Abbotsford's Punjabi Conference A Great Success
Surrey, Vancouver, May 27, 2011
The Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies (CICS) of the University of the Fraser Valley has been doing a commendable job in promoting Indo-Canadian cuture, heritage and language. In this regard, CICS organized an excellent conference from May 5 to 7 in Abbotsford. Appropriately named Transnational Punjabis in the 21st Century, the conference attracted very high profile resource people from around the globe.
Amongst other things, this conference was designed to honor the 100th anniversary of the historic Sikh Temple in this community. This gurdwara was built in 1911 by the Sikh pioneers who hauled the lumber from a sawmill on their shoulders. This historically significant place of worship was designated as a National Historic Site by the Canadian government in 2002. This is the only gurdwara in North America to be recognized as such.
The entire conference was packed with very interesting and stimulating presentations by renowned speakers. Another noticeable feature that stood out was the active participation by young people both as helpers and presenters .For this, the organizers, especially Satwinder Bains and her team, deserve congratulations. A number of young people –current and former students of the UFV-read excellent papers and shared their views with the audience. Their topics ranged from bullying, inter generational issues, family conflict, identity problems, and pride in ones heritage to role of the gurdwaras in modern society.
It was an extremely enjoyable and educational experience for this writer to listen to these passionate future leaders of the community. They articulated their views on topics of their choice in a very impressive manner. There were some common themes running through their presentations. Most of them expressed their frustrations by not being listened to by the older generations. Their underlying message seemed to be the need for mutual understanding, empowerment and respect.
One of the young speakers fondly recalled her recent visit to her parents’ ancestral village in the Punjab. She stated that this visit gave her a completely new awareness and pride in her identity and heritage. The village experience gave her self-esteem and identity a tremendous boost. She went on to state that the visit to her parents/grandparents place of birth gave her a unique sense of belonging and a remarkable connection to her roots.
Another youth touched upon the role of the gurdwaras in modern society. She recognized the unique contribution of our places of worship to the community and suggested that the gurdwaras also need to change with the times. Getting more youth involved in gurdwaras and offering programs and services to meet their needs should go a long way in this regard. All in all, the youth involved in this process came across as very sincere in their submissions. Not only that, they presented some very viable suggestions to address their concerns.
On the whole, the conference presented a very diverse program ranging from international scholars to local youth concerns. It was a very well organized and planned conference. Hopefully, CICS and UFV will make it an annual event.
Balwant Sanghera (Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)