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California Sikh community Raises Money to keep City’s Fireworks Show Alive

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Sikh community
Sikh community. Pixabay
  • There are about 500,000 Sikhs presently living in the US, and it has also become the fifth largest religion round the world
  • Turbans are sported by a majority of Sikhs, which makes some people think that they are Muslims

California, July 09, 2017: Visalia, a city in California, was close to having to cancel its annual fireworks show because of lack of funds; but when the mayor said to Amritpal Singh about the issue, the businessman saved the grand occasion of the Fourth of July.

Reportedly, Singh along with the rest of the Sikh community of the city rallied together and they raised $10,000 for the grand event, which is also going to be a benefit for charity for children. Mayor Warren Gubler was quoted as saying to NBC News, “Visalia considers this to be very generous and helpful. We appreciate their show of patriotic support, as one of our newer groups of American citizens.”

ALSO READ: Sikh Temples in California accommodate thousands of Dam Evacuees in Yuba City

According to report published in The Week, it was found in a survey conducted in January 2015 that 6 out of 10 Americans knew “nothing at all” about Sikhism; while a mere 11 percent only, personally knew someone who was Sikh.

There are about 500,000 Sikhs presently living in the US, and it has also become the fifth largest religion round the world, but due to its presence under the radar in the US; a nationwide campaign for education was recently launched for educating the people and making them aware of their Sikh-neighbors. A Sikh from Fresno, California, Bill Singh Nijjer; was quoted as saying that while Sikhs have been living in central California, for about a century, “we haven’t done any outreach. That is probably the reason we were targeted and misidentified.”

Turbans are sported by a majority of Sikhs, which makes some people think that they are Muslims (even though most of the Muslims do not don turbans), and some also assume that it has been a major reason that caused violence against the Sikhs. Gagan Kaur, from Fresno was quoted as saying to NBC news, “Everyone I know has experienced discrimination. I hope that one day this [campaign] will allow our children to not have to go through what we went through.”

– prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Pakistan And India To Construct a ‘Peace Corridor’

Indian pilgrims currently must seek visas to enter Pakistan and travel more than 200 kilometers to visit the Kartarpur shrine.

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India Pakistan, Sikh
Indian Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, third left, stands for the national anthem during the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the planned road corridor to the Pakistan border, at Dera Baba Nanak,. VOA

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay the foundation stone Wednesday for what is dubbed as a cross-border “corridor of peace” to allow religious devotees from India’s minority Sikh community to make free visits to one of their holiest gurdwaras, or temples, on the Pakistani side after more than seven decades.

The temple, known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, is considered to be the first temple ever built and the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the Sikhism founder.

Indian leaders, on behalf of the Sikh community, have long been demanding Islamabad provide unrestricted access to the holy site in Kartarpur, in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

India’s and Pakistan’s independence from Britain in 1947 divided the Punjab province, where Sikhism was born.

Imran Khan, Sikh
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China. VOA

Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu performed the groundbreaking Monday on his side of the corridor at a ceremony just two kilometers from the Pakistani border.

The mutually agreed-to project is rare between the two nuclear-armed South Asian rivals. Historically strained ties have deteriorated in recent years and bilateral official talks remain suspended.

The fenced corridor of about five kilometers aims to connect the Kartarpur temple to the Sikh holy shrine at Dara Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district. Officials say the corridor will be in place for the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth in November 2019.

Khan’s government has invited, among others, Indian officials and journalists for Wednesday’s groundbreaking in Kartarpur, three kilometers from the border with India. An Indian ministerial-level delegation is expected to attend the ceremony as special envoys of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sikh
A Delhi-based Sikh organization Urges UN to Support Turbans as Religious Symbol. Pixabay

“Pakistan calls this a corridor of peace. I call it the corridor of infinite possibilities of peace,” Indian Punjab provincial minister Navjot Singh Sidhu told reporters shortly after arriving in Pakistan for the ceremony. He crossed the border by foot at the Wagah crossing near the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore to attend the event at the invitation of his friend, Prime Minister Khan.

Members of the Sikh community on both sides have welcomed the construction of the cross-border corridor linking the two holy sites.

Indian pilgrims currently must seek visas to enter Pakistan and travel more than 200 kilometers to visit the Kartarpur shrine. The temple is visible on clear days from a viewing stage on the Indian side, where religious devotees gather every day to have a glimpse of it.

