Nishkam Civic Association announces Strategic review

With lockdown easing, forward-thinking charities have been positioning themselves to be more resilient, service focused, strategically connected and relevant in the post-Covid world. As we witness cuts in public spending, reductions in the grants and other funding that became available for businesses and the third sector to reach out to the most disadvantaged communities, the landscape is changing. There is now a greater need to build on existing partnerships, given that interfacing with government agencies and other supporting organisations is crucial to innovating further solutions for communities affected by the pandemic.

Birmingham based Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), also known as the Nishkam Centre, is now strategically positioning itself for the challenges ahead. It has announced the appointment of Amrick Singh Ubhi to a newly created senior executive position of Director of Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnerships to guide the strategic development of the charity and its sister group of organisations over the challenging years ahead. An essential element of this new role will be to ensure that the spotlight placed on the humanitarian work of faith and business communities during the pandemic is supported, recognised and strengthened. The Nishkam Board is also pleased to announce the promotion of Ajit Singh to the position of Nishkam Civic Association Director

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh KSG OBE
Chairman, Nishkam Civic Association

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association, said: “We have appointed Amrick Singh to this post in recognition of his dedication and hard work over the past fourteen years. We also thank him for overseeing the Charity’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and for his support to many mutual aid projects and initiatives across the City and beyond. He has played a pivotal leadership role in linking faith communities together with multi-agency strategic teams during these challenging times. We know that, with Ajit Singh heading the NCA, the team will position the services to meet the new challenges that the sector and its communities will be encountering over the next three post-Covid years.”

Amrick Singh Ubhi Director, Nishkam Civic Engagement and Partnerships

Amrick has led the NCA team since 2007 and – in the spirit of nishkamta or selflessness – has made outstanding contributions in the fields of community service, the development of interfaith relations and engagement, supporting the work of charities and cohesion-building. He has taken on many voluntary Board roles to support other organisations and to assist them where he can in building meaningful and productive partnerships. For many, Amrick’s drive to connect communities – and to strengthen and support many positive initiatives being generated locally, nationally and internationally – has been inspirational.

On his new appointment, Amrick Singh said, “I am delighted to be given an opportunity to consolidate the last fourteen years’ work with key local, regional and national civic, community and business organisations. We now need to guide the group of organisations to further develop strategic partnerships, to plan their growth in line with the highly dynamic new landscape whilst we bring to fruition the long-term strategic deliverables. I look forward with optimism to spending more time with faith, business, third sector and political leaders as we plan for an uncertain future, aiming to serve the most disadvantaged and to create a fairer, more just society.”

Ajit Singh Nishkam Civic Association Director

As Ajit Singh takes on the Nishkam Civic Association Director’s role, the team will also see a number of new posts being created to support the delivery of NCA’s exciting Strategic Plan for 2021 – 2024. Ajit has served as Operations Manager and, more recently, the Contracts Manager at the NCA for the past ten years.  He has made a significant contribution to the design, delivery and management of many services which benefit local and regional communities. “I’m thrilled to be promoted to the role of Director, leading the next phase of our development. The pandemic has enabled us to reflect and realign our priorities over the coming months and years – we see exciting and challenging times ahead.”

ENDS

For further information, a high-res photo, or to arrange an interview, please contact Prof Upkar Pardesi OBE, Vice-Chairman at Upkar.pardesi@ncauk.org or mobile: 07974150320.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Nishkam Civic Association (NCA), fondly known as the Nishkam Centre, is a unique organisation charged with the task of developing a dynamic Sikh faith-inspired civic agenda. It is one of the key Centres for Excellence founded by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, a Sikh faith-based organisation dedicated to nishkam sewa (active, selfless volunteering) to serve the common good.  It is part of the Nishkam Group that is made up of the spiritual centre (the Gurudwara), the economic cooperative – MSS (Marg Sat Santokh, meaning ‘path of truth and contentment’), the Nishkam School Trust and the Nishkam Healthcare Trust.
  • Amrick Singh is a proud Brummie who gave up his corporate consultancy career 15 years ago to participate in charity work. He has devoted his career to lead in the voluntary sector and to serve the needs of voluntary and community organisations.  Amrick Singh is a well-known and respected person for civic engagement, Sikh/interfaith engagement and representation on community forums/panels.  He brings vast commercial and project management experience to make a difference to the voluntary work he undertakes. He is values-driven, a supportive yet ‘critical friend’ and a proactive partner to many. His extensive experience in supporting people in organisations to ‘uplift themselves and others’ is commendable as is his passion to see everyone excel.
  • Ajit Singh, born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham, has a long-standing affinity to the locality. He has developed a strong understanding and tacit knowledge of local communities and the challenges faced by many. His background in business and in the advice sector, along with his extensive time at NCA, have provided Ajit with the ideal platform to develop and deliver innovative and creative projects designed to be client-centred and culturally appropriate, with an emphasis on self-reliance and empowerment.  Ajit has developed an excellent understanding of grant funding, forging a track record of securing and delivering projects, producing high quality measurable outcomes and impact and bringing sustainable benefits to communities.

Nishkam Centre Director honoured to receive vaccination from a distinguished West Midlands Fireman

As many leaders from across Birmingham and the nation step forward to take the vaccination and encourage communities to take the vaccination, the Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh joined them having been invited to take the jab. Amrick Singh was invited as part of the latest cohort to have the vaccination and wanted to encourage all those getting the invite to attend their appointments. 

 

Amrick Singh receives vaccination 
from Aghia Pal Singh
Amrick Singh receives vaccination from Aghia Pal Singh

On receiving the vaccination, Amrick Singh said “It is an honour to see the great work the NHS and other volunteers at the Nishkam Vaccination Centre in Newtown were undertaking as part of the global drive to combat Covid-19.  

 “In all humility it is important to recognise and accept we are very lucky to have access to the vaccination and should take the opportunity when offered. I encourage all those who feel hesitant to take the vaccine, to get the facts; speak to experts and dispel your concerns. We are privileged to have the NHS providing the services we get. The pandemic has also shown the power of community and faith organisation to step up to help in the fight against Covid.”  

In recent months we have seen Places of Worship, community settings, Football Clubs all step up and offer their premises, staff and volunteers to combat Covid-19. Community vaccination centres play an important part in the fight against Covid-19. Having local vaccination centres helps to make the COVID-19 vaccine more accessible to people. Importantly, it means that residents do not have to risk travelling far, often on public transport, to receive a vaccination.  

Amrick Singh, as Centre Director is also an active representative on other prestigious organisations including the Chairman of the Council of Sikh Gurudwaras in Birmingham; a Board Member & Vice Chair at the Birmingham Voluntary Sector Council; Vice Chairman at the Birmingham Faith Leader’s Group; Treasurer and Board Member at the National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum; Trustee at Acorns Children’s Hospice and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority Faith Strategic Partnership Group.  

He went on to say, “It was a pleasure to turn up at the Newtown Vaccination Centre set up by the Nishkam Healthcare Trust in collaboration with the NHS and be greeted by the energetic volunteers. This is great partnership initiative between the NHS and the Nishkam Health Care team and further uplifting to see the collaboration further strengthened by volunteers from the West Midlands Fire Service. I was thrilled to hear from Aghia Pal Singh, how WM Fire Service staff have been trained to give the vaccination and support centres as required”.  

After administering the vaccination, Aghia Pal Singh MBE said, “I am proud to be volunteering on the frontline and WM Fire Service staff cannot thank Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach enough for allowing us to be trained and vaccinate the communities we serve”.  

Aghia is no stranger to being in the limelight or on the frontline. In 2019 he received an MBE in recognition for his contribution to the community.  He is one of a group of WM Fire Service staff who volunteer their skills and expertise as members of UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) and on behalf of the UK Government they have been deployed on several occasions to disasters around the world. On this occasion Aghia was volunteering at the Nishkam Health Care Vaccination Centre in Newtown, Birmingham. He is also particularly proud of the links with the Matumaini Orphanage in Tanzania, which he and WMFS colleagues have visited several times to help improve facilities.   

Aghia Pal Singh MBE, WM Fire Service and Volunteer Vaccinator

It is great to see the WMFS strapline of ‘making our communities safer, stronger and healthier’ could not have been more pertinent than seeing firefighters volunteering to beat the pandemic. The vaccination centre is part of a wider initiative to empower the local community by providing vital information about the vaccinations, engaging with local communities, and administering vaccinations to help with the collective battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.  

To receive a vaccination, residents are encouraged to use the online NHS booking service, where they will be able to select their chosen centre. (www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination). 

For more information about the new Nishkam Vaccination Centre, please emailcovid19@nishkampharmacy.com or contact Dr Manvir Kaur Hayer (Chair of Nishkam Healthcare Trust) at 07812732857 or Ameek Bhogal (Superintendent at Nishkam Pharmacy) at 07961842069.  

Birmingham Cathedral hosts a Choral Evensong with special prayers for the Royal Family

As the country mourns the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh and pray for the Royal Family, Birmingham Cathedral during the Choral Evensong, The Second Sunday of Easter, remembered the Duke and Royal Family. In line with lockdown regulations the ceremony was attended by a very limited invited guest list. The guests were all seated at a safe distance from each other, and face masks were obligatory. Unlike a normal service, the singing was restricted to the Choir only in compliance with restrictions on Places of Worship.    

Image courtesy Birmingham Cathedral – a view of the Choral Evensong.
Image courtesy Birmingham Cathedral – a view of the Choral Evensong

Many leaders from across Birmingham came together to remember the Duke and participate in the service at Birmingham Cathedral.

The Very Reverend Matt Thompson, the Dean of Birmingham, welcomed the guests. He personally mentioned Right Reverend David Urquhart, The Bishop of Birmingham; Archbishop Bernard Longley; Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County of West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE; The Lord Mayor, Mohammed Azim; High Sheriff for the West Midlands, Louise Bennett; Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG; Leader of the Council, Cllr Ian Ward.

Following the prayers and hymns being sung, a reading from the Old Testament (Isaiah 26.1-9, 19) was read by Canon Sharon Palmer MBE. This was later followed by a reading from the New Testament (Luke 24.1-12) by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County of West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE.   

Right Reverend David Urquhart, The Bishop of Birmingham, and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh greet each other.
Right Reverend David Urquhart, The Bishop of Birmingham, and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh greet each other

We know The Duke of Edinburgh, the longest-serving royal consort in British history, was at the Queen’s side for more than her six decades of reign. Prince Philip and the Queen had four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Prince Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on 10 June 1921 and his father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes. His mother, Princess Alice, was a daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg and a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Shortly after his passing, the following announcement was made: 

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty the Queen announces the death of her beloved husband,   His Royal Highness the Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh.   His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.   Further announcements will be made in due course.   The Royal family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.   Friday, 9th April 2021  
The Funeral will take place on Saturday 17th April 2021

            

After the service all the guests made their way out of the Cathedral and exchanged brief reflections before they left.

The new High Sheriff of the West Midlands, Louise Bennett was introduced to some of the dignitaries. Bhai Sahib paid their condolences to all the dignitaries and exchanged warm reflections and greetings. The mood was sombre but there was an air of excitement at the same time as the dignitaries reflected on how nice it was to actually be in the company of each other rather than on a computer screen.

Bhai Sahib Ji met the new WM High Sheriff, Loisue Bennett and Sharon Palmer.
Bhai Sahib Ji met the new WM High Sheriff, Loisue Bennett and Sharon Palmer

After the auspicious service the Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh said he was honoured to be invited to accompany Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh to the service, “It was very moving but surreal due to the Covid-19 restrictions in force. The service was just perfect and so befitting for Birmingham’s faith, civic, business and academic leaders to remember the Duke and the Royal Family; it was also strange that so few people had come together in such a grandiose venue. I remember events at the Cathedral where it was full to the rafters so to speak and during the singing the volume and energy was extraordinary.”

Over the last year we have seen Places of Worship completely closed to congregations or only providing very limited services. Many resorted to virtual services and support, whilst others adapted their services to work with communities during the pandemic. We saw them step up and offer their premises, staff and volunteers to combat Covid-19. We eagerly look forward to Places of Worship once more being able to offer the full range of services in the communities they so lovingly serve.

Guests bid each other farewell whilst remaining socially distanced
Guests bid each other farewell whilst remaining socially distanced

The Gurudwara served by the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, on Soho Road, Birmingham where Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh is Spiritual Leader, commenced a special prayer (Sehej Paath) reciting the whole of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji on the announcement of the Duke passing away. The culmination of the special prayers will be on the day of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Funeral.

The Cathedral service can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/4dsZbOD0-Ow

A Statement from the Leaders of Birmingham’s Faith Communities

A Statement from the Leaders of Birmingham’s Faith Communities on the occasion of the death of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

As the principal leaders of Birmingham’s major faith communities we wish to express our deep sadness at the news of the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, this morning.

Our thoughts and condolences are with Her Majesty the Queen and all the Royal Family, and with the family of the Commonwealth and the wider world, which the Duke sought to serve with such distinction.

We join with communities in this city and across the nation in mourning and in recognition of a long life of service.

Our various faith communities will wish, in due course, to pay their respects to a man who, throughout his life championed faith co-operation, but for today we mourn with the sadness of the nation.

The Members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group:

Rabbi Yossi Jacobs, Chief Ministers, Birmingham Hebrew Congregation

Mr Amrick Singh Ubhi, Nishkam Community Centre

Mr John Beard, Birmingham Buddhist Community

Rt Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham

Most Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham

Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha

Cllr Muhammad Afzal, Birmingham Central Mosque

Imam Mohammad Asad, Birmingham Central Mosque

Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue

Rev Ian Howarth, Birmingham Methodist Church

Mr Dinesh Chauhan, Birmingham Hindu Community

Ven Dr Uttaranyana, Birmingham Buddhist Community

Historic visit to Pakistan and India to mark 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji

A group photo outside Nankana Sahib Gurudwara

A group photo outside Nankana Sahib Gurudwara

On Friday 1st November 2019 Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, accompanied by an internationl cohort of 650 members of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha decended on Lahore, Pakistan and made history. Never before had a group from so many countries, forming a single group, visited Pakistan with the sole purpose being to pay homage and obeisance to the blessed land where Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469 – 1539) had frequented centuries earlier.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji travelled far and wide, teaching people the message of one God, who dwells in every one of His creations and constitutes the eternal Truth.

“It was an honour and a humbling privilege to visit the holy, sacred shrines that we were able to in Pakistan and later in India. I would like to congratulate the whole of humanity on the 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj. We applaud the actions of the Indian and Pakistan Governments in the fantastic work done to establish the Kartarpur Corridor. I was honoured to be there for the formal opening on the 9th November 2019.”

“We should remember that all sacred shrines are precious. The sanctity of places of worship and the sacred revered

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, continually works for more faith solidarity and better interfaith relations

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, continually works for more faith solidarity and better interfaith relations

text of each faith are the responsibility of all faiths. We should respect and preserve the rich heritage of all faith traditions in the World. We have a duty of care for looking after each other – we cannot love God if we cannot love his creation.”

“The Sikh’s tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly and emphatically stated that ‘saach keho sun laeho sabhay, jin prem keeo tin hee prabh paaeyo’ – ‘I speak the truth, listen everyone: Only the one who is absorbed in True Love shall attain the Lord’. Human beings must preserve the sanctity and sacredness of ALL religious texts. When we look around the world we see the desecreation of sacred shrines and this must stop. This cannot be in the name of faith or religion – these are barbaric acts of violence.” Recalled Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh.

Local sangat welcomed the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) pilgrims from around the world; U.K, Kenya, Botswana, India, U.S.A, Canada and beyond who had made the journey to Pakistan to partake in the celebrations.

Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, said how privileged he felt to have been on this sacred pilgrimage. “I remember the ecstatically warm, friendly, family welcome all the 650 guests got – it was like a home-coming as one of our Pakistan brothers put it. We could not have imagined the warmth that was portrayed toward the Sikh community right across the country. The passion that the local people had for greater faith solidarity was moving. You would continuously hear ‘may Allah bless you all and provide peace to us all’.”

“We must thank the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), Interior Minister and of course Prime Minister Imran Khan, for facilitating the possibility of such a large group to visit Pakistan. When you think of the logistics of a convoy of 16 coaches and two mini-buses being escorted from Gurudwara to Gurudwara and then returning to the hotel every evening, the magnitude of the task becomes apparent. A special vote of thanks must also go to the Pakistan Consul General, Ismail Ahmar, his team in Birmingham and Mr Ibrar at Gerry’s for the unrelenting support given to secure Pakistan Visas for the whole group. On the Indian side, Dr Aman Puri, Indian Consul General, Birmingham and his team were a great support, they facilitated the smooth issuance of the relevant documents to enable the congregation to move freely.”

Local community welcome the pilgrims with flowers

Local community welcome the pilgrims with flowers

The Sikh tradition informs us that the foundation of any faith is daya, which can be translated as compassion.  Our very existence on the planet is supported by daya, the bedrock of faith. Daya is not simply an obligation but an inherent quality of being. It is a powerful force that unfolds when we see the universal light of God in all creation. As humans, we walk upon the same earth, breathe the same air; share the same basic hopes and joys, whilst enduring the same suffering and pain. This acknowledgement demands a responsibility to share. Theses messages were epitomised by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and during this blessed anniversary period we should all take a long look within ourselves and calibrate our behaviour and conduct accordingly.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh reiterated, “We are all part of the Lord’s infinite plan, creation and design, it is important that we understand each other. We all have multiple identities as individuals. We are mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, sons and daughters, we belong to certain professions and our passports are reminders that we have certain national identities.  Our absolute identity however, is that of a human being.  We must remember that we are here on earth as mere travellers, this is not our permanent domicile. Remembering this, will encourage us to change the way in which we engage with the world and think about life in general.  Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Sikh’s Eternal Guru) reminds us that the temple of Mecca is within your soul, if you try to realise it.”

“Finally there is an increasing recognition that faith constitutes a vital part of our vibrant communities and that there is no singular secularism in our global world. The family of faiths, who are the backbone of civil society, must seriously reflect on their own traditions and collaborate with others to jointly harness spirituality and empower the mortal individual to achieve success in attaining a greater understanding of ‘the other’.

It would appear that despite Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message to all humanity, we are facing a crisis of selfishness and spiritual poverty in the collective human psyche. Our secular efforts to achieve anything will remain impoverished until we harness the spiritual power that remains latent within us. Together, the spiritual and the secular are the beacons that will ensure that we can serve the Creator and creation, making this a better world for all.

After visiting many of the sacred shrines across Pakistan, the group then crossed the border into India, and carried on sacred anniversary celebrations in Sultanpur Lodhi, where Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent many years with his family. The group were able to take part in Langar Sewa and serve food to the many Sikhs and visitors that were travelling to blessed location from across India and the world. It was in Sultanpur Lodhi where Guru Nanak Dev Ji first conveyed the message of ‘Ik Onkar’ (One God) to the rest of the world.

END

For more information:

  1. Visit to Nankana Sahib, Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Birthplace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQjveqFfgB8
  2. University Of Birmingham Mega Event for Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Birth Anniversary: https://nishkammediacentre.com/2019/08/11/the-university-of-birmingham-to-celebrates-a-mega-event-in-sikh-history/

For more articles like the above please visit www.nishkammediacentre.com

2nd Annual Peace Forum on Forgiveness and Reconciliation ‘When I felt forgiven, I stood taller, because I felt free’

Networking and preview of the exhibition

The second Annual Peace Forum on Forgiveness and Reconciliation, convened by the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation and hosted at the Nishkam Centre, took place on Sunday 4th February 2018. It began with the viewing of the ‘Journey of Forgiveness & Reconciliation’ Exhibition over lunch within the Nishkam Heritage Centre. The exhibition, lovingly developed by young volunteers, innovatively and graphically depicted the various stages of forgiveness. The thought provoking exhibition offered space for reflection and an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones over lunch.

The main event, held within the Conference Hall, commenced with a powerful prayer to Almighty God, sung by the students of Nishkam Primary School, accompanied by musicians playing

Nishkam Primary School children reciting Kirtan

ancient Indian stringed instruments. The prayer, written by Guru Arjan Dev Ji – the fifth Guru of the Sikhs- described feelings of wonder, contentment and acceptance once in the company of enlightened teachers and disciples.

It was a reflective and poignant beginning to a day which was filled with lively and emotive discussions on the nature of forgiveness. Amrick Singh Ubhi, Director of the Nishkam Centre, opened the forum by reminding participants that the forum was taking place not only during World Interfaith Harmony Week, but also Holocaust Memorial Week, further emphasising the huge significance and urgency of understanding and practicing forgiveness and reconciliation.

