ETHNIC COMMUNITIES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
At the First MultiEthnic Indiana Conference in Indianapolis
Nearly 300 guests, community leaders, and dignitaries representing
many ethnic communities and cultural, civic, and service organizations
gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Indianapolis on April 22, 2008
for the First MultiEthnic Indiana Conference. The culturally and
ethnically diverse audience of many nationalities included several
Tibetan Monks in their traditional orange robes and Hoosier Sikh
Americans with their faith-mandated colorful turbans. We were
in the midst of an ethnic and cultural renaissance.
The stated aim of the Conference: “Discovering and understanding
our common ground” was to learn about the size and make-up
of the ethnic communities in Indiana, and the major concerns of
the recent immigrant Hoosiers as they adjust to life, language,
culture, opportunities, and expectations of their new environment.
Once we know the nature, cultural heritage, unique talents, and
experiences represented in today’s multi-ethnic Indiana,
we may be better prepared to mainstream this energy and special
assets of new residents into the fabric of our towns and cities.
Then, we can together build the Hoosier State as a very competitive,
attractive, and welcoming place for our shared aspirations.
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Over 20 exhibits in the Hallway outside the main Ballroom provided
information about organizations, major Conference sponsors, and
other businesses serving Indiana. Inside the Ballroom, a continental
breakfast and friendly welcome awaited the guests.
I have lived in Indiana for over 40 years and witnessed many
big changes in Indiana’s ethnic populations and celebrations,
cultural image, international spirit, expanding trade, exports,
and diverse investment opportunities. Yet, we do not have a clear
understanding of our emerging strengths and the untapped potential
of our people. This Conference brought attention to the urgent
need to know something about the nature and dynamics of multi-ethnic
challenges moving forward and addressing the critical concerns
of all Hoosiers to make Indiana a truly welcome destination for
future talents and investments.
HOOSIER WELCOME, ENLIGHTENED MESSAGE, NETWORKING
Following a few formal remarks to the gathered on behalf of the
MultiEthnic Indiana Conference Committee, Indiana Governor Mitch
Daniels extended a very warm Hoosier welcome to the gathering.
In his brief remarks, Governor Daniels appreciated the work of
the Committee to bring us all together; proudly recognized the
special energy, talents, diverse experiences, and many contributions
being made by new pioneers in Indiana. Governor Daniels emphasized
the need for “Indiana to grow in its cultural awareness,”
and “empowering Hoosiers to make our State an even better
place to live.”
Dr. Bobby Fong, President of Butler University, the morning keynote
speaker, offered a brilliant and thought-provoking perspective
on our growing ethnic, cultural, and spiritual diversity. He stated
that in an increasingly interdependent world and a global economy,
our multi-ethnic populations and their insights are an important
asset to our future, for Indiana and the nation. He advocated
that we must recognize, celebrate, strengthen this resource, and
interface this vitality with the interests of our communities-at-large.
Mr. Jerome Peribere, President & CEO of Dow AgroSciences,
as our distinguished luncheon speaker, offered in a persuasive
power-point presentation the many dimensions, importance, urgency,
wisdom of inclusion, rightful place and integration of this emerging
diversity into the corporate world, and the changing civic and
cultural fabric of our communities and the nation.
The Conference offered several workshops in the morning and afternoon
where many diverse perspectives, recent studies and in-depth community
profiles, successful programs and initiatives, and the major concerns
and problems facing Indiana’s growing ethnic communities
were highlighted and discussed. These break-up sessions, led by
experts and community leaders provided an opportunity for the
participants to share their experiences, exchange ideas, network,
and learn about what all is being done across Indiana to mainstream
this emerging and growing segment of our population. A Closing
Plenary Session, moderated by Committee member Ralph Taylor, in
the afternoon further expanded on the efforts needed at many levels
to make Indiana a more welcome place.
Thanks to Elizabeth Jackson, former President of Asian American
Alliance and a MultiEthnic Indiana Committee member, the Conference
ended with a colorful cultural treat - the Filipino Bamboo Dances
performed by Hoosier Philippine children and Turkish Folk Dances
performed by young girls dressed in traditional costumes.
FAITH WINDOW TO CULTURE AND SPIRIT
Recognizing that our faith is an important part and reflection
of our humanity and a very
significant issue, especially among the new immigrants, who being
separated from their familiar physical, social, spiritual environment
and anchors struggle to find acceptance, need and seek comforting
cultural spaces where they live, the Committee organized an Interfaith
Prayer Service to introduce the Conference attendees, and to many
for the first time, the changing spiritual landscape in Indiana.
We need to know, support, and honor our familiar and the not-so-familiar
faith traditions as another recognition of our growing multi-ethnicity,
rich emerging cultural tapestry, and all-embracing welcome spirit.
The Native American, Christian, Catholic, Tibetan Buddhist, Hindu,
Muslim, and Sikh faith traditions were represented at the Interfaith
Prayer Service. The Prayer Service followed the lunch and keynote
speech by Mr. Jerome Peribere and performed on an elevated space
created in the middle of the Ballroom.
The Prayer Service began with drumming and singing by Tony Showa,
a Navajo Indian, who presented Spirit Welcome Songs. It took our
mind to the spirit of the Native American people. Thought-provoking
Christian prayer and spiritual reflection about humility by retired
Pastor Rev. Richard Hamilton followed. Brother Benedict, O.P.
of St. Paul’s Catholic Center in Bloomington shared a moving
sacred reading: “The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena: On
Charity” that revealed God’s plan for us to serve
with the special gifts entrusted to each of us.
Giani Pritam Singh and other visiting Sikh singers offered a
beautiful rendition of the Sikh hymn “Tu Thakur Tum Pai
Ardas: You are the Lord Master, and unto You we pray.” They
magnificently sang the hymn of unity, universality, and in praise
of One Creator God in Gurumukhi, the language of Sikh Scriptures.
Guru Granth Sahib, to the accompaniment of the traditional musical
instruments, the Indian Harmonium (an accordion-like instrument)
and Tabla (a pair of Indian drums). The singers gave a spirited
demonstration of the designated musical arrangement and Sikh singing
Ten Tibetan Buddhist Monks, led by Arjia Rinpoche, Executive
Director of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in
Bloomington, offered a very serene spiritual chanting with traditional
Tibetan hand bells. Their meditative sounds and voices in unison
called us to peace, understanding of our distinct and collective
spiritual heritage, and extending friendship to one another as
an affirmation of our shared humanity.
Dr. G.L. Ahuja, a Trustee of The Hindu Temple of Central Indiana,
offered Sanskrit Shlokas with English translation. Ashfaq Lodhi
of the Islamic Society of North America offered a beautiful recitation
from The Holy Quran with English translation. Their words and
message of peace filled the space with a spirit of goodwill.
Throughout the Interfaith Prayer Service, there was an incredible
spirit of reverence and respect for each faith tradition. There
was an unmistakable feeling of unity and blessings in the readings,
reflections, chants, hymns, and music selected by the faith presenters.
Some Conference attendees seemed inspired and in awe of what they
had just experienced. Distinct and diverse faiths gently threaded
our spirit, emotions, and our spiritual journeys seemed to momentarily
converge at this “Crossroads of Harmony” that invited
us to see the same Divine Light and Spirit in each other.
The First MultiEthnic Indiana Conference, sponsored by the Office
of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, and planned and presented by
a Committee of dedicated volunteers. The Committee members, representing
ethnic, cultural, civic, educational, and business organizations
and institutions came from around the State. Ms. Carmen Derusha
of Economic and Community Development, Purdue Cooperative Extension
served as the General Chair and Ms. Juana Watson, Senior Advisor
for Latino and Immigrant Affairs in the Governor’s Office,
served as a representative of the State. Eli Lilly, OCRA, Indiana
Civil Rights Commission, Purdue Cooperative Extension, and CICF
were among the major financial sponsors. All publicity and promotional
material for the Conference was designed Cardinal Communications
of Ball State University.
Sheraton Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana
April 22, 2008
Honorable Governor Mitch Daniels, distinguished guests and friends,
and fellow Hoosiers:
My name is KP Singh and it is my great honor to welcome you all
to the First Multi-Ethnic Indiana Conference initiated by the
Office of the Governor of the State of Indiana.
We are glad that you are here from many areas of the Hoosier
State and represent many organizations and interests, and most
certainly your personal commitment to build an inclusive and welcoming
culture. You are here to participate – learn and teach us
about the changing ethnic, cultural, and spiritual landscape in
your communities across Indiana.
Our growing diversity is our new frontier of incredible opportunity,
and of course also our great challenge: to transform this wonderful
and diverse energy, pioneering spirit, talents, and cultural richness
and give our State a special edge in many areas over our competition
in the Midwest and the nation.
