CHANGING FRONTIERS FOR THE SIKH DIASPORA
A Year-end Prayerful Reflection by Kanwal Prakash Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Dec. 24, 2011
Kanwal Prakash Singh
The Sikh Diaspora is going places thanks to a conscious effort to graduate from crossroads encounters to serious engagements at many levels in the pursuit of life, liberty, personal happiness, and service to their professions, communities, and nations where they live, work, and call it home. This is a major change: a heightened awareness on the part of Sikhs to learn about their rights, responsibilities, opportunities, and laws and traditions in place where they are settling. The host countries are beginning to recognize their presence and commitment and outstanding contributions, and the need to assure a rightful place for their culture, heritage. This positive move to identify and understand the full power of this emerging relationship is still in the early stages. All around, we are witnessing the promise and prospects of this under-tapped community asset, which once thoughtfully harnessed may prove very rewarding.
ACCOLADES AND HONORS OF DISTINCTION
In recent weeks, we have seen the elegant Sardar Fauja Singh, a centenarian marathon runner from UK, set world records in Toronto, reaffirming his mantra: “Impossible is nothing.” He inspires and challenges us that, we too, should compete and excel in the Holla Mohallas of our times and bring honor to our professions, communities, and nations. Recently, a wonderful news flashed across the global media that the world-renowned miniature artists, the Singh Twins: Amrita and Rabindra Singh, were awarded the prestigious Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. At a special presentation to the interfaith gathering in Assisi, Italy, the Sikh leader pledged that City of Amritsar, the home of the Saint Peter’s and Vatican of the Sikhs, the magnificent spiritual heart and soul of the Sikhs: The Golden Temple, will join the pilgrim cities’ and “go green” as an environmentally-friendly City. The celebrated Sikh spiritual musicians, Bhai Dya Singh of Australia and Sardarni Snatam Kaur of U.S.A., have been introducing Sikh music and enthralling multicultural audiences around the world. The Sikh Americans participated in their first Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago. Imagine Bhangra Dance at the Chicago area professional baseball and basketball games, Guru Nanak’s Birthday celebration at The White House and Sikh sacred hymns at the National Cathedral. A Canadian Sikh, Lt.-Col Harjit Singh Sajjan, became the Commanding Officer of a military regiment in Canada.
PREPARATION FOR NEW RESPONSIBILITIES
Every day we hear about new achievements and worthy recognitions: Elections of Sikhs to the Canadian Parliament; prestigious appointments on government panels, corporate, educational, and cultural boards; successful pioneering work and breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology; introduction of arts, cultural, service and interfaith programs; birth and growth of Sikh websites and media networks: Sikhchic, Sikhnet, NRIinternet, India Journal, and others; innovative business enterprises, educational initiatives to dispel unfounded stereotypes and unprovoked violence against the Sikh Americans. National organizations: The United Sikhs, SALDEF, SCORE, Sikh Coalition, The Kaur Foundation, Sikh Arts & Film Festivals, The Sikh Studies Chairs, and countless others give voice to Sikh concerns and accomplishments. The achievers represent several fields and generations. Each success leaves proud markers for others to excel, and formidable challenges to address and honor.
The Sikh Diaspora is hard at work in myriads ways. Many exciting community-inspired activities make no global headlines but undoubtedly build a foundation and framework of goodwill and trust. The frequent interfacings cause ripple effect and acknowledgment by the civic leaders and institutions about the talents, traditions, and values of newcomers in our cities. Like other Americans before them, they are here to pursue their dreams and raise their children. They have a growing stake in the peace, prosperity, and future direction of their cities since the Sikh Americans are locating in large numbers in the Midwest; they are increasingly engaged in creating a sense of belonging, acceptance, and partnerships. The work of building a rightful place in the cultural and spiritual tapestry for communities is in progress here. We are seeing the gradual impact of such local efforts on the states and the Nation.
The modest but noteworthy experience in the heartland of America may have lessons and inspirations for other communities engaged in similar or distinctly different visions and strategies. The year 2011 was another highlight for the Sikh American community in Indianapolis. One of the long-time residents of Indiana, KP Singh, was appointed to the Indianapolis Police Civilian Merit Board and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Hoosier Heritage; and a designated Natural Helper, Maninder Walia, was invited to join the Indianapolis Immigrant Welcome Center Board and received a Service Award from the Asian Services of Indiana.
The central Indiana Sikh community organized a major interfaith gathering at the Sikh Temple (Acton Road) in Indianapolis and participated in other interfaith and multicultural activities throughout the year, including, parades, among them the nationally-televised 500 Festival Parade, as a part of the Indiana Nationalities Council Parade Unit. The Sikhs supported the Interfaith Hunger Initiative, Japanese Earthquake-Tsunami Relief organized by Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center; the Bhutanese immigrants and Indiana Police fund for officer who died in the line of duty. The Sikh community participated in the annual Race For All Races to raise funds for minority scholarships and a Town Hall meeting for the Mayoral candidates, both organized by the Asian American Alliance; welcomed many guests-dignitaries, faith leaders, and students from the area to the Sikh Temple. The Sikh leaders gave an educational presentation to the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) Officers about the Sikh articles of faith and community and three Sikhs became recent graduates of the FBI Citizen Academy. Indianapolis Sikh representatives attended the International Citizen of the Year celebration, an International Parade, receptions for U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. The year ahead is beginning on a positive note: members of the Sikh community are knitting some official scarves for Super Bowl XLVI, one of the largest sporting events in the world that will take place in Indianapolis on February 5, 2012; and a Sikh American has been invited to offer an Invocation at the Inauguration Ceremonies of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard on January 1, 2012.
POWER OF NETWORKING, SHARING, AND BUILDING UPON PAST GAINS
Every community is engaged in many such activities and gradually and collectively, we are beginning to see greater acceptance and welcome signs. We can be optimistic that going forward we would be called upon to serve our communities and nations in demanding and unimagined ways. Such invitations are cause for celebration, opportunities to put our talents and experiences to work, to learn and serve. Sikh Diaspora is making the new lands, far removed from the sacred soils and countries of their origin, as their future homes. It is important to earn our rightful claim at the rewards and responsibilities of good citizenship, much like the generations of immigrants before us. Our standing and successes will multiply when we pool are resources and work in solidarity for common good of the nations; network with and support organizations and institutions in place. The road ahead is not without major challenges, we can anticipate unexpected hurdles, but guided by the spiritual lessons of our faiths, we can adjust to life - civic, societal, and cultural environments; excel and triumph. The world is in the midst of a major transformation: birth of a global renaissance, convergence of people and cultures in America and other societies, unlike that we have seen in human history. The last fifty years affirm a robust progress and testify to how far humanity has come. The next four decades may unfold a chapter where ethnic minorities have a secure and respectable place among the pantheon of peoples and cultures. www.KPSinghDesigns.com Indianapolis, Indiana USA December 31, 2011