Where Unity Is Strength
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Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib, Pakistan

As Sikhs, we should recognise that those in power and authority often abuse human rights to perpetuate their authority, and see the egalitarian teachings of Sikhism with their emphasis on human rights and freedom of belief as a threat.

This was the situation in India at the time of our Gurus who incurred the active hostility of both the Mughals and the Hindu Hill Rajas. Today, the governments of India and Pakistan, while viewing Sikh teachings as a threat to Muslim or Hindu domination, are both playing on the supposed naivete of Sikhs to strengthen their positions in sub-continent rivalry. We have seen this in the overtures to Sikhs in the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims to Sikh heritage sites in Pakistan, and the widespread participation of the Indian government in the celebration of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in India and many countries abroad.

Sikhs are not that naïve. India has waxed indignant about some stones thrown at the gurdwara in Nankana Sahib following an incident in which a Sikh girl apparently chose to marry a Muslim boy. Indian newspaper headlines and broadcast news has expressed outrage at the religious bigotry of Muslims, while being totally silent about the more serious destruction of a gurdwara and dozens of Sikh homes by Hindu extremists in Madya Pradesh. The Indian government has maintained a deafening silence over Hindu extremists targeting Sikhs, while actively promoting Hindu extremism in its discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act.

Some Sikhs looking through one eye rail against the government of Pakistan. Some looking through the other eye, condemn the Indian government. The reality is that the governments of both countries are trying to manipulate Sikh sentiment for their own ends and, in the case of India, destroy our independent Sikh identity.

As Sikhs we should recognise the very real difficulties faced by Sikhs on the sub-continent. We cannot match the physical strength of either India or Pakistan, let alone both. But, through diplomacy and skill, along with adherence to our Gurus’ teachings, we can do much to reduce the hostility between India and Pakistan to the advantage of people of both countries, including Sikhs. Both countries are suffering economically in maintaining huge armies against supposed threats from the other. Both countries would gain enormously in the reduction of tension and the creating of a common economic zone. A freer movement of people would help reduce ignorance and prejudice that gives rise to religious bigotry. It is a distant dream, but it is the direction in which our Guru given guidance requires us to go.

Dear Khalsa ji,

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa; Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

As we leave 2019 and enter 2020, it is important that we look closely at the forces and pressures that resonate in the Sikh community and reflect on how these help or hinder us in living true to our Gurus’ teachings.

 

The Challenges

The Sikh religion consist primarily of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib.

  • Our Gurus experienced several challenges to their leadership from false claimants to the Guruship seeking to use the popularity of Sikh teachings to further their own interests.
  • Guru Gobind Singh was acutely aware that these challenges would continue after him and gave us his far-sighted injunction ‘Guru Manio Granth’. That is that we should shun those who try bend Sikh teachings for their own ends and follow the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib as we would a living Guru.
  • The Sikh Gurus incorporated writings of Hindu and Muslim saints in the Guru Granth Sahib to emphasise that no religion has a monopoly of truth. In the same way, leading Sikh scholars who compiled the 1945 Sikh Rehat Maryada also accepted the authenticity of some writings, popularly attributed to Guru Gobind Singh found in the misleadingly titled Dasam Granth (a 19th century compendium of mostly amorous exploits of gods and goddesses compiled by a Brahmin called Chiber).

PRIORITIES FOR 2020

As Sikhs we must should heed Guru Gobind Singh’s clear warning about false gurus, and totally reject the siren call of sants and babas, distorting and offering questionable short cuts to the disciplined life taught by the Gurus.

The Sikh community should be on its guard against the increasing threat from ignorant members of such groups, who seek to impose their anti-Sikh agendas on gurdwara sangats. Threats and intimidating behaviour, such as seen earlier at Southall and Hounslow and more recently in Coventry, brings the Sikh community into disrepute and should be reported to the police in the first instance, and the office of the Network of Sikh Organisations via: info@nsouk.co.uk with photos and other relevant evidence.

THE ROLE OF SIKHISM IN 2020 AND BEYOND

The Sikh religion is a strong faith rooted in compassion and commonsense and has nothing to fear from discussion and questioning which can only make its teachings clearer and stronger. Our Gurus were far-sighted human beings who far from claiming special powers, warned us against superstitious beliefs and idle speculation about peripherals of belief.

Our responsibility as Sikhs is to live true to the teachings of our Gurus and make them known to a wider world which in many ways has lost its ethical direction. Many coming across Sikh teachings for the first time applaud its powerful emphasis on the equality of all human beings, gender equality respect for freedom of belief, and our responsibility to work for a just and peaceful society.

The challenge for all Sikhs in 2020 is to look beyond ourselves, and while being true to Sikh teachings, commit ourselves to living these values in serving the wider community. If we can overcome our petty internal divisions by focusing on the actual teachings of our Gurus and live the life they taught, 2020 can be an important year of unity and fulfilment for us all.

Indarjit Singh CBE,

Lord Singh of Wimbledon

Director, Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) UK

 

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