This can only happen if we open up our Hoosier welcome spirit
and make thoughtful decisions and efforts at many levels to mainstream,
honor, and harness this new multi-ethnic energy in our midst as
a vital new resource and treasured asset.
I would like us to reflect upon the power and dynamics of a warm
and friendly invitation:
“Come create a State that reflects
the spirit of all people;
Share with us your talents and cultural experiences,
Enrich the emerging “Tapestry of Cultures”
The sacred “Fabric of Faiths”
With the sounds and splendors of the distant and diverse;
Together discover the excitement and echo of our humanity,
Spirit that unites us One Universal God’s Children,
Together shape a legacy that mirrors our shared vision.
Let us make a place at the table for
new friends and old
Share our common dreams and shape a community
Where the Light and Labors of each one
Enhance the gifts and promise of all.”
Source: Kanwal Prakash Singh
The Art and Spirit of K.P. Singh ~Selected Drawings and Writings
With this kind of positive acknowledgement and thoughtful inclusiveness,
we may be surprised by the response from new multi-ethnic communities
in the Hoosier State. We may be even more surprised that there
are many threads that connect us to each other, and in recognizing
and celebrating our common humanity, we discover lasting friendships,
bridges to distant shores for increased trade, exchange, and rich
heritage and wisdom; learn new things about ourselves and others;
and together build a State that we all love.
We believe that will just be the beginning. Many unimagined benefits
will follow in time as we together solve the problems that face
us as Hoosiers, as a nation and global family.
Multi-Ethnic Indiana Conference is dedicated to this vision and
hope that together we can, and we must, discover ways to enhance
the image, attractiveness, and prosperity of all Hoosier Americans.
While you are with us, we hope that you will:
. Share your experiences and concerns
. Network and make new friends
. Attend workshops and visit the displays
. Enjoy the special Interfaith Prayer Service and insightful messages
distinguished Keynote Speakers and Conference Presenters
. Take back some helpful ideas to your communities, neighborhoods,
. Integrate and expand relevant initiatives and programs in your
areas of involvement and
influence, and special need in your towns and cities
We all know that it takes many hands, dedicated Committee members
and volunteers, and major Sponsors to organize a significant event.
This conference is no exception.
At this time, I call upon the major Sponsors of the First Multi-Ethnic
Indiana Conference to join us on the stage for a formal recognition.
Indianapolis, Indiana USA
April 22, 2008
INTERFAITH PRAYER SERVICE
The practice and peaceful expressions of many faith traditions
of Hoosiers today provide us another important window to the ethnic,
cultural, and spiritual richness in Indiana. God being the Fountainhead
of all sacred Knowledge and Wisdom, each faith tradition is an
important panel of our Divine Spiritual Tapestry. Each faith has
many elements that provide unmistakable reflections of the unity
of human spirit as enshrined in the sacred writings and scriptures
and the revelations attributed to the Divine Messengers.
In America, living our faith and its commandments includes respecting
people and traditions different from our own; upholding the dignity
and just rights of every living being; and respecting those who
do not follow any faith tradition. This enlightened and honored
principle is about developing a sense of unbound compassion and
thoughtful consideration towards all Americans and for all God’s
Our faith is such an important part of our lives and “Discovering
and understanding our common ground” is the theme and vision
of this Conference. We sincerely hope that The Interfaith Prayer
Service, as a special component of the Conference program, will
not only provide each of us a glimpse into the different faith
traditions serving our State but also inspire us to focus on unifying
elements that are enshrined in every faith tradition.
By sharing prayer traditions and blessings from some familiar
faiths: Jewish, Christian, Catholic, and Muslim and some not so
familiar faith traditions: Native American, Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist,
Sikh, and others, we offer an experience that is both uplifting
and unifying. The Interfaith Prayer Service is an invitation to
meet at a “Crossroads of Harmony,” dispel unfounded
stereotypes, develop appreciation, respect, and support for programs
and events that enlarge our understanding of the world beyond
our immediate experiences; and about our fellow Hoosiers who are
making Indiana their proud home.
The Interfaith Prayer Service aims to introduce us to varied
and distinct styles of prayer, chanting, singing, music, rituals,
and above all, celebrate our common humanity as enshrined and
reflected in our many faiths and sacred traditions. We may discover
new connections and friendships in our circle of prayer and goodwill
towards one another.
Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA