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Interfaith Programs

Forum in London on Interreligious Cooperation Beyond Dialogue

The UPF Interfaith Working Committee in London continued their series of events showcasing models of Inter-religious Cooperation Beyond Dialogue on Feb. 28, 2009.

Mr Sukhbir Singh, the London representative of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, explained how the Sikh community in Birmingham supported the Hindu community during the Ram Katha Vedic Festival in the Birmingham NEC in 2001. After telling the story from the perspective of the Sikh community, Mr Singh was followed by the director of the festival, Mr Dinesh Chauhan, in sharing the perspective of the Hindu community. After a description of langar, the holy and humble sharing of food which is essential to the Sikh faith, Mr Singh described the scale of support being offered to the festival: A marquee was to be erected in the NEC car park where food for 10,000 people would be prepared daily.

Both communities had encountered episodes of obstacles, which frequently threatened to jeopardise the entire festival. After some miraculous breakthroughs, the 9-day event was executed successfully. There were no emergencies, no health and safety issues. The event was highly praised by the then Birmingham Lord Mayor. The stories were so touching that many had tears in their eyes.

Mr Sukhbir Singh and Mr Dinesh Chauhan

Mr Sukhbir Singh and Mr Dinesh Chauhan

Many Sikh organisations actually could not comprehend or approve of this initiative. Many Hindus had second thoughts about working with Sikhs – however the perseverance of great leaders like Mr Chauhan, Mr Sukhbir Singh  and Mr. Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh the Chairman of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, AND with the help of God, they could overcome all obstacles and bring about such a glorious result of such impact that many cannot forget this precious experience.

To date, it gives them much joy and empowerment as the testimonies demonstrated. It was very pleasing to see that friendships have developed and strengthened over the years because of this experience of Inter religious Initiative Beyong Dialogue.

Miss Balhar Kaur, the daughter of Mr Singh, gave an account of her experience as an 11-year old volunteer within the kitchen, or langar. She could testify to the electric and deeply spiritual atmosphere created when Hindus and Sikhs cooperated in the preparation of food for the festival participants. In homage to her father, she announced that “anything is possible with my Dad.”

Mr Sukhbir Singh's family in the UPF Office

Mr Sukhbir Singh's family in the UPF Office

Hindus and Sikhs worked side-by-side in the preparation of food, chanting God’s name together, truly creating the spirit of one family under God.

After the presentations, discussion circles were organised in order to generate new ideas of how our respective faith communities could offer something to another faith community. Some of the ideas mentioned included: serving langar in the Middle East as part of the ongoing Middle East Peace Initiative; organising an Interfaith Festival of Forgiveness around the time of the UN International Day of Peace; empowering youth cooperation amongst faith communities; and celebrating the gift of service.

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