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June - July 2008
The British Sikh Association celebrates Vaisakhi in style
Over 300 guests attended this glittering event which started with traditional Bhangra dance by the group “Baharain Punjab Dian”. Amongst those who attended included Lord Sheikh, Mr. Virendra Sharma MP, Dr. Ashraf Chohan, MPA Punjab Assembly, Pakistan, and Veteran Marathon Runner Mr. Fauja Singh, now 97 years young.
Secretary General, Dr. Sukhbir Singh Kapoor welcomed the guests and said in his introduction that Interfaith interactivity is integral to the teachings of the Sikh Religion. Its founder, Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached the Unity of God and Fellowship of Humankind. All Sikh Gurus instructed Sikhs to join in the spirit of understanding, friendship and love for all other religions.
Dr. Rami Ranger MBE, Chairman, said that religion now has a new meaning in this ever shrinking world where we are increasingly becoming interdependent on people from different faiths in order to lead our lives. Hardly a day goes by when we do not deal with people who are not from our faith. We all love our religion like we love our parents whether they are poor or rich, perfect or not so perfect. In the times of our need we turn to religion as we turn to our parents. As time goes by, we develop a unique bond and relationship with our faith as we do with our parents. Once we start respecting other faiths, we automatically attract respect for our faith. We have no choice in which religion we are born to, but we do have a choice how we treat each other. President Mr. TS Sahni said that the creation of Khalsa (Saint Soldiers) by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh ji in 1699 was a direct result of the continued injustice, intolerance, suppression, exploitation, plunder, bloodshed and pointless destruction by foreign invaders and unending conflicts between various kingdoms and clans within India and the indignities of caste divisions of the 15th Century.
The Guest of Honour the Rt. Hon. Tony McNulty MP, Minister at the Home Office, in charge of Security and Counter Terrorism said that we must look forward and not back in order to enjoy the benefits of modern life. “We can either perish in hate or prosper in love," he said; and acknowledged the massive contribution made by NRIs, particularly Sikhs, to the UK. In Britain we live under a rule of law where we are all equal regardless of our faith. Any country using religion systematically in order to discriminate against a section of her population cannot progress normally.
Dr. Ashraf Chohan MPA, Member of Punjab Assembly, said he is in favour of easy access granted to Hindu and Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit their places of worship in Pakistan. As a Muslim, he could understand the wishes of his fellow Muslims to have easy access to Holy Mecca for their peace of mind. Similarly, Hindus and Sikhs should be able to visit their place of worship in Pakistan at will. He informed the audience that a motorway is being planned linking Wagha to Nankana Sahib, the birth place of the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Lord Sheikh who has roots in the Holy city of Amritsar praised the way Sikhs invite all faiths to their Gurdwaras and treat them equally. Mr. Virendra Sharma MP who has more Sikhs in his constituency of Southall than any other Member of Parliament, also praised the outstanding contribution of Sikhs in Britain.
Special Awards were presented to Ms. Teji Singh for promoting Asian culture in the mainstream Media and also to Mr. Ravi Chand, Head of Diversity at the Home office for his services to the community.
The vote of thank was given by Dr. Daljit Kaur Maudgil. The evening ended with dinner and dance.
Mr TS Sahni, President British Sikh Association, in his speech said,
“It is such a great pleasure to have a very learned and distinguished representation here today from all different faiths in tune with the spirit of Vaisakhi, a very joyful occasion with a message of love and universal brotherhood.
Creation of Khalsa (Saint Solidiers) by the tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 was a direct result of the continued injustice, intolerance, suppression, exploitation, Plunder, bloodshed and pointless destruction by foreign invaders and unending conflicts between various kingdoms and clans within India and the indignities of caste divisions of the 15th Century.
The founder of the Sikh Faith Guru Nanak born in 1469 from his early childhood had the vision and spiritual foresight to diagnose the underlying causes of the prevailing tragedies and degrading human behaviour. His spiritual providence revealed the truth of one God the omnipresent creator of the entire universe and the equality of mankind. The salvation of an individual depended on one’s deeds (or Karmas) in the creation of God with emphasis on humility, compassion, love and contentment. Strong muscles of power, wealth, egoistic wisdom, meaningless rituals or belonging to a high caste or a particular sect or faith does not provide an automatic and direct ticket to heaven.
In order to clear the mist by interacting with the people of different faiths Guru Nanak travelled widely for over 28 years to places as far apart as Ladakh, Tibet, Assam, Orissa, Ceylone, Afghanistan, Iraq and Mecca. These interactions provided him an opportunity to gain insight knowledge of different faiths and beliefs and his dialogues created a better understanding and goodwill.
All successive Gurus carried forward the spiritual torch of Guru Nanak. Supreme Sacrifices were made by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Ninth Guru Guru Tegh Bahdur Sahib Ji, and the tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji. His wife and four sons took a fearless stand in defence of man’s essential freedoms.
The Khalsa was created and founded on the ethical and philosophical principles of reaffirming equality of all human beings irrespective of caste, creed or religion, equal rights for women, right to religious freedom, accountability, and transparency in governance as opposed to tyranny and injustice.
To ensure continuity Guru Gobind Singh commanded his followers to look upon Guru Granth Sahib a holy scripture containing collective wisdom of saints of different faiths as their Guru.
Instilled with the khalsa (the pure) spirit the Sikhs (who are just 2 % of the population of India) where ever they are in any part of the globe have not only performed heroic deeds to uphold this laudable ideology but have made tremendous contributions in shaping the political course and the economy of the countries of their adoption. They are well known for their exemplary valour, loyalty, devotion to duty and hard work.
The British Sikh Association is committed to uphold and translate these high ideals into practice with endeavours to create good will and better understanding all around.
Vaisakhi day also marks a New Year Day on the Sikh Calendar and I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year and a very happy Vaisakhi. Let us make joint endeavours to make this world peaceful and a better place to live in love and harmony.