Sikh migration project launch: How will you tell your story?

Guests at the launch of ‘My Story-Our Journey’ at the Nishkam Centre

Guests at the launch of ‘My Story-Our Journey’ at the Nishkam Centre

“We are all refugees and migrants on this planet”, said Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh (OBE KSG, Chairman of Nishkam Civic Association), during the launch of the Sikh Migration research project at the Nishkam Centre on 25th January 2017 to an audience keen to participate in the project. “Where did I come from? “Where are your roots? What is my destination?”

The questions posed describe the essence of the project ‘My Story- Our Journey’, launched by the Nishkam Civic Association. The Sikh migration project, secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), aims to capture the retrospective journey of the Sikh population in Birmingham and the Black Country, from the first generation to the current day, through collecting oral histories from those who have experienced and grown up with the migrant journey.

The launch was attended by the project’s steering committee members, which included Councillor Preet K Gill (Sandwell) Suwinder Bains, Partnership and Community Engagement Manager (Birmingham City Council), Jasbir Singh Uppal (University of Wolverhampton), Manjeet

Guests arriving, networking and sharing stories

Guests arriving, networking and sharing stories

Kaur (Media and Heritage Volunteer) and Surinder Singh, Electoral officer (Sandwell) who said “As a person who has a strong connection with working in both Birmingham and the Black Country it was wonderful to see so many people showing a passionate interest and also a willingness to work together on this unique project. With this passion and energy I am sure ‘My Story – Our Journey’ will create a lasting legacy for the contribution of the Sikh Community in our region and  we look forward to seeing and hearing some wonderful and amazing stories”

The diverse audience also included author Jatinder Kaur, who is currently promoting her recent biography of her father, Bhai Sahib Rajinder Singh Ji, titled ‘Chalda Vaheer Jatha: A Spiritual Journey’.

Jatinder briefly spoke about her father’s journey to the UK, settling in Dudley, and the motives behind the transition. She wrote the biography with the help of her father’s diary, which was his ‘voice and guidance’ in writing the book. In her journey in capturing his story, she conducted face-to-face interviews with each person he had met on his international travels in promoting Sikh values, and discovered first-hand the feelings behind the stories of persecution and challenged identity.

Jatinder Kaur: Author of 'Chalda Vaheer Jatha: A Spiritual Journey'.

Jatinder Kaur: Author of ‘Chalda Vaheer Jatha: A Spiritual Journey’.

Rachel Chui (HLF, Committee Member for the West Midlands) was also among the speakers. After hearing the detailed account of the aims and timescales of the project, she spoke about her thoughts on the research: “Heritage is about the intangible – you can’t touch stories. People from all walks of life can contribute to the various histories and shared experiences.” Rachel poignantly added that we have “more in common than our differences.”

Ajit Singh, Contracts Manager (Nishkam Centre) and Inderdeep Kaur Shambi, Project Lead, gave a detailed account of how the project started, and the proposed deliverables.

The project aims to record and collate 30 oral histories, ranging from first generation migrants to the present, and whilst doing so, recruit and train a large number of volunteers with a variety of skills. Photographs will also be collected, which will be used in the touring exhibitions at a number of high profile locations, including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, University of Wolverhampton among many others.

A website will also be developed, to include all the collated research in an accessible and user-friendly format. The project will leave a visible legacy after its completion, in the form of a publication and all contributions will be archived at the Library of Birmingham and Sandwell Archives and an education toolkit will be developed for local schools, encouraging young students to learn about oral history, stories and migration in fun and engaging ways.

The launch received positive feedback from those who attended, Ravinderjit Kaur Briah, a lecturer at De Montfort University, said the project

Listening attentively on how ‘My Story – Our Journey’ will be encapsulated

Listening attentively on how ‘My Story – Our Journey’ will be encapsulated

was an “inspiration”, and this had been a “long time coming and well overdue”. She added that the project would “provide a springboard for so many other projects, and will leave a lasting legacy.”

The ‘My Story-Our Journey’ project has already received coverage from BBC Midlands Today and is capturing the attention of not only the Sikh community, but also all those intrigued by remembering and sharing stories which would otherwise be left untold and

uncaptured.  Satnam Rana (Midlands Today) discussed with the team possible future input and her own very personal stories.

In order to create a full tapestry of Sikh migration in Birmingham and The Black Country the project is looking to interview and collaborate with a diverse range of Sikh voices as well as collate personal photographs that depict moments in time.

The project is also keen to capture experiences of non-Sikh people who have had experiences or opportunities of working or living with Sikhs.

If you would like to share your story or volunteer to help with the project, please get in touch with Inderdeep Kaur at inderdeep.kaur@ncauk.org or visit http://nishkamcentre.org/arts-culture-heritage/birmingham-black-country-sikh-migration-story/volunteer-project/

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Birmingham & Black Country Sikh Migration Story project up and running thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund

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The Nishkam Civic Association has been granted £80,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop and deliver a project on ‘The Birmingham & Black Country Sikh Migration Story’. The project will capture the retrospective journey of the Sikh population in Birmingham and the Black Country, from the first generation to the current day.

The research will explore the sociological, political and economic perspectives to gain a rounded, contextual understanding of the migration. The project will not only focus on the history of the collective migration drivers, but also on individual narratives, to truly understand the change and impact on each migrant life. The famous Mandla vs Lee case will be explored, as an example of how the migrants worked with, and mostly resolved, the inevitable clash of cultures and ideals.

Vanessa Harbar, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “We’re delighted that HLF support will enable the Nishkam Civic Association to capture the rich heritage of Sikh migration in Birmingham and the Black Country. The research will help members of the Sikh community, as well as the wider community, to explore and appreciate the economic, cultural and social contribution of their forebears. Thank you to the National Lottery Players who have made this possible.”

The project which has taken nearly two years to develop will involve collaborations with a number of organisations, including Birmingham Museum Trust, University of Wolverhampton, Library of Birmingham, Sandwell Archives Services, Nishkam School Trust, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Sandwell MBC and many more.

Volunteers for the project will engage with first, second and third generation Sikhs to capture their individual stories of migration, and historical research will be carried out to contextualise the Sikh migration experience. A touring exhibition will also be curated for display in the main gallery of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for a number of months, after which it will be displayed in other prominent locations over the West Midlands.

Toolkits will be developed for local schools to accompany their learning, and a publication will also be produced, capturing the research and outputs of the project. A microsite will be will be used to collate the research, share the oral history ‘stories’ and photographs, videos and other findings. Archives will eventually be deposited at the Library of Birmingham and at Sandwell Archive Services, so the history of how the Sikhs came to Birmingham and the Black Country can be accessed by all now and in the future.

Sewa Singh Mandla (Trustee, Nishkam Civic Association) stated: ‘We greatly appreciate the contribution made towards the project by HLF, as it will mean the history of the Sikhs migrating to Birmingham and the Black Country will not go undocumented. The research will give us a deeper insight into how lives were (and are) impacted by this change, and will allow us to reflect on the great endurance and strength demonstrated by the Sikh migrants.’

For more information about the project, please contact Ajit Ubhi, Nishkam Civic Association.

 

ENDS

Notes to editors

About Nishkam Civic Association

The Nishkam Civic Association (NCA) was established in 2003, a relatively new and unique organisation charged with the task of developing a dynamic Sikh faith inspired civic agenda. It is one of the Five Centres for Excellence founded by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ), a Sikh faith-based organisation dedicated to nishkam sewa (active, selfless volunteering) to serve the common good. For more information, visit http://www.nishkamcentre.org/about-us/

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 36,000 projects with more than £5.9bn across the UK.

http://www.hlf.org.uk

For further information, images and interviews, please contact

Ajit Ubhi at Nishkam Civic Association on ajit.singh@ncauk.org.uk

 

 

Students host exciting interfaith concert

Start Now Oxford performers 2Talented students from local Christian schools and the Nishkam School, supported by musicians and a whole host of volunteers will make special appearances during the “Start Now” concert with international musicians Gen Verde, on Wednesday 2nd December, 7.30pm at Elgar Hall, University of Birmingham.

The Gen Verde band are members of the Focolare Movement founded by Chiara Lubich, and this concert project is a creative partnership with the Nishkam Educations Trust

From Sunday 29th November the young local performers will be rehearsing with Gen Verde at Nishkam School, getting ready for Start Now Oxford performers 1aWednesday’s concert, when it is hoped many family, friends and members of the local community will attend this celebration of hope and shared commitment to build a better society through religious principles.

Accomplished drummers from our community will welcome Gen Verde to the stage ready for a concert of musical styles that reflect the 13 different nationalities among the band, as well as the contributions of our Birmingham youth.

Songs will express themes such as compassion, peace, forgiveness and ecology.

For more information or to reserve tickets please ring Patricia Whitney or Mary Cass on 0121 406 3650 / 07790 716887 /or email patriciawhitney@gmail.com

 

 

St Chads Cathedral vigil for Syria and refugees attracts cross community support

Some of the invited guests at the Vigil (Picture courtesy of St Chad’s Cathedral website)

Some of the invited guests at the Vigil (Picture courtesy of St Chad’s Cathedral website)

On Tuesday 6th October, Birmingham’s St Chad’s Cathedral hosted a vigil for all the refugees that were suffering across the world and in particular Syria. The event saw people from all walks of life and faith denominations come together to show solidarity with refugees.

The Vigil was open to all. Representatives of many faiths were invited and prayers and reflections were recited on the night. The aim of the event was to remember the thousands who had died escaping war and its consequences, to recognise the plight of those who have fled and now languished in refugee camps. The formal part of the evening started at 7pm and concluded at 8.15pm followed by refreshments and an opportunity to speak to some of the refugees present and those involved in providing essential services to them. The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley made the formal welcome to the Cathedral.

The Nishkam Centre Director, Amrick Singh, said ”We were glad to have been there amongst friends. The solidarity shown and the genuine heartfelt belief that together we must do something was good to see. To have talked to and heard the recollections from asylum seekers and refugees from Syria, the Ivory Coast Sudan, Eritrea, Iran and Nigeria was emotionally distressing and moving”.The essence of the prayers and hymns was to remember the refugees who had died seeking safety from conflict and those who were still suffering. The general feeling of many was they felt quite helpless yet turned to faith for solace and to pray for those affected. So far more than 2,600 migrants are known to have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe in 2015, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Amrick went on to applaud the selfless service undertaken. ”The service provided across the City of Birmingham by those of faith and no faith is quite remarkable. St Chad’s Sanctuary in collaboration with the Salvation Army offers a hearty welcome and support to destitute refugees on a daily basis; the food banks providing essential supplies and the Nishkam Homeless Help project and Midland Langar Sewa providing hot vegetarian meals, is a show of that solidarity and humaneness that we desperately need to see more of. We are reminded by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who recently said that we should all remember, ‘I am not my brother’s keeper; I am my brother’s brother’. If we all remembered that lives of many would improve substantially.

It was evident that the refugee situation had affected people of all ages and this was evident by the diversity of ages represented at the vigil. Our very own Nishkam Primary School and Nishkam High School uniforms we clearly and proudly donned on the night.  At the beginning of the vigil the Most Reverend Bernard Longley announced to the congregation the presence of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Nishkam representatives and formally welcomed them. He later spoke passionately to the Nishkam School students and reminded them that St Chad’s was the Cathedral where Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE received his Papal Knighthood in 2014.

END

Notes to Editors:

For more information:

 

 

Health experts and faith communities explore the way forward on End of Life Care

GNNSJ (c) 2015 - 25

The Nishkam Healthcare Trust held a conference on 18th May on ‘End of life care – the Role of Faith and Hope’. The event was a collaboration with Birmingham healthcare commissioners in order to give voice to community needs at the end of life. Faith communities took to the stage to offer personal experiences and reflections on the role of faith, and the Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG were given the opportunity to engage with the public on their new End of Life Care model.  The conference theme of ‘faith and hope’ was reflected in the keenness to share insights at a human and inter-religious level to further enhance services for End of Life Care.

GNNSJ (c) 2015 - 3The event coincided with the Health Service Ombudsman’s recent announcement concerning end of life care that, “doctors and nurses must involve patients and their families in decisions about their care’’. Transparency was a key theme for the event, presenting the opportunity to inform and involve the public on a new strategy for end of life care.

The conference began with a prayer and reflection.  The opening theme was on ‘what one wishes to know about one’s faith, regarding end of life’. Perspectives from the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Rastafarian, Hindu and Sikh traditions were heard loud and clear, giving a unified voice to the dignity of faith at such a crucial time of end of life.

The theme of ‘a good farewell from a faith perspective’ was by explored by Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder GNNSJ (c) 2015 - 10Singh OBE, who as chair of the Nishkam group of organisations and is both locally and internationally recognised for his faith and interfaith leadership in developing innovative approaches to social provision.  His overriding message that “our prayers can be different, but our tears are the same” offered food for thought to the diverse audience.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh observed also that, in order to bid the last farewell, the three constituents of the human being – mind, body and soul/spirit – need to be considered, and that the role of the spirit as the spark of life becomes clearer at death, when just the mind and body remain.  With respect to spiritual dimension he commented:

“While seeing is believing – for many, believing can also lead to seeing.”

GNNSJ (c) 2015 - 8Finally, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh added some thoughts regarding the role of ‘assumption’ and ‘confidence’ in each step we all take in life, from the act of speaking to boarding a plane.  We take it for granted that the brain will activate the necessary neurotransmitters and that the pilot is competent to take us to our destination, otherwise we would not attempt to say anything or to fly.  Similarly, for those who assume and have confidence that God exists and He is kind, the fear of death diminishes.

Medical professional, Dr Ross Bryson, GP from Karis Medical Centre, reiterated the need to look after the soul, especially towards the end of life and opportunities for dialogue in the conference highlighted a number of areas where services could be improved and enhanced.GNNSJ (c) 2015 - 11

With the hope that this initiative would be the first of many between faith communities and the NHS, Dr Manvir Kaur Hayer, Chair of Nishkam Healthcare Trust said, “This conference has begun an important dialogue between the public, faith leaders, and health practitioners, and we look forward to continued collaboration towards delivery of values-led care, especially towards the end of life.”

The conference additionally offered an opportunity for Nishkam Healthcare Trust to highlight its advanced care planning booklets, which help patients review and document their needs at the end of life. The conference team found that advanced care planning booklets offer a useful introduction towards planning for the end of life, but that the process, nevertheless, requires continuous conversation with individuals and their loved ones throughout the journey.
GNNSJ (c) 2015 - 23The event also showcased AnonCare (www.anoncare.com), a faith inspired digital network for community care, which brings together patients, carers and the wider community for the shared management and responsibility for the well-being of others. The system demonstrated the impact faith can have in technology and healthcare.

Following on from the conference, Dr Ayaz Ahmed, Clinical Service Lead for Palliative care in SWBCCG quoted “Nishkam have got a niche into ethnic minority populations that the CCG may not be able to reach”.

To view photos from the event, please click here.

Event documents:

Health experts & faith communities explore the way forward on End of Life Care – Nishkammediacentre.com

Nishkam 5 Centres of Excellence

Lee Stoneking Addresses UN General Assembly

Ross Brysonn – A Christian Perspective on End Of Life Care/ A Jesus Perspective on End Of Life Care

Jasvir Singh Grewal – END OF LIFE

Jyotveer – Link to Share Compassion Today video

Dr Ahmed CCG – End of Life Care Services for Sandwell and West Birmingham Population

Anna Lock – Advance Care Planning

 

Sikhs honoured to have displayed floral arrangement at St Chad’s Cathedral Annual Flower Festival

ik onkarSikhs from the Nishkam Centre and the parent organisation, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) were privileged and honoured to be invited to participate in St Chads’ Cathedral Flower Festival in Birmingham which took place on the 20-22 June 2014. Organised by the St Chads Cathedral Association the event was a resounding success at bringing together beautiful floral arrangements and encouraging people of all faith to participate. GNNSJ and the Nishkam Centre were pleased to have been invited and are always keen to work with other faiths and communities.

The Sikh floral arrangement showing ‘EkOnkar’ is the symbol that represents the “One Supreme Reality” or “One God”. Prepared by the Flower Shop Birmingham – a business that forms part of the Nishkam village and started by husband and wife team Ranjit Singh and Hardip Kaur, the floral arrangement stood proud and seemingly not a bit out of place within the great Cathedral. Hardip Kaur said that “it was an honor and privilege to be invited to take part in such a wonderful event”.

The annual event hosted at the picturesque St Chad’s Cathedral which was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852) and completed in 1841 was a fitting venue. The standard of the flower arrangements was quite incredible and each could have been a winner in its own particular way. There were about 400 people at the final concert and at least 1,500 people visited the Cathedral over the whole weekend. They included, the Church of England, the Polish Community, the Caribbean Community as well as many Catholics Parishes and Schools and of course the Sikh Community.

The Judges had their work cut out as the flowers were so impressive. The flower festival involved teams from across the city. The winning design, was by Minh Lane, who works at the Cathedral and produced the display called, “Will these Dry bones Live?” It was the display set up on a sand base representing the desert with drift wood as the dry bones. It had two snakes made of fir cones and the seeds of the cones represented new life. The green Chrysanthemums were the beginning of new life. She got her idea from a book of the bible called Ezekiel. As the Archishop, Bernard Longley, had been called away, the prizes were presented by Cathedral Dean, Canon Gerald Breen.

The Flower Festival 2014 as usual invited people from all walks of life to participate and attend to contribute to its great success. The festival concluded with an Orchestral Concert followed by canapés. The soloist this year was Prof David Saint who played with the orchestra and some organ pieces of his own. Anne Symonds, one of the key organisers is noted to have said, “We set out to give our flower festival as strong an ecumenical flavour as possible. This year were hoping to spread our net even wider and attract yet more ecumenical friends”.

Anne concluded with, “Next year will be a very special year for the Flower Festival and we hope the Sikh community will think about taking part again and this might encourage even more faiths to

Innovation and values key components as new NHS CEO and Executives meet with Nishkam Health Team

tobynca22of22_zps7868bda1Newly appointed CEO of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Toby Lewis, along with Chairman, Richard Samuda and Non-Executive Director, Dr Sarindar Singh Sahota visited Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and the Nishkam Centre as part of their wider strategy to work with local community organisations to improve health and wellbeing across all communities. Discussions took place to scope a more resilient health model that empowers patients with shared values for the common good.

The visit included a tour of Nishkam’s five centres for excellence, which began at the Gurudwara, where everyone paid their respects to Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. This was then followed by a visit to the roof-top Guru Darbar (Guru’s court), where the visitors marvelled at its unique internal architecture and the hand crafted breath-taking mirror work done by a muslim craftsman.

The esteemed guests visited the Nishkam Pharmacy which is managed through voluntary efforts of healthcare professionals and members of the community. Following this they made their way to the Nishkam Centre to understand what each organisation could do to assist the other and identify opportunities for collaboration. The discussion explored the strength of faith / community organisations, the vast social / spiritual capital and the volunteering element that clearly existed and how this could be dovetailed with service needs to improve patient services and choice.

The meeting included discussions to identify ways organisational strengths could be utilised to serve the local and tobynca1of22_zpsc58070b9global community, whilst reflecting on the progress GNNSJ and NCA had made in creating interfaith harmony and community cohesion.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman of GNNSJ said: “It was an honour to welcome Richard, Toby and Sarinder to the Gurudwara and Nishkam Centre. The meeting was informative and a good opportunity to explore possible ways we could compliment and support each other.”

Bhai Sahib added: “Collaboration and partnership is crucial; we must work together innovatively and excel. Partnerships are recognised as the way forward and are one of the eight Millennium Development Goals. It is paramount that we are also frugal whilst being innovative and creative to improve service provision in a culturally sensitive way. We must utilise values in all that we think and do, which is why we created the Nishkam Schools to impart values to children that will enable them to become good citizens and professionals”.

In addition to community empowerment, Toby Lewis discussed his vision to enhance the values and personal accountability within NHS staff. He was keen to share that becoming a force for the ‘greater good’ is what attracts many in the NHS to serve patients in the first place. He also shared his vision to reviving these values which would bring about the change healthcare seeks right now.

tobynca10of22_zps4b4e7e6eChief Executive of SWBH NHS Trust, Toby Lewis said: “Our organisation delivers high quality community and acute healthcare.  Yet we have a great deal to learn from partners such as Nishkam about how we create sustainable help for people in their own home that joins up the range of care needs that individuals and families have.

“We have discussed a variety of collaborations for the coming months and look forward to confirming which have the greatest merit once we have had chance to review the public health needs that our own clinicians and those from the Nishkam health team have collated.

“As we develop our foundation application it is vital to the future of our Trust that we become ever more deeply embedded in the local communities that we serve.”

Before departing the guests enjoyed Langar (blessed vegetarian meal from the Guru’s kitchen) and were amazed to learn that over one million free meals are prepared and served by volunteers to visitors every year.

There was a sense of excitement that the discussion will strengthen partnerships and formulate a collaborated wider strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of the people living in Sandwell, West Birmingham and beyond.

To view photos of the visit please click here.

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors:

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

Chaired by Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh it aims to serve and uplift society through the practice of core values – nishkamta, or the spirit of selflessness, being one of them. Inspired by Dharam (religion) GNNSJ has generated a flourishing culture of volunteering, which has contributed immensely to transforming visionary projects into reality.

For his services to religious faith propagation, community service, education and research, Bhai Sahib has been awarded two Honorary Doctorates from Birmingham’s Universities. He is passionate about values-based education and is the Patron of the Nishkam Education Trust which has set-up Nishkam Nursery (2009), Nishkam Primary Free School (2011) and Nishkam Secondary School with 6th Form (2012).

Her Majesty The Queen hosts Award for Voluntary Service winners

Her Majesty The Queen greets Bhai SahibRepresentatives from the Nishkam Centre in Handsworth were among the many voluntary groups to be present at a prestigious event, hosted by Her Majesty the Queen at St James’s Palace. The occasion marked a celebration for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services winners from across the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
The Nishkam Centre was delighted and proud to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2010 and was humbled to be invited by Her Majesty to a ceremony to celebrate the achievements of all the winners. It was a fantastic occasion for all organisations that had gone above and beyond the call of duty, to meet each other and reflect on their commitments to making Britain better.

Nishkam Centre Chairman, Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh and Centre Director, Amrick Singh were pleased to be invited to meet with The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at St James’s Palace. Bhai Sahib Ji was no stranger to meeting The Queen, they had met several times on previous occasions including the time of welcoming Pope Benedict with Her Majesty for the Pontiff’s State Visit to the UK in Edinburgh (September, 2010), the Queen’s visit to Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple), Amritsar, India during the re-gilding undertaken by GNNSJ (October, 1997) and the launch of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration at Lambeth Palace (February, 2012).

Amrick Singh, recalled “We were introduced to The Queen and shook hands while we exchanged quick niceties. I remember saying ‘Good Morning Your Majesty, it is a pleasure to meet you and may God Bless you always’. She smiled and said Good Morning and thanked me. There was an aura about her that was special – it was as if I was standing before my own mother, it was a great feeling; I did not feel as though I was formally meeting her for the first time.”

Many who arrived at the Palace were in awe of the crowds present, the auspicious occasion, the grandiose and meticulous attention to detail and above all the opportunity to meet with Royalty. St. James’s Palace is the senior Palace of the Sovereign, with a long history as a Royal residence. As the home of several members of the Royal Family and their household offices, it is often in use for official functions and is not open to the public. The State Apartments are sometimes used for entertaining during in-coming State Visits, as well as for other ceremonial and formal occasions like this reception.

Bhai Sahib commented, “By personally welcoming the guests, The Queen and Duke showed great humility and uplifted people. It was a great gesture that was most appreciated by all.”  He also had the opportunity to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and prominent members of the Awards Committee. “It was really good to meet Royalty, share with them the fantastic work we are blessed to be involved in and see so many grass-roots organisations that were doing some innovative work with volunteers”.

Bhai Sahib Ji went on to say, “We were at the Palace on behalf of all the many hundreds of volunteers who work selflessly to provide much needed services to the community. It was a special opportunity to share the wonderful projects on education, values, health and wellbeing, regeneration and more importantly the role faith plays. Our cutting edge is ‘nishkamta’ – to go beyond one’s self, to work for the welfare of all, to be a sacrifice for the other. That’s what we are about, this is important to us.”

The Centre Director, Amrick Singh, commented “The reception was an opportunity to share with the distinguished guests whatHM The Queen mets Amrick Singh some of the volunteer groups were involved with. For example, the Nishkam Centre is a living testament to the work of the community and voluntary service, offering support in the areas of training and education, health and wellbeing, youth and community activities, economic development, civic and interfaith engagement. We are proud to have been part of this prestigious event and are pleased to share with the Royal family the great projects on behalf of the many volunteers who diligently commit themselves to making a difference.”

Amrick also reflected, on some of the people they were able to meet who were very interested in the work that Bhai Sahib Ji was leading on. These included Air Marshal Sir David Walker, who spoke fondly about Birmingham. Dr Justin Davis Smith who was an Award Committee member and Executive Director at the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, who was intrigued by the broad scope of the Nishkam activities and said that it was always a pleasure to see so many organisations doing great community work.

The Duchess of Gloucester was fascinated to learn that Bhai Sahib Ji had studied at the Duke of Gloucester School in Africa and had fond memories of his time there and that he shared his birthday with the Duke. At this point the Duchess’ Lady in Waiting went and invited the Duke to meet with Bhai Sahib Ji. The Duke of Gloucester discussed the School and faith with Bhai Sahib Ji. It transpired that the school was named after the Duke’s father and Bhai Sahib Ji had his birthday on the same day as the Duke’s father. The Duke was very impressed by the work being undertaken by charities like Nishkam. He went on to comment about Sikhs in Uganda, in particular he mentioned Sikhs being very industrious and hardworking.

The Queen’s Lady in Waiting, Lady Farnham, spoke at length with Bhai Sahib Ji and discussed the contribution that community organisations and the voluntary sector as a whole was making. Also representative from the Methodist Homes Charity found great synergy with the charitable work of the Nishkam family and spoke with Bhai Sahib Ji about their endeavours.

Overall the event went really well and it was obvious that the guests enjoyed their time at St James’s Palace. It was an event to be remembered and everyone was pleased to have met The Queen who went out of her way to mingle with the guests over the drinks and canapés reception.

ENDS

  1. Images of the day can be found at gallery.bcafilm.co.uk/p125686183 (Image for NCA nos. 104 ->)

All Party Parliamentary Group visit Birmingham to witness ‘faith in action’

 All Party Parliamentary Meeting The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Faith and Society, chaired by Stephen Timms MP, including Jim Dobbin MP, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Baroness Kathleen Richardson and Lord Sheikh visited Birmingham to explore how faith based initiatives are promoting wellbeing and providing services in the City.

The delegation visited local faith centres including Birmingham Central Mosque, Central Synagogue and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) Gurudwara (Handsworth) meeting with faith leaders and City Council members to discuss the impact of faith on the City and the City’s growing number of faith initiatives.

The visit to GNNSJ and the Nishkam campus included a tour of the ‘Nishkam Centres of Excellence’, that began with a humble presentation of bouquets by the guests to Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal Guru and scripture of the Sikhs. This was followed by a visit to the Guru’s Kitchen, where over one million free vegetarian meals are prepared and served every year to visitors by volunteers. The esteemed guests toured the faith inspired community cooperative for economic development (Marg Sat Santokh Ltd) before visiting the renowned new free school, Nishkam Primary School and then made a final stop at the Nishkam Centre to meet representatives from faith-based organisations, to explore their experiences and innovative contributions across the City.

The meeting included a discussion for organisations to identify barriers they face, whilst reflecting on the progress Faith Based Organisations (FBO) had made in creating interfaith harmony and community cohesion.

Stephen Timms MP said: “We were looking for ideas today and we found some good inspiration for our work in the next few months. I was very impressed by the Nishkam Primary School, I thought that was beautiful. The emphasis on teaching values to young children at the beginning of their school life is very valuable and impressive.

“This is the first time the APPG has met outside Westminster and we are very pleased that Birmingham has been the venue and the Nishkam Centre has been so hospitable to us, we are very grateful.”

A humble presentation of bouquets by the guests to Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Lord Sheikh went on to comment: “I was most impressed by how work is being done on the ground level amongst the community, which is appreciated. The Nishkam Centre is a role model and perhaps, others can follow what has been done here.

“We cannot be complacent and we must ensure that this cohesive work continues to be undertaken.”

Baroness Kathleen Richardson said: “The friendships that we have between as people of faith, the outcome of that must be a strengthening of society and the common good because that’s what we have in common.”

Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh reminded all about the significance of partnership working and a unified faith inspired approach. He said: “We have to restore the dignity and honour of religion back again in the 21st century, you cannot park religion away. 75% of the 7 billion people across the world are directly or indirectly involved in religion or in faith. If you have faith, it means you have trust. If you have trust, you have hope.

“We also need to consider personal exposure as we humans are a function of our exposure. If people are further exposed to faith communities, people will see that faith is an agent of goodness. The UN Millennium Development Goals compel us to work together on serving humanity; we must form partnerships on common grounds between faith based organisation, Governments, local agencies, civic bodies and society.”

A discussion for organisations to identify barriers they face

Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion and Equalities, Cllr John Cotton said: “The Council is working ever more closely with faith communities as part of our drive to deal with inequality and disadvantage and I look forward to showcasing that work. The very fact that the All Party Parliamentary Group is visiting Birmingham reflects the incredible work already being carried out by our faith communities.”

Daniel Singleton, National Executive Director of FaithAction, the secretariat for the APPG said: ‘We are delighted to support the APPG, we hope that though this group we can raise awareness of the fantastic work of faith based organisations that we at FaithAction witness on a daily basis. The whole event today was superb and the Nishkam team role modelled for us all what faith in action is all about’.

To view images from the day please click here

ENDS

Released by: Nishkam Centre

Telephone: 0121 515 4229

Email: amrick.ubhi@ncauk.org

Notes to Editor

1. The Nishkam Civic Association, more fondly known as the Nishkam Centre is one of the five Centres for Excellence created by the faith-based charity, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha.

The Nishkam Centre is at the forefront of advancing community and economic wellbeing; promoting interfaith, intercultural, intercommunity dialogue; and championing social justice and inclusion. To deliver its mission, it has embedded and promotes active volunteering and selfless service for the benefit of humanity in all aspects of its work

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

For more information, please visit www.ncauk.org

2. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society was established in 2012 to explore the practical contribution that faith makes to society through the work of faith based organisations, identify best practice and promote understanding of the groups providing innovative solutions around the country. It aims to draw attention to the way faith-based initiatives are working effectively to serve the most vulnerable members of their communities.

A growing movement of faith based social activism is making itself felt in the UK in a huge range of projects – youth work, employment support, food banks, debt counselling – and overseas with fair trade, banks for the un-bankable and health initiatives on a large scale.

For more information on FaithAction please email hannah.walker@faithaction.net

Community says “No to Race and Hate Crime”

Guests view presentationsLeading experts from around the UK converged at the Nishkam Centre, at the end of October, to share their understanding of and efforts towards dealing with Race and Hate crimes. Addressing the Coalition Government’s “Challenge it, Report it, Stop it” action plan, the conference shed light on many underlying factors that needed to be considered.

The day recognised the need for academia, public, private and voluntary sectors to stand together and address these issues from the local level upwards in order to create a changed nation. The entire conference showed that interracial harmony could only come about when individuals are content in their own identity and compassionate towards those that appear different from them.

The agenda was decidedly a personal one, with speakers highlighting the need to reconsider the way identity and culture is taught perhaps by creating a transient identity ideal for the global village; recognising the individual motivations that produce hate crime, much of which is due to fear; empowering “victims” by referring to them as a “client”, and dealing with hate crimes by using the tried and tested domestic violence model.

Event Speakers included:

  • Prof Ted Cantle from Institute of Community Cohesion.
  • J Boora from All Nations Consultancy.
  • Dr Collin Webster of LeedsUniversity and Author of ‘Understanding Race & Crime’.
  • Dr Paul Iganski of University of Lancaster and Co-ordinator of Hate Crime Research.
  • Dr Mashuq Ally, Assistant Director of Equalities and Human Resources at Birmingham City Council.
  • Police Superintendent Paul Giannasi, UK Ministry of Justice.
  • Emile Peltier, Senior Practitioner Calerdale Youth Offending Team.

Director of the Nishkam Centre and opening speaker, Amrick Singh Ubhi said, “The theme of today is “moving towards harmony” – this implies we – individually and collectively – must task ourselves and give ourselves permission to do something different. As individuals we are the weakest and strongest links in the human chain we must strengthen that chain by empowering ourselves and others with the right values and so the chain becomes stronger”.Engaging talks

He went on, “ Nishkam means selfless service – going beyond yourself without any reward or expectation – today we need to apply that – we need to go away from the conference to be the change we want to see in others. My dharam (faith / duty) through our tenth Sikh Guru – Guru Gobind Singh, states: ‘Recognise the human race as one’ – the whole of humanity is one mega-race and one big family. Community says “No to Race and Hate Crime”

The importance of community cohesion cannot be underestimated. Cohesion creates stability, and allows a gain in confidence to all. We need to ensure adequate protection and safeguards of fundamental rights and provide equal opportunities, within both secular and spiritual fields – also imparting education / knowledge and important values within diversity”.

Amrick concluded with “Every human act has its origin in the mind. The human mind is a powerful tool with the capacity to be either one’s best friend or one’s worst enemy – I invite all delegates and those reading later, to be the change, participate and make a difference”.

Bhai Amrick SInghMr Cantle, who was on his way to launching his latest book ‘Interculturalism: the new era of Cohesion and Diversity’ spoke eloquently about the changing landscape and how multiculturalism and super-diversity policy were no longer relevant. He went on to clarify why multiculturalism policy had failed and that the era of interculturalism which was appropriate for a world defined by globalisation an superdiversity.

Mr Mashuq Ally commended Handsworth, the area in which the conference was held, for the community’s ability to unite against hate crimes in order to transform it into a safer neighbourhood. He went on to explain how Birmingham City Council was dealing with diversity and cohesion matters.

Moving forward, the conference provided examples of best practice that others could learn from and apply themselves. The consensus was a profound difference for years to come could be made by uniting, sharing our knowledge and teaching respect for all.

Whilst there is always more work that can be done, the conference gave hope by reminding everyone that great steps had already been taken towards harmony.

ENDS

 

Released by: Nishkam Centre

Telephone: 0121 515 4229

Email: info@ncauk.org

For further information:

Nishkam Civic Association,

The Nishkam Centre,

6 Soho Road, Handsworth,

Birmingham, B21 9BH.

Tel: 0121 525 4229

email: info@ncauk.org

http://www.ncauk.org