A video titled ‘Assisi, City of Forgiveness’ was shown to the audience, featuring a speech given by Pope Francis as part of the 800th anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi.

‘How much does it cost us to forgive others?’ the Pope questioned the audience: ‘Have you all thought at times of God’s patience? God never tires of offering us his pardon each time we ask for it.’

Dr Josef Boehle talks about the Charter

Dr Josef Boehle, Director of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, spoke about the Charter itself, which will be formally launched towards the end of the year, and talked about how they have thought deeply about bringing the Charter ‘to life’ and into practice.

Rabbi Dr David Rosen read a letter from William F Vendley, Co-convenor and Co-chair of the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, and the Secretary General of Religions for Peace International, affirming his commitment to advancing the Charter.

The Peace Forum moved on to the first panel discussion, titled Perspectives on Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Justice and Sustainable Peace, with Rabbi Dr David Rosen speaking about trauma and wounds. .

He spoke of being touched when Pope John Paul II publicly asked for forgiveness for sins committed against the Jewish

Rabbi Dr David Rosen reads letter of support from William F Vendley

community. He described how this gesture ‘opened minds and changed realities for so many people. It created a lot of peace and opened up possibilities of new relations.’ Bharti Tailor, Vice-President and Trustee of Religions for Peace UK and panel member, noted that without empathy and true willingness, forgiveness cannot be given. She likened this to ‘blowing on a tsunami coming towards you.’

The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth told the audience of his feelings when first encountering forgiveness: ‘As a human I felt like a failed being. But when I felt forgiven, I stood taller, because I felt free.’

He also spoke of a poignant moment in Coventry during the Second World War, when the Provost of the Cathedral, shortly after the bombings, wrote a message in the still warm ash: ‘Father, forgive.’ The Bishop reminded the audience that these are precious words in the Christian faith.

Panel 1 – Rabbi Dr David Rosen, Bharti Tailor, Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth

The second panel was delighted to hear from Elsa Vogel, born in France, and at the age of 14 years witnessed the dawn of the Second World War. She stayed in Paris during Nazi occupation and when she was 18, survived being machine-gunned by the Germans. She spoke about her discovery of an ‘inner voice in her heart urging me to forgive.’ She then decided, through taking time in silence, to ‘let go of the hatred and choose reconciliation.’

Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh spoke personally about the nature of forgiveness and how this can make you ‘a prisoner’.  He noted the importance of realising there is ‘innocence in ignorance’ so we cannot blame people for the things they may now know. He also spoke of God’s unconditional love for us, and how this should mirror the love we have for each other: ‘love should not have any conditions.’

The Panel discussions were followed by breakout sessions designed around two thematic themes: 1.Network/movement

Panel 2- Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Elsa Vogel, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh

for forgiveness & reconciliation; 2. Charter development and charter launch.

All guests participated in the facilitated conversations and had an opportunity to share their thoughts and contribute to the future of the Charter. Closing the conference, Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh said he felt ‘humbled, inspired and motivated’, and stressed on the gratitude he felt that people were able to come together to discuss how forgiveness may bring peace on an individual and worldly level, during a time of ‘severe violence, extremism, pain and suffering.’

‘We have a great responsibility, God resides within us, and so the capacity to forgive is within us all’, he said, ending the conference.

All guests were invited to partake in Langar – a core practice for Sikhs, where blessed vegetarian food is served to all, irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Sharing final reflections

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

The Birmingham and the Black Country Sikh Migration story continues as the project celebrated the touring exhibition’s new location at the University of Wolverhampton

The touring exhibition, which was first launched at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in July this year, will also visit four other locations, including the Nishkam Centre, Dudley Library and Sandwell Community History and Archives.

The project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, details the journeys and contributions made by the Sikh community in Birmingham and the Black Country. It includes more than 30 video interviews conducted with migrants spanning several generations, an educational toolkit for schools, a comprehensive website and legacy-resource that will be deposited in the Library of Birmingham and Sandwell Archives.

Jasbir Uppal, Lecturer and Head of Recruitment and Marketing at the University of Wolverhampton, as well as a Project Steering Group member, opened the launch, welcoming all the guests to the University and introducing the project. He spoke about the ‘rich Sikh heritage in Wolverhampton’, their ‘extraordinary’ journey and the importance of recording the ‘strife, struggles, and their successes.’

An Ardas (prayer) was conducted and led by Giani Shyam Singh, evoking the Lord’s blessings and continued guidance.

Munpreet Kaur, Project Coordinator, spoke about the project’s goals, and the urgency of capturing these stories: ‘Because of the time limit, it is important that we capture first-hand accounts from Sikhs’. Munpreet also called upon the guests to contribute and help towards the project’s success: ‘There is still so much to do, and we request more volunteers to be part of this effort – record your family story, help us find the patterns and the big picture. Help us hold on to the teachings of our elders, like Mr Sewa Singh Mandla [the project’s oldest participant (Mandla v Lee Case) who recently passed away] before they are lost to us forever. I think it’s our duty to connect with our roots and not to forget where we are today is a testament to their work, their sacrifice and their love for us’.

