A PILGRIMAGE FOR INTERFAITH UNDERSTANDING
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Oct. 29, 2012
Kanwal Prakash Singh
There was an excitement in the air and in our hearts. We sensed an idea with myriad blessings.
VISION AND SPIRIT OF INTERFAITH PILGRIMAGE
An interfaith pilgrimage was a special idea and a historic first to learn about faiths, cultures, and communities that today form the composite and colorful fabric and spirit of the Hoosier State. Such efforts could in time lead to overcoming barriers that some time separate us and help dispel unfounded stereotypes, issues of mistaken identity, harassment, discrimination, and build a foundation of unity and understanding among people. This spiritually inspired idea of Interfaith Walks is the vision of Dr. Ian McIntosh, Professor of Religion and Director of International Partnerships at Indiana University-Purdue University-at-Indianapolis (IUPUI). Charlie Wiles, Executive Director of The Center for Interfaith Cooperation, and KP Singh from the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis served on the Organizing Committee.
“The walk is meant to be the first of many designed to bring neighborhood congregations together in fellowship and provide a very visible opportunity to build community in our City” according to Charlie Wiles. KP Singh echoes this passion and mandate, “We must strive for peace, harmony, and goodwill across the frontiers of culture, faith, ethnicity, gender, and national origin” and build new bridges of understanding and cooperative efforts that make a difference to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” of all citizens.
WALKING TO CREATE COMMUNITY CROSSROADS
Following a very warm and friendly welcome at the Acton United Methodist Church by Pastor Mac Hamon and a word about walking as meditation by Ms. Linda Proffitt, the President of Global Peace Initiatives the walkers took to the street on a crisp sunny fall morning. Many participants had their heads covered with the Sikh orange Patkas (headscarves), and there were a large number of Sikh men and women in the crowd. Students from IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis, Butler University, Unitarian Universalist Club, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School (Indianapolis); Indiana University (Bloomington); Indiana State University (Terre Haute), and AmeriCorps students joined in the Walk.
It was an honor pleasure to have Mr. Gary Coons, Head of the Homeland Security, and IMPD Police Chief Rick Hite join in the Walk and participate in the festivities of the day. Mr. Dick Wolfsie, a local TV celebrity joined the gathering at the Sikh Temple.
The first historic interfaith walk provided a unique opportunity for central Indiana residents of many faiths, multi-cultural and multi-generational participants from many nations including Rwanda, Guinea, Somalia, Australia, and India, representing Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, and Humanist spiritual traditions to express solidarity and to learn about the traditions, worship, and heritage of the Sikh faith and Sikh American community. Carrying the American and Sikh flags, signs of peace, unity, and love, the 200-strong participants walked from Acton United Methodist Church to the Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) down the road, singing, reciting, and shouting Jakaras (exuberant Sikh acclamations) along the half a mile route.
WELCOME, RECEPTION, INTRODUCTION TO SIKH FAITH AND CULTURE
The group was welcomed by the Sikh spiritual leader, Giani Pritam Singh, and others with singing of the Sikh welcome hymn: “Humm Ghur Saajun Aaye: to our home have come friends.”
Following the Punjabi tea and snacks, the heads of various organizations that sponsored the Walk were introduced, there was a brief period of question answers, and then the entire group was led into the Gurdwara Sanctuary where Sikh hymns were being sung by visiting Raagis (Sikh musicians). Many guests were witnessing the Sikh tradition of worship and the Sikh tradition of Langar (community meal) for the first time. Mr. Gary Coons, Police Chief Rick Hite, Rev. Mac Hamon, and Dr. Ian McIntosh were honored with copies of the book, The Sikhs. They addressed the gathering and offered assuring, inspirational, and thought-provoking messages to the gathering of over 300 congregants and guests.
SPONSORS, REPRESENTATIVES, AND FRIENDS
The Interfaith Walk for Unity and Understanding was sponsored by: The Center for Interfaith Cooperation; Acton United Methodist Church; Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis; Global Peace Initiative; Indianapolis Peace Learning Center; Jewish Community Relations Council; and Muslim Alliance of Indiana; Amahoro Project for Forgiveness and Reconciliation; and the Indianapolis Immigrant Welcome Center.
INSPIRATION AND FUTURE INITIATIVES
The Interfaith Walk took on the aura of an interfaith pilgrimage with the rich experience of walking together in a meditative and joyful spirit; sharing together and an opportunity to learn from and about each other; exploring our common humanity in a friendly environment; and getting to know about the distinct philosophy of the Sikh faith, culture of generosity, and about the community of people dedicated to the concept of equality and justice; individual dignity and oneness as members of one human race. Sikhs honor the sanctity of all faiths and spiritual traditions.
We believe that such endeavors have the potential to connect and enlarge our understanding of people that today make up the spiritual fabric of our Nation, add immeasurably to the spirit and richness of the cultural landscape of our neighbors and Indiana. Engaging with faith as a unifying anchor has a transformational power. It can engender respect and celebration of our distinctness and an opportunity to discover common ground; can inspire us to work together, initiate projects that serve and make a difference. Such experiences and learning about relating to people and cultures different from our own can prepare the next generation about the importance of global citizenship that today is vital to excel in a highly competitive marketplace of ideas and an interdependent world. We may discover amazing friends and forge new friendships.
A pilgrimage into community interfaith crossroads dispels unfounded stereotypes, enhances our understanding of our shared humanity, is a door to our world and an illuminating gift to the human spirit. We can imagine a new renaissance of knowing the thoughts and experiences of people from other lands that surround us. It strengthens our neighborhood and our Republic.