Also Read: Vow To Hold Peace Talks With India: Pakistan’s Prime Minster Imran Khan

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, and mutual tensions often hamper pilgrims’ plans to get timely visas to visit the shrine. Two of those wars have been over the disputed Kashmir region, which remains at the center of tensions. (VOA)

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‘Concept of equality’ pervades world’s biggest community kitchen

The Golden Temple complex itself gets millions of visitors from across the country and other parts of the world annually

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Bangla Sahib is one of the most famous place of worship of Sikhs in Delhi. Wikimedia Commons
Equality is important for the biggest community. Wikimedia Commons

If there is one big leveller for people, irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, social status or riches, it is the “langar”, or community kitchen, at the Golden Temple complex, where the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Harmandir Sahib, is located, in this city considered holy by Sikhs.

Referred to as the world’s largest community kitchen, the Sri Guru Ram Das Jee Langar Hall of the Golden Temple complex is unique in several aspects. On an average, it feeds over 100,000 people daily — from children to old people — from all religions, castes, regions, countries; and people from varied social, economic and political backgrounds.

“It is a 24×7 operation that carries on day and night all 365 days of the year. This has been going on for centuries, since the concept of langar was introduced by Guru Nanak Dev (the first Guru of the Sikh religion and its founder; born 1469) and propagated by other Gurus,” Wazir Singh, senior in-charge of the langar preparation, told IANS here.

Unlike other government organisations and institutions in India, there are no provisions for reservations based on caste or religion. Wikimedia commons
The Golden Temple complex provides food for many. Wikimedia Commons

At any given point of the day or night, the place is not only swarmed by devotees wanting to partake what is considered as blessed by service but by hundreds of volunteers who are ever-so-ready to be part of the voluntary cooking and serving process. The langar food is even sent thrice daily to the two Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)-run hospitals in Amritsar, especially to a ward where treatment of mentally-ill patients and drug-addicts is being carried out. The SGPC is tasked with the management all Sikh shrines.

“We have over 500 volunteer employees. The sangat (community) also pitches in with great enthusiasm daily. People come from across Punjab on trucks and tractor-trolleys — even other states, different countries — to help in this massive exercise of making and serving food. Several local residents, including women, have been coming here for years. People take time out of their government and private jobs to serve here, irrespective of their religion or caste. We welcome everyone with love,” Wazir Singh, speaking in Punjabi, pointed out, even as he continued to issue instructions to staffers involved in cooking the langar.

The langar is all vegetarian — comprising mainly of dal (maa-chole ki dal), rice (slightly salted for taste), chapattis, achar (pickle) and a vegetable, along with something sweet (kheer or prasad). In the morning, the “chai langar” comprises of tea and rusk.

The devotees sit down on the matted floor inside the langar hall in rows. To manage the huge rush, the SGPC volunteers allow only a few hundred to enter the hall at one time. The whole operation is carried out in a meticulous manner as a daily routine.

Also Read: ‘Government chalked out 1984 anti-Sikh genocide’

“The whole exercise is quite enormous but it goes on, with the blessings of the almighty, seamlessly. The daily expense is around Rs 15 lakh. We use 100 quintals (100 kg) rice and up to 30 kg (each) of dal and vegetables daily. Over 100 LPG cylinders (domestic size) are used daily for the cooking along with hundreds of kilograms of firewood for the traditional cooking. Nearly 250 kg of ‘desi ghee’ (clarified butter) is used in the cooking. We have over three lakh steel plates. We can serve 10 lakh (one million) people in a day,” Gurpreet Singh, in-charge of the kitchen, told IANS. SGPC functionaries pointed out that 30,000-35,000 people from Amritsar and nearby areas are daily visitors to the shrine and partake langar thrice. Many of these are migrants from other states and poor people who cannot afford meals.

“Our doors are open for everyone without discrimination. We follow the concept of equality here,” said Amrit Pal Singh, a SGPC official at the Information Office. The chapattis, in the thousands, are made on eight chapatti-making machines and even by hand by women and men volunteers. The steel utensils (plates, glasses and spoons), used by devotees, also numbering in lakhs, are washed voluntarily by the devotees themselves or by volunteers.

“The shrine complex has such a spiritual attraction about it. The langar served here leaves you satisfied in many aspects. The whole experience touches your soul,” Ramesh Goyal, a devotee from Bathinda, said.

“I had always heard about this shrine. Today, what I experienced was heavenly. The langar service is unparalleled in any religion. They do it with so much devotion and humility despite such huge crowds. It is unimaginable,” Tariq Ahmed, who had come here with his family from Patna in Bihar, told IANS. Anup Singh, a young Sikh devotee from Amritsar, often accompanies his grandparents and parents to the shrine.

Sikh Community, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh
Children belonging to Sikh Community, Wikimedia Commons 

“I love to serve chapattis to the people having langar. It is a very satisfying and fulfilling experience,” he said. “The whole exercise is carried out selflessly. It is a big task but everything is carried out smoothly. We keep introducing changes depending on the needs of the devotees,” Roop Singh, Chief Secretary of the SGPC, told IANS.

The SGPC, known as the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, manages the Golden Temple complex and gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It has an annual budget of over Rs 1,100 crore, mostly from donations at the gurdwaras.

The Golden Temple complex itself gets millions of visitors from across the country and other parts of the world annually. The strong Sikh diaspora in other countries like United States, Britain and Canada actively contributes to the shrine and visits it whenever they can. IANS

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Sikh Awareness Campaign to Inform Americans About Sikhism is being Received Well

The National Sikh Campaign launched the "We are Sikhs" ad campaign on April 14, on the occasion of Vaisakhi to raise awareness about their religion

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Sikhs and Sikhism in the United states
National Sikh Campaign launched the "We are Sikhs" ad campaign on April 14, on the occasion of Vaisakhi. Pixabay
  • According to reports, the Sikh awareness campaign to spread awareness about Sikhism among the Americans has led to a rise in positive perception about their religion 
  • Non-profit organization, National Sikh Campaign launched the “We are Sikhs” ad campaign 
  • The survey took place in Fresno, California, where violence towards the American Sikhs has been occurring repeatedly 

Washington, September 4, 2017: A recent survey has noted that the Sikh awareness campaign to inform Americans about Sikhism has led to a rise in the positive perception about their religion.

The non-profit organisation, National Sikh Campaign launched the “We are Sikhs” ad campaign on April 14, on the occasion of Vaisakhi, which is considered a holy day by the community.

The survey took place in Fresno, California, where a number of Sikhs live and where violence towards Sikhs has been increasing since the past few years. Two people were killed in Fresno, in the recent months.

Television ads, grassroots events, digital ads and significant news coverage, all form parts of the Fresno effort.

The campaign has been actively engaged since April, in airing ads, conducting grassroots events in Gurudwaras across the United States and portraying Sikhs as good neighbors, proud Americans on popular news channels like the CNN and Fox News nationwide.

We are Sikhs campaign to inform people about Sikhism
‘We are Sikhs’ campaign. Twitter

The ultimate objective of the $1.3 million campaign was to spread awareness regarding the Sikh community, their identity, their belief in equality, their values and ethics like respect for women and every religion, and important information like the religion being the fifth largest in the world.

59 per cent of Fresno residents, which apparently makes the majority, say they are acquainted with at least some knowledge about Sikhs who live in America, according to a survey, as mentioned in the Times of India.

Sixty-eight per cent considered Sikhs as good neighbors and 64 per cent saw them as generous and kind.

Also read: Sikhism in Pakistan: Recalling the Forgotten Treasures of Sikh Heritage

The division of residents who had seen the ads are twice as likely to claim that they have at least some idea about the Sikhs living in America (78 percent) than the ones who haven’t seen the ads (40 percent), the survey noted.

According to the survey results, People who are likely to identify a bearded man wearing a turban with Sikhism, makes 57 percent of those who saw the ads, while those who believe that Sikhs believe in equality and respect for all people, makes 67 percent of the residents who have had seen the ad.

And 60 per cent of Fresno residents that happened to have seen the Sikhs ad believe they have American values.

“Despite tense race relations and an extremely polarized political environment, the We Are Sikhs campaign has been able to make headway in creating awareness of Sikh Americans, who can commonly be identified by their turbans and beards,” said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates.

“This effort is a testament to the Sikh community’s commitment to reaching out to people of all faiths to help them recognize that we all have shared values, and that is a ray of hope that proves that understanding can bring people of all walks of life together,” he added.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Sikhs remained to be a softer target in cases involving profiling, backlash and bigotry, than the average American.

In July, two separate incidents killed two Sikh Americans in one week in California.

In March, A partially masked gunman shot a 39-year-old Sikh man in the arm, outside his home in Kent, Washington. The gunman reportedly shouted, “go back to your own country.”

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha