REFLECTING ON THE PASSING YEAR
Kanwal Prakash (KP) Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA
January 14, 2011
For Indiana, this has been an unusually cold December. Outside our familyroom window, we see a white snow-covered frozen landcape glistening in the winter sun. The trees and shrubs that border the fenced backyard are barren of their lush foliage. Inside, a seven foot tall Christmas tree decorated with shiny and exquisite ornaments from around the world is a colorful delight. My mind is travelling to places and cultures where the artisans crafted these tree-ornaments as ‘works of art’ in glass, metal, wood, ceremics, and composite materials in a variery of styles, shapes, and colors to reflect their traditions of the holiday season. The hauntingly beautiful music of a celebrated spiritual singer, Snatam Kaur, is filling the room. Her moving rendition of the Sikh sacred hymn: “Aad Guray Nameh; Jugad Guray Nameh; Sutguray Nameh; Sri Gurudevay Nameh; Hail to the Founder Guru, to the Primal One; Hail to the Guru Eternal; Hail to the Sutguru: Truth Embodiment; Hail to the Gurudev: Holy and Divine” gently carries your spirit to realms beyond our sight as one reflects on the Shabad and her angelic voice.
SIKH AMERICANS IN SEARCH OF A RIGHTFUL PLACE
My mind and spirit is filled with joy at having been a witness and active participant in some truly significant events and unimagined crossroads during the year. Many special experiences and historic triumphs greeted the Sikh American community in Indiana in 2010. We see the last four decades having been among the most productive for diverse ethnic, cultural, and faith communities that make up the expanding cultural fabric of America today. Sikh Americans, adversely affected by the horrific events of 9/11 due to their faith-mandated articles of faith and frequently facing the problems of mistaken idenitity, that caused many unwelcome incidents of unprovoked violence and harrasment, have been engaged, as never before, in peaceful efforts for acceptance and to familiarize Americans with their cultural heritage, sacred traditions, and their serious commitment to be good neighbors and citizens.
A COMMUNITY FOCUS AND EFFORTS TO ENGAGE
Recognizing that understanding and trust begins with learning from and about each other, Sikh Americans are making valiant efforts to embrace and identify with the values and traditions, learn about the community institutions, and our responsibilies as Americans. Sikh Americans are promoting ideas and initiatives that offer a window to their cultural heritage, festive celebrations, outstanding contributions, and common interests. The Sikh Diaspora has focused on several fronts and at many levels: networking with civic leadership, schools and educational institutions, and faith communities; working closely with law-enforcement agencies (Transportation Security Authority, Homeland Security Administration, FBI, local police departments); and at mainstreaming their pioneering spirit, unique talents, and experiences that benefit all citizens. Sikh Americans have found new friends who recognize their legitimate concerns and support their efforts to secure a rightful place for their hopes and dreams.
CHANGING WINDS AND WELCOME OPPORTUNITIES
In recent years, cities and states have been in the vigorous pursuit to identify and celebrate the cultural and spiritual richness and diversity in their midst as a major cultural asset to attract the brightest and best from around the world. Today, new immigrants and ethnic communities are frequently invited to showcase their cultures at major community events; encouraged to initiate and participate in programs and forums designed to dispel misunderstandings, unfounded and unfair stereotyping of entire communities; work with law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of all law-abiding citizens; and invited to volunteer and support worthy projects at home and abroad. Sikh Americans in Indiana and throughout the nation have deeply appreciated and welcomed these opportunities to participate in many exciting and special events. During the past year:
FRIENDSHIP LUNCHES, PRAYERS, PAGEANTS, AND OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE
In a historic first, Hoosier Sikhs were invited to offer a Sikh Invocation at the Indiana General Assembly; particpated in the nationally-televised 500-Festival Parade; organized a Friendship Lunch at the Indiana State Capitol, a cultural triumph; took part in large numbers in Asian American Alliance’s annual Race For All Races. Hoosier Sikh community leader, Maninder Walia, completed the FBI Citizen Academy training. We welcomed high school and college students and many distingushed guests from the area and the U.S. Department of State to the Sikh Temple for discussions and insights into the Sikh faith, culture, and community. Individually and collectively, we supported and participated in a wide variety of programs and assignments in Indiana, across the nation and beyond, including: Minority Volunteer Recognition Breakfast of United Way of Central Indiana; Cultural Training of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officers; and Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service at Saints Peter & Paul Cathedral. The Sikh Satsang organized a fundraising and canned food drive and attended events in support of the Interfaith Hunger Intitiative including the one at Conseco Fieldhouse with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We had the opportunity to learn about the important work of SALDEF at the 2010 SALDEF National Gala in Washington, D.C. and about the recently introduced Kaur Foundation’s Sikh Studies Program for secondary schools at the Sikh Arts and Film Festival in Orange, California. We are finding our inspiration from the growing number of events and initiatives that introduce Sikh arts, culture, and community at some high profile ceremonial occasions at The White House, City Halls, educational and international interfaith gatherings, at Sikh Temples and sport stadiums, and from the outstanding achievements, and growing civic involvements of the Sikh Diaspora in recent years.
WORKING IN SOLIDARITY TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE
The efforts to learn and share, and put our strengths to work are expected to grow and expand in many ways, lead to other unexplored dimensions with unimagined rewards for the nation and the communities. Today the leaders of ethnic communities recognize what is at stake for the future generations. We hope that each of us would welcome future opportunities, create new blessings, and generously contribute in making a difference to life, liberty, safety, peace, and prosperity of all Americans. We hope that we will streamline our ideas and pioneering energy to explore bold new answers to critical challenges placed at our crossroads; that we will vigorously support causes that advance our intertwined destiny and safeguard the survival and health of our Planet.
We have the privilege and moral resonsibility to build upon the proud legacy of the past generations and take it much farther in the years ahead. We have to work in solidarity with others at removing obstacles and cobwebs of ignorance that diminish our humanity and allow the sunshine of our shared ideals to work their way into our hopes and prayers and well-being of all Creation. Our science and technology, internet and travel, education in all its myriad forms and dimensions, acknowledgement of universal rights and interdependence, and the power and promise of human imagination and creativity are the miracle anchors that make such a vision and renaissance a realizable prospect in the forseeable future. It all begins with each of seeing ourselves as part of the circle: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” - Sitting Bull (a celebrated Native American leader), Lakota -1877.