Surjeet Singh Sandhu, a participant who recorded an oral history interview for the project, recalled his childhood in Punjab in the mid-1960s. Now a senior design engineer, he spoke of his amazement at being from ‘a poor family, unknown village’ with no shoes until the age of 12 years old, but yet after arriving in the UK managed to give back substantially to the community in his adult life.

Gurmail Kaur, another contributor to the project, spoke about her participation in the project, and about her story. She spoke of the need for the younger generations to learn from the narratives: ‘they need to look back and appreciate how hard it was for their parents.’ She recounted her memories of arriving in England aged nine, with her mother and siblings. ‘As a child, this is what I remember.’

Surinder Singh, a Project Steering Group member, then gave a vote of thanks. He thanked the Lord for the successes of the project and reminded the audience of the hundreds of hours of volunteer service which had been invested in the project – selfless service being a key aspect of Sikh Dharam (faith).

All guests were then led to the Harrison Learning Centre (where the exhibition is located). Gurmail Kaur’s daughter and Giani Shyam Singh cut the ribbon to formally open the exhibition.

Speaking after the launch, Councillor Harbans Singh Bagri stated that the ‘project is of absolute importance, the Sikh community has also had a strong belief in faith and in the ability to do a good day’s work, and they have always respected the British system, where there is a reward, and where they will be treated as equal human beings.’

Councillor Claire Darke, who is also voluntarily involved with the Wolverhampton Civic Historical Society, stated that the exhibition was a ‘fantastic celebration of the Sikh journey’ and that ‘collecting stories is always fascinating.’

Councillor John Reynolds, stated that ‘it was really uplifting to see the contribution made by Sikhs over the years. The Sikhs contributed massively back then and they are still contributing now.’

The exhibition will move to the Nishkam Centre in Handsworth, Birmingham, in December 2017.

For more information, please information email heritage@ncauk.org

Historic ‘Walk of Hope for Peace and Harmony’ illustrates the strong relationships across Birmingham’s diverse communities

Arrival and discussion at Soho House – the heart of the Industrial Revolution

More than 120 representatives of diverse communities from across Birmingham and beyond came together for a ‘Walk of Hope for Peace and Harmony’ in Handsworth the 26th October 2017. The community came together as a sign of solidarity and recognition that whilst being different we have so much in common.

The event, planned, coordinated and meticulously carried out, respected and honoured all faith traditions and none to ensure a message of unity and peace was demonstrated. Word of the Peace Walk quickly spread through members of the local community, the faith community, social media and others interested in promoting peace. The event was attended by many laypersons, including several active City Council members as well police, faith leaders, school representatives etc. It was inspiring to see people arrive at the starting venue in traditional garments – robes, stoles, prayer shawls and head coverings – all respective of their faith traditions. From Sikh dastars (turbans), Christian vestments, the saffron robes of Buddhist monks to the head coverings of the Muslim kufi and the Jewish kippah—all faiths were represented and unified in their message of peace. Guests from India and mainland Europe, who had made special arrangements to join the walk and participate in the making of history, were amazed at the arrangements and participation.

The walk started with a communal reception for VIPs and dignitaries at the Shree Geeta Bhavan, in Heathfield Road. The

Shree Geeta Bhavan Team with Sri M, Bhai Sahib Ji and other dignitaries

chief guest, Sri M, whose inspiration and discussions with Birmingham’s faith communities enabled the walk to happen was welcomed. Sri M was accompanied from London with his wife and Lady Mohini Kent Noon. Sri M (from India) was welcomed to the Shree Geeta Bhavan by the General Secretary Dr Arun Sinha and other members of the Temple Board. Other dignitaries and VIPs included Matloob Hussain (Lozells Central Mosque), Bridget von Baron (Netherlands), Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh OBE KSG (Chair of the Nishkam Civic Association), Arvinder Jain, Upashak  Bhatia, Cllr Quinnen, Cllr Hussain, Rabbi Lior Kaminetsky and many others.

Sri M, a spiritual guide, social reformer and educationist – was born into a Muslim family on November 6, 1949 in Kerala. His transformational journey, from a young boy to a living yogi, is a fascinating story symbolized by single-minded discipline and dedication. In 1998, he started his teachings, eventually leading to formation of the

Prayers at Shree Geeta Bhavan to commence the walk

Satsang Foundation. Traveling extensively unto the present day, he has quietly gone about his life’s mission – teaching and guiding people as per his Master’s instructions: ‘Quality, not quantity. Spiritual evolution is individual and cannot be a mass phenomenon.’ Conversant with teachings of most major religions, Sri M says: ‘Go to the core. Theories are of no use.’ His message seeks to transcend the outer-shell of all religions, by exploring their mystical core to nurture the innate goodness in every human being. An example of the power of peace walks was seen in 2015-16 when Sri M led a Walk of Hope lasting some 15 months from Kanyakumari to Kashmir spanning 7,500 kms across 11 states of India for peace, harmony and tolerance.

The walkers, talking and learning from each other walked peacefully portraying an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, made their way to Lozells Central Mosque. Where a prayer was recited and Sri M and Bhai Sahib Ji were invited to share brief words of wisdom. In the Mosques, Bhai Sahib Ji said, ‘I am touched by the walk – where ever there is prayer and there are faithful people there is peace. We need peace in ourselves, in our families, in the community, locally, nationally and internationally. We are privileged and honoured to be here, there are good vibrations. Prayers that come from the heart touch everyone. Thanks to Sri M for making the walk

Multi-faith group listen to a prayer in the Mosque

possible by bringing people together.’

The multi-faith group then stood outside the New Testament Church of God and Sri M recited the Lord’s Prayer with all present before moving on to the Church of Francis of Assisi and St Mary’s Convent. The beautiful building and architecture was matched by the eloquent and fitting reception from Sr Norin and her colleagues.

Arriving at the Birmingham Buddhist Maha Vihara, the group were met by Ven. Dr Witharandeniye Kassapa (OBE). The reception involved a prayer being recited in the doorway before everyone went inside to light candles of peace.

Sri M addresses all at the Mosque and gives thanks to Matloob Bhai for the welcome

This was then followed by a short walk to Gurdwara Babe Ke where all the guests had another photo opportunity before going in to the Darbar Sahib (main prayer hall). Here obeisance were paid to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, an edict was received from Guru Ji, a supplication offered for peace,  before a vote of thanks and light refreshments were served in the Langar hall.

The next stop was St. Michael’s Church were guests were received in the courtyard before entering the chapel to recite a prayer. Sri M led the congregation through the Lord’s Prayer.

Bhai Sahib Ji then suggested the walkers should pay respects to the proud fathers of the Industrial Revolution and a quick visit to historic Soho House was made. All were in awe when they realised they were standing in the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

Some of the guests had a wish to view the Nishkam Primary School so Bhai Sahib Ji accompanied them on a brief detour, whilst the larger group made its way to the Gurdwara served by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha.

At the Gurdwara the group went in to the Darbar Sahib (Prayer hall) to pay obeisance to Guru Granth Sahib Ji before making their way to the roof-top Gumbad Darbar where kirtan (hymns) was being recited. The shabad (hymn) was

Awal Allah noor upaya

Kudrat ke sab bandey

Ek noor te sab jag upjaya

Kaun bhale ko mande

‘First of all, God created light;

Mother Nature created all human beings equal;

from that one Light the entire world came into being;

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

After the Kirtan the Ardas (supplication) was said and Guru Ji’s blessings implored. The group then all went to partake in

Sr Norin welcomes all at the Chapel at St Mary’s

Langar (a blessed vegetarian meal from the Guru’s Kitchen prepared and served by volunteers). The Gurdwara is blessed with serving all visitors to the Gurdwara with Langar and an average of 25,000 meals a week are served to worshippers visiting the Guru’s abode.

Following Langar, Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh, welcomed everyone to the Nishkam Centre and congratulated all those present for creating and making history. He said people would remember the walk for years to come as a marker of the cohesion and love that was clearly on display as the walkers were welcomed with open arms, hearts and minds in to each other places of worship.

Welcome at Birmingham Buddhist Maha Vihara

The walk was a clear message from all that we are part of this community, we are all united—regardless of faith, race, colour, gender—whatever it may be is all secondary. The first thing is we are all human beings and this whole planet is a blessed sacred space that has been entrusted to us.   Many said they participated in the peace walk because they wanted to show there are more people who are full of love, and those that hate are fewer and farther between. The walk, which was less than 3 miles long, ending at the Nishkam Centre concluded with messages from many of the chief guests including Sri M and Bhai Sahib Ji. These messages enunciated the need for unity, peace, forgiveness, compassion and humility. The need for faith solidarity and the need for a better appreciation and acceptance has never been greater.

Group arrives at Gurdwara Babe Ke

Guests listen intently at St Michael’s Church

Arrival and discussion at Soho House – the heart of the Industrial Revolution

Bhai Sahib Ji take Sri M and guests to Nishkam Primary School

Dignitaries outside the Gumbad Darbar Sahib

All sit immersed in spiritual bliss

All guests were invited to partake in Langar and build even stronger relations

Guests in Nishkam Centre where Bhai Sahib Ji and Sri M addressed them

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

High Commissioner of India to the UK pays respects to Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, Birmingham, as part of the year-long 350th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh Ji

The High Commissioner of India to the UK, H.E. Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, pays respects to Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, Birmingham (GNNSJ) as part of the year-long 350th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

Patna-born Mr. Sinha, who was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Girija Sinha, and the Consul General of India – Birmingham, Dr. Aman Puri, amongst others, met with Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Spiritual Leader of GNNSJ and other dignitaries.

The High Commissioner, who is the son of the former Vice-Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen S.K. Sinha, paid tribute to the historic Kar Sewa projects carried out by GNNSJ in India, including the heritage conservation and beautification of the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Takhat Sri Harmandir Ji, Patna Sahib, and added, “It was a great honour and privilege for my wife and I to pray and pay respects here.”

Bhai Sahib Ji added, “The paramount purpose of celebrating Sikh Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s 350th Prakash Ustav is to pay loving tribute to the Saint-Soldier Guru, who not only created the Khalsa fraternity, but also blessed Sikhs with the highest exalted spiritual authority – Guru Granth Sahib Ji.”

The year-long celebrations will culminate on the 25th December, 2017, at the Takhat Sahib in Patna. Dr. Puri is planning a mobile exhibition, in conjunction with GNNSJ, celebrating the life and legacy of the great Guru Ji to launch in Birmingham during November. Dr. Puri had earlier staged a passionate drama production in Birmingham, as part of the 350th Birth Anniversary celebrations, which was supported by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

The dignitaries later proceeded to ‘Diwali on the Square,’ a celebration hosted by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, before proceeding to the Shree Geeta Bhawan Multi-faith Diwali event. Bandi Chhor Divas, the Sikh celebration of Guru Hargobind Ji’s release and liberation of 52 imprisoned Rajas from Gwalior Fort, is also celebrated at this time.

Nishkam family and the City of Birmingham remember elder statesman who has passed away

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla OBE - 4th Jan 1927 – 6th Oct 2017

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla OBE – 4th Jan 1927 – 6th Oct 2017

The community has suffered a major loss as one of the pillars of the Sikh community in the UK, Mr Sewa Singh Mandla OBE, a proud member of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, Trustee and Non–executive member of the Nishkam Civic Association and former Chair of many Trusts and Boards, aged 90 passed away on the 6th October 2017.

Sewa Singh Mandla was born on the 4th January 1927 in Nairobi Kenya. As an amritdhari, disciplined Sikh faith practitioner and legal professional, he was the corner stone of the Nishkam Civic Association, as one of its founder members. Having qualified and practiced as a lawyer in Kenya, he was considered a heavyweight in the legal profession. An extrovert who could relate to people of all walks of life irrespective of status, seniority, age, gender, faith tradition, Mr Mandla considered all equally and lovingly with his humble compassionate approach. He was a thorough professional, impeccably dressed and presented, an individual who was both strategic in thought but always had an eye on the detail.

In 1974, he migrated to the U.K and qualified as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of United Kingdom. He set up his own legal practice in Handsworth Birmingham, becoming the first non-white Solicitor to have practised in the Birmingham Magistrates Court. He provided much needed services to the Black, Minority and Ethnic communities with great success. He worked tirelessly for all sections of Handsworth and Birmingham communities, building bonds, and creating social cohesion. This period also led him to become an active volunteer for the growing Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Christian places of worship and charitable institutions, providing legal advice and aid on a pro-bono basis.

As a respected, high profile lawyer, a community and inter-faith leader in Birmingham he was appointed Officer of British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his 50 years’ legal, human rights and selfless community voluntary service. A long serving volunteer at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and a trustee at the Nishkam Civic Association, Mr Mandla has made significant contribution to community and inter-faith development work in the city, nationally and

internationally under the guidance and leadership of Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG. He personally sphere-headed the landmark trip of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group to Amritsar India as well as arranged an auspicious visit and meeting of Sikhs with the Pope at the Vatican.

In 1983 Mr Mandla made legal history for the Sikh community and the legal profession whereby the decision of the Law Lords made a ground breaking case law for the Sikhs to wear turbans (Mandla vs Lee 1983). The headmaster of a private school in Birmingham, Mr. Lee refused to grant Mr Mandla’s son admission in his school unless he removed his turban, cut his traditional long hair and wore a school cap. Mr Mandla commenced legal proceedings against the headmaster for Racial Discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976 and also organised a protest march in Hyde Park, London in which 40,000 people of diverse communities took part. A petition, signed by more than 70,000 people against the decision of the lower courts and highlighting the importance of a Turban to a Sikh, was presented to the Prime Minster at 10 Downing Street. The House of Lords decided in favour of Mr Mandla.

Mr Mandla devoted his entire life to work as a volunteer to serve the needs of voluntary and community organisations, bringing about change to improve the quality of life of the disadvantaged members of the Community. His most outstanding contributions was to the work of many organisations including, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) where he spent an average of eight hours daily, serving the Gurdrwara, its congregation and the Trust. As a founding trustee of the Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) he was most passionate about its work and vision. He has worked tirelessly for many other boards and bodies including Chairmanship of Council Of Sikh Gurdwaras Birmingham; Birmingham Council of Faith’s, and the Roger Hooker Memorial Trust. He was also Vice Chair and Trustee for Religions for Peace UK Chapter, and Founder Member Birmingham Faith Leaders Group.

Mr Mandla was constantly in the media as a spokesperson for the Sikh community; multiculturalism in UK; the legal profession; the success of immigrant communities; and health and wellbeing issues.

Prof. Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice Chair of Nishkam Civic Association (NCA, also known as the Nishkam Centre) said, “The Sikh and wider community in Birmingham and the region has lost one of the longest serving lawyers, an active volunteer, and role model for spirituality. Mr Mandla shone and became a legend for his ability to successfully fuse his professional work in law with spirituality to make a difference to the Sikh and wider communities in the UK. Mr Mandla’s perseverance to take the issue of turbans worn by Sikh pupils in schools, is a testament of his dedication to fight for a just cause. He had an extraordinary passion and flair for serving the community in the pursuit of making a difference. His perseverance to follow through projects and tasks was one of his outstanding qualities.”

Mr Mandla is survived by his son, Gurinder and daughter Tina and six grandchildren and our thought and prayers are with them all during this time. His legacy and contribution will remain for years to come and he will be missed by so many.

Funeral service details for Bhai Sewa Singh Mandla Ji

For more information:

Please contact Prof Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice Chairman, Nishkam Civic Association on 07974150320