated for all the performers to have had such a positive response in a beautiful listening environment. May this be the first Sangeet Baithak of many more!”

The next performers – Tabla Trio Jeevan Singh, Bhavanjot Singh Rehal, and Prabhjot Singh, students of Sri Bhupinder Singh Chaggar (disciple of late Pandit Sharda Sahai) came from Leeds to perform. There were repeated periods of applause from the audience as their individual and collective tabla cycles became increasingly intricate.

Tremendous feedback received from the audience was both uplifting and inspiring.

“A wonderful and aspiring evening full of joy and kindness, the

Kaviraj Singh (Santoor) and Pritpal Singh (Tabla) performing.

Kaviraj Singh (Santoor) and Pritpal Singh (Tabla) performing.

music touched my heart.”

During a short interval attendees were able to network and exchange views about the performances. After the intermission a sitar performance – this time a solo – by Akash Parekh, another Nishkam Centre student of Roopa Panesar was enjoyed by all. He was accompanied by Saheb Singh (Student of Pritam Singh) on tabla. Akash captured the emotion that the playing of a sitar can instil.

Ustad Dharambir Singh (Disciple of late Ustad Vilayat Khan) then addressed the audience as a special guest speaker with a presentation on Sangeet and Sadhana (discipline or dedicated practice). Ustad Ji was intellectually engaging as he took the audience on a journey of the art of music and how it is practiced. He expressed that this event was, “A great experience of listening to Indian classical music in an intimate Baithak style – a traditional and ancient mode of sitting down together with a more involved, supportive and exclamatory audience response. These kinds of gatherings must become the norm in every community in the country.”

Akash Parekh, student of Roopa Panesar playing a Sitar solo.

Akash Parekh, student of Roopa Panesar playing a Sitar solo.

Audience member Gurvir Singh stated that the concert was an absolutely awesome program! The artists were inspirational and the talk about Sangeet Sadhana was on another level – I really enjoyed it. Thank you Nishkam!”

The night ended with a professional performance by Kaviraj Singh Dhadyalla. Kaviraj Singh captured the heart of the audience with a Santoor and singing performance. He was accompanied by Pritpal Singh Rai on tabla (student of late Pandit Sharda Sahai and Sri Bhupinder Singh Chaggar). The sound of the Santoor was emotional and left a feeling of spiritual bliss in the air as the concert came to a close.

Closing remarks were made by Sewa Singh Mandla, who later said,

The Leeds “Tabla Trio” performing in front of a delighted audience.

The Leeds “Tabla Trio” performing in front of a delighted audience.

“The Indian Classical Music (Sangeet Baithak) held at the Nishkam Centre was an exceptional display of local talent in a very friendly atmosphere. We must do more to motivate and encourage them for such performances.”

Future concerts are already in their initial planning stages, keep checking the Nishkam Centre website for updates.

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ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

  • For further information and queries please contact Ajit Singh 01215154229
  • Nishkam Media Centre – nishkammediacentre.com

Bomet County (Kenya) Governor visits Gurudwara and Nishkam Campus as part of UK collaboration visit

H.E Ruto arriving with the Bomet delegation

H.E Ruto arriving with the Bomet delegation

During a landmark trip to the UK to strengthen trade and investment links with the Kenyan diaspora and in particular with Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and the Nishkam Campus, His Excellency Iasaac Ruto, the Governor of the County Government of Bomet, Kenya came to the Gurudwara. He had one prayer – to improve the lives of those in his county with assistance from the Sikhs.

The visit saw the Governor come to visit Birmingham’s Sikh community for the first time having heard and seen the great work that GNNSJ had already done in the neighbouring county of Kericho. GNNSJ has worked very closely with the Kericho county governor and local assembly to improve the lives of many Kenyans. Working with Prof Paul Chepkwony, GNNSJ and the Nishkam Campus have undertaken many projects in Kericho County. The projects have included the building of an educational institution Nishkam Sant Puran Singh Institute (NSPSI), running medical camps, building a vocational training centre, building a HIV clinic, supporting an orphanage, working with the women’s prison to provide educational facilities, and play facilities  for young children with their mothers in prison. We have also seen inward investment from Accenture and Aston Villa Football Club to build sports facilities for the youth across several towns.

Bomet County is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic place with citizens of diverse socio-economic, religious and cultural backgrounds co-existing

The guests admire the dome mirror works

The guests admire the dome mirror works

with the collective will of making things better for future generations. Bomet County Government has the major towns namely: Bomet Town, Sotik Town, and Longisa, Mulot.

Governor Ruto’s visit started with a visit to the Darbar Sahib (Guru’s Court / Main Prayer Hall) were the Governor offered a bouquet of flowers to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. The tour then involved a visit to the Gumbad Darbar (Dome prayer hall), where the visitors were left speechless by the sheer beauty and tranquillity of the sacred space. The distinguished delegation then learnt about the Nishkam Community Cooperative, Nishkam Health Centre, Nishkam School Trust, and the Nishkam Civic Association. The message that the governor clearly got was one of self-reliance self-sufficiency, self-help and the ‘welfare of all’. He also comprehended the power of Nishkam volunteering and strong visionary leadership.

The delegation was honoured to meet with Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Spiritual Successor of GNNSJ and Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association (NCA). Bhai Sahib Ji reminded the Governor and guests about the contribution that his predecessors and founder of GNNSJ had made to Kericho.  There then followed a conversation about the importance of education, particularly the provision of good values based education for nursery and primary school ages. The Governor informed all present that he was working on a project to create greater transparency in Kenya by reviewing the constitution and looking at greater devolution. It was a memorable moment when it was revealed that the main driver behind the devolution thinking and design was actually a school colleague of Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh.

Outside the Dome Darbar on the roof-top

Outside the Dome Darbar on the roof-top

Bhai Sahib Ji explained, “Kericho is a very dear place to us Sikhs, it is where Sant Baba Puran Singh Ji spent much of his life and made a difference to the lives of so many – my Kenyan friends here today will know Baba Ji affectionately as the ‘Holy Man of Kericho’. As a result we have Kericho running through our blood – we want to reach-out and make a difference too.”  He went on to say, “Let’s not just talk about it; let’s do something about it. GNNSJ is not about rhetoric but action; over the last 30 years the organisation has invested in Kericho on infrastructure, education, social action, regeneration, youth engagement, sport, corporate sponsorship / investment and capacity building. We are willing partners and want to work with you Governor to ensure that the good work continues. Values based education is vital and we need to educate the youth to become better adults tomorrow.”

His Excellency then thanked Bhai Sahib Ji, for sharing his wisdom with the guests. He recognised that heritage, culture and traditional values were the cornerstone of everything he and his team had seen at the Gurudwara. He said, “The contribution of the Sikhs in Kericho ismeeting phenomenal and I am proud to work very closely with Prof Paul Chepkwony.” He went on to say,”Bomet and Kericho are twin sisters as they used to be one county until they were split. I have seen what your organisation has done in Kericho and today I have seen what you do here. Your compassion, humility sense of duty help me to understand why you do what you do. I wonder why the governors in Kenya cannot apply what you are doing here? There is plenty to go around and share for everybody we need to overcome the greed and serve people”.

Bhai Sahib then shared a story from Nelson Mandela’s funeral, “The leader of Malawi said you must love your people and your people will love you. This was such a powerful message about leadership that we can all learn from”.

Bhai Sahib Ji discuss some of the projects undertaken in Kericho

Bhai Sahib Ji discuss some of the projects undertaken in Kericho

“We need to focus on how we are going to make a difference and help those in Bomet. We must, as spiritual beings, reach out to them and empower them; we must enable them to be self-sufficient. We, the diaspora, must give back and make a difference to the lives of others.”

The governor shared some personal details about cancer affecting his family. As a result, supporting those with cancer had become a personal passion. In general, he welcomed health and well-being programs and also outlined what his county was already doing to help people. “We offer health insurance, support the elderly with payments, provide medical facilities, provide parental training and classes and also helped young females into education”, he said.

