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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
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  • 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

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‘Peace Corridor’ Between India And Pakistan Open For Sikh Community

India blamed Pakistan for supporting a Sikh separatist movement several decades ago and allowing the remaining leadership of that movement to live in Pakistan.

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Pakistan, Sikh
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses during a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan led a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for a new border crossing with arch rival India, days after New Delhi announced it would support a corridor to facilitate its minority Sikh community to visit one of their holiest sites across the border.

The fenced crossing dubbed a “corridor of peace” will link Indian border city Dera Baba Nanak, to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak in Pakistani Punjab.

The Kartarpur corridor is supposed to be completed and opened well ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikh guru on November 23, 2019. It will provide year round visa-free access to Sikh pilgrims from India after more than seven decades.

In a speech after laying the foundation stone, Khan said Pakistan and India have both made mistakes in the past but they now need to work together to improve ties.

Sikh
Sikh pilgrim wait for food at the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

“War is out of question between our two countries, which are equipped with nuclear weapons. It will be really crazy for both of them to even think about going to war,” the Pakistani leader warned. “Our countries must stop blame game. If France and Germany can leave their bloody past behind why can’t India and Pakistan break the shackles of the past.”

Khan assured Sikh visitors from India that they will find their worship place and surrounding complex a completely developed structure equipped with all facilities and comforts when they visit Pakistan for the 550th birthday celebration of the Sikh guru.

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

The idea to open the corridor has been floated around since the 1980s, never coming to fruition due to the tumultuous relationship between the two nuclear armed South Asian neighbors.

The proposal received a fresh impetus in August when Pakistan’s army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, told Indian minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was in Pakistan to attend the oath taking ceremony of Khan, Islamabad would be willing to open the corridor.

General Bajwa was among the big gathering of guests at the groundbreaking ceremony, including diplomats, Indian journalists, Sikh devotees and a ministerial level delegation representing Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last week, the Indian cabinet, chaired by Modi, approved the move.

On the Indian side

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.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj Wednesday played down expectations the corridor could lead to the revival of official talks between the two countries.

“The moment Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, the dialogue can start but the dialogue is not connected with only the Kartarpur corridor,” Indian media quoted her as telling reporters in Hyderabad ahead of the groundbreaking on the Pakistani side.

India, Sikh
Indian VP Naidu (3L), Union ministers Nitin Gadkari (6L) and Hardeep Singh Puri (5R), Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore (2L), and other officials stand for the national anthem during the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the planned Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib road corridor to the Pakistan border, at Dera Baba Nanak. VOA

The Indian external affairs minister had also been invited to attend the ceremony by her Pakistani counterpart, but she expressed her inability to undertake the visit due to prior commitments.

Swaraj also requested in a tweet that Islamabad “expedite construction of the corridor in order to ensure that our citizens can pay their respects at the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor as soon as possible.”

Previously, Indian pilgrims had to take a visa and arrive in the Pakistani border city Lahore before taking the 2-3 hour journey to the shrine. The new corridor, which is planned to remain open year round, will cut their journey to a mere 6 kilometers.

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.

Impetus for peace

Politicians on both sides have hailed the decision as an impetus for peace between the two countries that have fought several wars in their seventy-year existence. In the last few years, violence, including cross border shelling from both sides, has intensified in the disputed Kashmir region that both sides claim.

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A Sikh pilgrim visits the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry called it a victory for the peace lobby in both countries.

However, other analysts were less optimistic.

“I don’t think it has any enduring significance apart from being stand alone. I see it as pure symbolism and I don’t see it as any change in either country’s basic positions,” said Ajai Sahni, the executive director of New Delhi based Institute for Conflict Management.

He said the move was an effort by the Indian government to please the Sikh community ahead of next year’s general elections.

“Everyone is looking for whatever they can do to get a few extra votes,” he said.

Days before the ground-breaking ceremony, India complained to Pakistan about not allowing officials from its High Commission access to Indian pilgrims visiting Pakistan for the Guru Nanak birth anniversary.

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

The Indian Foreign Minister released a statement expressing “grave concern at the reports of attempts being made during the ongoing visit of the Indian pilgrims to Pakistan, to incite communal disharmony and intolerance and promote secessionist tendencies with the objective of undermining India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal rejected the charges. “India is a habitual alleger and it has become its second nature to blame Pakistan for any negative development, without blinking an eye,” he asserted.

India blamed Pakistan for supporting a Sikh separatist movement several decades ago and allowing the remaining leadership of that movement to live in Pakistan.

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

The chief minister of Indian Punjab, Amarinder Singh, while welcoming the Kartarpur corridor opening, refused an invitation to attend the ground-breaking ceremony citing Pakistan’s support for terrorism in Indian Punjab.

“In the past 18 months we have smashed more than 15 terror modules. We have found Kashmiri terrorists in Punjab. How are we expected to tolerate all this?” he told Indian newspaper The Hindu. (VOA)