Pledging local action to address global challenges for World Interfaith Harmony Week

Presenters and attendees unite to elevate poverty and for a quick photo.

Presenters and attendees unite to elevate poverty and for a quick photo.

In the dawn of World Interfaith Harmony Week (3-9 February 2013), the Nishkam Centre became the setting for a diverse gathering of communities, voluntary and faith organisations, who came together to discuss ways in which interfaith activities can help solve the challenges of poverty in Birmingham and beyond.

The event included stalls, video presentations and talks from a host of speakers representing a range of communities, who reaffirmed their commitments to mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue, in helping elevate local poverty. The event was broken down into three main areas which questioned, ‘what is poverty and how it affects us in Birmingham’, what is Birmingham doing to tackle the problem’ and How can faith relieve poverty’.

Engaging faith in regeneration was a key topic for the talks from various champions of faith and service across Birmingham. Guest speakers included, Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Nishkam Centre, Abdullah Rehman from Balsall Health Forum, Monsignor Canon Daniel McHugh, the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Amrick Singh Ubhi, Director of the Nishkam Centre, Ravi Ladva from the Birmingham Hindu Council, Dr Andrew Smith Interfaith Director for the Archbishop of Birmingham and Cllr John Cotton.

Bhai Sahib Dr Mohinder Singh, who last year was created a Knight of St. Gregory the Great by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, and also delivered a passionate message of common ground to realise working for the common good at the United Nations, said: “We need cohesion, because we all report to one God and we are part of large global family. We have to have unity and respect for each other, feeling the pain and suffering of others.

“Unity and cohesion starts at home. There is need for strengthening the sacred institution of marriage. If there is no cohesion between the couple, then there will be no cohesion in the family, which is the center of our values.

“One can elevate poverty through self-empowerment, which comes about by installing in oneself ‘divine values’ of love, compassion, forgiveness, honesty, accountability and humility. If you do not have these values, there is not check-list to test what you are doing. The mother planet we inherit has plenty of resources, there is no need for anybody to be poor, but we have become poor because of exploitation and greed.”

Bhai Sahib added: “If you have no values or spirituality, you can be a desert, spirituality, inside, which is the worst poverty you can have. We need to be rich in values.”

“The role and leadership that the global interfaith movement has provided to address the UN millennium development goals and finding peaceful solutions to prevent conflict, provide us with a great deal of optimism. However, restoring the honor and dignity of religion and faith, is a prerequisite to furthering more interfaith engagement and corporation.

“Let us start respecting faith as the prerequisite.”

Monsignor Canon, Daniel McHugh, who has supported the response of the Catholic Church to the Government and faith bodies to be involved in the regeneration of deprived areas, said: “We all have places in areas of deprivation; we have Mosques, Gurudawaras, and Churches from all denomination. The most important thing is to train in leadership and have faiths working together.”

Cllr John Cotton said: “I can see from the presentations we have had today, the strength , the diversity, the commitments and shear hard work of our faith communities across the City if Birmingham. Faith communities are often the first point of call when things may start to go wrong for people and what we have seen today shows how they are rising to that challenge.”

He added: “Despite our economic potential, rich traditions and tremendous diversity, parts of Birmingham is still being held back. I feel even if we passively tolerate the fact that there are enablement’s that half the population is trapped in unemployment, where half the children are brought up below the official poverty line, that is not even an act of economic and social waste but I feel it is a moral outrage. Turning this situation should be a priority for people of faith a no faith, to unite the City.”

Speaking about the event, Cllr Hendrina Quinnen said: “Today has shown how important it is for people of all faiths to work together for one common goal. The commitment to eradicate poverty has come out very strongly from all the representatives today.”

She added “It is important that the work that has begun at the Nishkam Centre continues to grow from strength to strength.”

To view a video of the event please click here


Notes to Editor

1. The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan. Just under a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the UN and henceforth the first week of February will be observed as a World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbour’. This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths, and those with no faith.

It is hoped that this initiative will provide a focal point from which all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities.

2. 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 Ahluwalia, 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.

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