Bhai Sahib outlined his vision to have a world-class university in Kericho. Details and discussion was left to Prof Pal Singh, who is the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Portsmouth University clearly understood the challenges of establishing the University. He articulated to the guests that the University should be able to offer degrees from established universities anywhere in the world without the students having to leave their families or their homeland. He said one of the biggest costs and burdens on most families to get their children educated was the cost of relocation, travel, and living away from home. If we reduced these costs we could reduce the burden on families and provide the highest level of education.

It was also explained to the guests that the Vice Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association, Prof Upkar Pardesi OBE, was currently in

Dr Langat thanks Bhai Sahib Ji for his hospitality and talks about the possibilities ahead

Dr Langat thanks Bhai Sahib Ji for his hospitality and talks about the possibilities ahead

Ethiopia working on the development of an international world-class business school. This would provide further expertise and knowledge to the Nishkam team when developing a university with esteemed partners around the world. The governor welcomed the discussion and said he would love to be partners in such an undertaking and ideas were exchanged on how this program could be started. The consensus was to start small and to develop the degree programs over a period of time.

Overall the meeting was very positive and productive. The governor and his team were under no illusion of GNNSJ’s capacity to be a valuable partner that could mobilise similar projects to those undertaken with success in Kericho County. The GNNSJ team were keen to iterate that the success in Kericho County was down to collaboration between various partners including commitments from the County Governor.

A group photo as the guests depart the Gurudwara

A group photo as the guests depart the Gurudwara

Dr Moses Langat, who is part of Prof Chepkwony’s team, was instrumental in brokering the meeting with the Bomet County delegation. After the meeting Dr Langat said,”The meeting today has helped pave the way for future collaboration. I’m excited that my Sikh brothers have welcomed the Bomet county team with open arms, just as we expected, and are keen to support humanitarian developmental projects in the county. I will work with bother Amrick to outline some of the programs that we might be able to start with and also liaise to see how we can visit Bomet next time Baba Ji are in Kenya.” 

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

 

Parliament Week event encourages the Sikh community to engage in democracy

Prof Upkar Pardesi OBE sets the scene by addressing the importance of active participation

Prof Upkar Pardesi OBE sets the scene by addressing the importance of active participation

On Saturday the 21st of November the Nishkam Centre hosted a “Parliament Week” event to raise the awareness amongst young children, students and adults from the Sikh community in Birmingham. The aim was to get people to engage with the democratic processes at local, national and European level whilst identifying the barriers holding them back.

The event began with a meet and greet over light refreshments in the conference room, this allowed conversations to flow and the guests to interact with one another in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

This was followed by a welcome and introduction to Democracy in the UK from Prof Upkar Pardesi OBE,

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE recalls the historical significance of ‘Sikhs and politics’ and the importance of good human beings

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE recalls the historical significance of ‘Sikhs and politics’ and the importance of good human beings

Vice Chair of the Nishkam Civic Association (NCA). Prof Pardesi, who is currently part of an international team helping to set up the first international Business School in Ethiopia at Addis Ababa University, was passionate about engaging the audience and the broader Sikh community in the democratic process. Under the banner of Parliament week, a series of events were organised which included the Saturday event and also an event at the Nishkam Primary School on the Friday.

This set the scene for the address by Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE, Spiritual Leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and Chairman of NCA. The address was inspirational and iterated the importance of being a good human and first and foremost, having good values. Bhai Sahib was passionate about ensuring everyone understood the importance of good values and ‘the gold standard of being a good human being’. He reminded everyone to embrace good values in everything we do. “It is important that our youth are empowered with good values so that whatever profession they go into they will be good workers, good leaders, and good ambassadors”. He also stressed that, “A good human being would always be a good citizen but a good citizen may not necessarily be a good human being”.

Cllr Hendrina Quinnen shares her journey with the participants

Cllr Hendrina Quinnen shares her journey with the participants

Bhai Sahib gave a challenging address to allow attendees to think deeper about the Sikh history and politics. “When Guru Nanak Dev Ji came on the scene in 1469, there was chaos – it was a time of political unrest. Throughout the 239 years that Ten Sikh Gurus were on this earth, their main goal was to teach us to be good human beings. Therefore, Sikh Dharam came up as a faith consisting entirely of values.

“From 1797-1840, under the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji, Sikhs had their own kingdom. However, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji was clever, and never involved Sikhs in politics. In politics, you find a double standard; it’s unfortunately a dirty game of numbers. Sikhs had values and therefore would not cheat and lie. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji passed away, Sikhs did not know how to govern as they had never been involved in politics.

“Democracy is about “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. But now we are in the

Neena Gill MEP invites the participants to get involved and do their bit for society

Neena Gill MEP invites the participants to get involved and do their bit for society

realms of a 49/51 equation – 49 people voting can be right, however 51 can overrule them. Does this seem right? This is what is occurring and this is what keeps good people away from engaging in politics.

“In 1997, politicians from many different countries came together to create a Universal Declaration of Rights. Within the Declaration, there are 19 clauses, one of which is called the Universal Declaration of Responsibilities. Examples of what this declaration states are as follows:

  • all men and women have a responsibility to respect one another
  • religious freedom must be granted
  • no one should incite hatred, victimize groups or individuals
  • freedom of media carries the responsibility to be correct and accurate
  • every person has the responsibility to protect life

“This should have become a global declaration! Wars would have stopped! However it is frozen and unable to move forward. This is a prime example of the double standards involved in politics. When we are not properly practicing our dharam (faith) ie we are not dharmi – practicing and living our faith – we become jealous and malicious. If we were good human beings it follows we would be good politicians.”

Hendrina Quinnen, Councillor for Lozells and East Handsworth Ward gave an overview of her background and why she became a councillor. She also spoke very passionately about engaging with the local community and why she wanted to serve them.

Some of the speakers and attendees

Some of the speakers and attendees

Gurdail Singh Atwal and Narinder Kooner, Councillors for Handsworth Wood, inspired the youth to engage in local democracy and how it can affect their day to day lives.  They spoke about how you can make a change and gave examples of some of the current changes they are hoping to make. Gurdail Singh encouraged and motivated, in particular the young Sikh community, to be more involved and explained how the Sikh community is under represented and its implications. He gave an account on his inspirational journey into local government.

Neena Gill, Member of European Parliament for the West Midland spoke of what members of UK and European Parliaments do. She stressed the need for greater representation of ethnic minorities in national and European government. She also offered to give young people the opportunity to shadow her in the European Parliament in Brussels. We will certainly be following this up in the coming months.

Surinder Singh, Electoral Participation Officer at Sandwell Council spoke on how local government works and how local citizens are represented. To conclude the speakers, Councillor Narinder Kaur Kooner addressed the guests briefly to invite more participation from the BME communities. She went on to specify how we can get involved in politics. She said, “Politics influences our daily lives more often then we realise – for example, there are policies that determine what our children learn in schools. There are many ways to get involved in politics, without actually having to become an MP or Councillor. You can become a member of the political party you are supporting a political party.  This way, you can vote on specific policies that are being passed, rather than just for the party in power”.

 

 

The event closed with a question and answer session inviting audience responses to “What is stopping the Sikh community from engaging in local and national government?” Questions such as; how do you feel about the Sikh community being represented, what is the best way for you to be involved, and how can you be more proactive, were discussed. The responses of the questions were collated on Post-It notes and handed in. We are hoping to have the information ready in the near future to share and disseminate with interested parties. The responses will also inform future engagement opportunities so that the barriers can be overcome and promote more participation in the democratic process.

Amrick Ubhi, Nishkam Centre Director, gave a vote of thanks to all the speakers, the organisers, Bhai Sahib Ji for the pearls of wisdom, and importantly, all the attendees for their attendance and valued participation. Amrick also invited the audience to become more proactive rather than responding to invitations all the time. He said it was our duty to get involved in governance be it a school, community events, politics and ward meetings. He went on to say that it is not only Bhai Sahib Ji’s role to represent the community at civic engagements but that we must all do our part.

The event was a great success and raised a lot of interest within the community. The intention is that many more events of this kind will be organised in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

Bhai Sahib Ji address Vigil for Paris at outside Cathedral

Bhai Sahib Ji address Vigil for Paris at outside Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May peace be with you all.

Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE