The group running the centre is headed by “Bhai Sahib” Mohinder Singh, whom I previously discussed in the “Music of Unity/Politics of Division” article here (pictured).
Bhai Sahib is also the chairman of the British Sikh Consultative Forum (BSCF), and has been heavily involved in numerous charitable and humanitarian activities along with interfaith bridge-building efforts for many years. As mentioned in the previous article, Bhai Sahib was responsible for escorting the Queen around the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, India during her visit there in the late 1990s; he has also been involved in co-ordinating multifaith efforts to counteract the growing bigotry and hostility towards ordinary British Muslims in recent years. Bhai Sahib’s other activities have included visiting Jewish leaders in Israel, and participating in the global conference of religious leaders last December which was attended by numerous dignitaries including the Dalai Lama. Furthermore, BSCF’s director, Dr Jasdev Rai, has publicly condemned the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit Singh (sometimes known as “Amit” Singh) for his anti-Muslim propaganda and his virulent efforts to whip up hatred against ordinary Muslims.
The Nishkam Centre, which is staffed by volunteers, is based on the Sikh principle of selflessly performing humanitarian work for the assistance of others and for the uplift of society as a whole, in the spirit of “Sarbat da Bhalla”, ie. “Goodwill to the whole of Mankind”. It focuses on providing educational services, training, medical services (specifically health screening), counselling, employment assistance, art and heritage, along with promoting interfaith, intercultural, intercommunity dialogue, and championing social justice and inclusion.
Bhai Sahib said: “I am absolutely delighted to learn that the Nishkam Civic Association has been selected with others to receive the Queen’s Award for voluntary services this year. It is a recognition and celebration of the work that very many people, from all walks of life, do in their local communities and the immense contribution that they make to the wellbeing of others through a spirit of sacrifice.”
Rumbold recently mentioned another Sikh representative group in his own PP article; while I agree with his note of caution when it comes to “community leaders” (for want of a better term) and the dangers of colonial-style attitudes in terms of viewing people as “homogenous blocks” rather than as individuals, I think it is also important to judge such organisations by their actions and by how closely they adhere to the most positive ideals of the population they claim to represent.
In the case of Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh and the organisations he is a part of, including BSCF and of course the Nishkam Centre itself, this is a truly inspiring example of heroes who are doing tremendously constructive work. They really are acting on the altruistic, pluralistic and humanitarian ideals which the Khalsa is supposed to represent and which were both embodied and actively promoted by Sikhism’s founding Gurus, as discussed on PP here, here and here. These ideals are certainly not exclusive to Sikhs, of course, but they are examples of the very best that we as human beings are capable of, irrespective of our religious backgrounds, nationalities or “race”.
Ultimately, a person’s presence in the world can make it a better place as a result of their individual actions, or it can have the opposite detrimental effect; I think that one particular quote on the Nishkam Centre’s website makes the point beautifully, as follows:
“We all have a shared duty to give the community the capacity to continually improve itself and pave the way for the generations to come. Our ancestors made the world what it is today, they are responsible for the good and the bad in our society. It is imperative that we lay the foundations for a strong, ethical, vibrant society for posterity. Let us work together in harmony; in diversity there is unity and in unity there is strength.”
This eloquently-stated message is a timeless lesson for the world; it is also what I emphasised in the original Music of Unity/Politics of Division article, and which was subsequently also discussed on PP here.
Some appropriate music:
Bhai Nirmal Singh from Amritsar. This particular style of music is the most traditional classical form of “Shabad Kirtan”, or hymns derived from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures/holy book. The Guru Granth Sahib itself is entirely set to music, and contains hymns written not only by the Sikh Gurus but also Hindus, Muslims, and individuals with no formal religious affiliation. A full English translation is provided on-screen for the hymn below.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Religion,Sikh