Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia Addresses the Community Plenary
Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia addressed the Community Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.
Beloved brothers and sisters, may God’s blessings be on you. Accept Sikh greetings. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh. It is an honor to share with you my life’s experience in sight and most humble, proven best experience for community-driven solutions to pressing social issues, partnerships between communities, governments, and other stakeholders.
Let me begin by saying that I am blessed to have had a calling at the age of 50 to resign from carrying out 30 years’ professional civil structure and low-income housing work to devote the rest of my life towards God’s calling.
I’ve had a head start because of my two predecessors. I’m third in line of spiritual leaders of my organization. As a Sikh, who is a lifelong learner, I’m required to spend time doing three things– praying, Naam Japna, service, selfless service, and singing God’s praises, reciting Kirtan.
First and foremost, it is vital to connect up and establish a loving relationship with God Almighty.
Thus, the organization I lead spends time in conducting rites and chants and conducting baptism ceremonies. We have conducted some 2,000 such ceremonies and have enabled to bring into Sikh fold some million individuals. Thus, we have now a formidable community for doing God’s work. We have continued to pray for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For the last 40 years, we have two bilingual biannual day and night 11 days continuous prayers for seeking flourishing of all. We serve some 25,000 meals a week at our Gurdwara in Birmingham on Soho Road, Handsworth. We had the privilege of serving longer at the Parliament’s events in Barcelona, Salt City and now in Chicago. We have used advocacy and peaceful march by some 50,000 Sikhs in the UK in 1981 to get Sikhs legally recognized as an ethical minority for gaining entry into UK schools wearing turbans and other articles of faith.
We have collaborated with the Catholic Church. We now have, with the support of the UK government, open Nishkam primary and secondary faith schools. We have three Nishkam nurseries as well in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Leeds and in India. Nishkam schools have Sikh ethos. They are multi-faith and value-led. We believe education begins at conception through the influence of a mother’s values led thought process.
We have involved ourselves to initiate an interfaith collaboration. We have involved ourselves to initiate an interfaith collaboration with Father Grand Hermes Foundation, URI, KAICIID, Religious for Peace International, and our Sikh apex organization SGPC, Elijah Board of Religious Leaders, supported Parliament of World’s Religions, European Council of Religious Leaders, Birmingham faith leaders, etc.
We have involved ourselves in heritage conservation, work in Kenya, UK, and India. We have collaborated with guiding institutions, i.e. universities and others, and one accolades from them for peace building and faith propagation. We have supported UN sustainable goals, et cetera.
The following are our Sikh guiding principles. Believe in God, practice what you preach, be gentlemen, shun hypocrisy, work from whole to part, have an overarching view of life, be visionary, analyze where have you come from, where will you ultimately end up, and what is the real purpose of life here. Be humble, respect all faiths and none, do good for even the wicked as well. Bureda palakaro. Whole of humanity is one global family. Be a saint soldier, stand up against injustice, hate the sin, not the sinner. Seek welfare of the sinner as well. Respect the institution of marriage. Strengthen it. Have unwavering faith in the gurus and Guru Granth Sahibji, our scripture. Accumulate spiritual capital through prayer, service, and singing God’s praises. Do not ridicule and backbite. Shun the five voices, last revenge, greed, virtual attachment and arrogance, or ego, which stands for edging God out. Adopt and exercise the five spiritual virtues and values, compassion, truthfulness, contentment, humility, and abundance of love.
We have role modeled, exemplary selfless volunteering to earn our late majesty Queen’s Award to gather with our award from the Institute of Volunteering. We lovingly motivate, inspire, and counsel and capacity-built individuals to create infrastructure through the car-saver methodology. This could be infrastructure for places of worship, i .e. Gurdwaras, or places of residences, or conference facilities. The same methodology has been used to enlarge and extend a community cooperative, a civic center, and so on.
We are engaged in intra and interfaith goodwill collaborations and cooperation to bring about harmony and peace amongst the religions. We have been working on this for 24 years now. We interface with both the central and the local government. Our financing is mostly based on voluntary donations. We have a community cooperative, civic center, nursery, health care center, at arm’s length to the large Gurdwara.
We have physically regenerated the inner city area of Birmingham with some 60 million pounds over 47 years. The organization I lead is a faith-based organization. We have assisted in the formulation of 24 spiritual and moral dispositions for religious education within the new context, whereby we should learn from faith as opposed to learning about faith.
We have supported post-doctoral research in religion, civil society, and the UN, and prepared a peace charter for forgiveness and reconciliation. We are working on a proposed museum of world religions where values and virtues will be distilled from different faiths for inspiring and motivating children and adults to become good human beings.
We are working closely with the University of Birmingham to locate the museum within their campus. We are running five Nishkaam schools and three nurseries, teaching Sikh ethos multi-faith value-led education.
We have supported Religions for Peace building at a university level over 11 years and have also supported Sikh lectureships at the same time. A Guru Nanak Chair has been set up at the University of Birmingham by the Indian government, which will be funded by them for the next five years. After that, it will be for perpetuity. It is our community’s collaboration with this funding institution, which in a way led to this.
Leadership is crucial. Faith leaders need to see one divine light in all. They have to ensure equal freedom and dignity of all. Rid themselves of arrogance. Respect human fraternity as one family. World faiths have an important role to nurture good human beings. Nurturing occurs through instilling values and virtues in them. Education and good role modeling. Good human beings are inspired and empowered through exercise of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, truthfulness, selflessness, humility, and most of all, abundance of love. Good human beings will be good citizens. However, citizens without values may not be good citizens. May not be good human beings. Our scripture, the eternal Guru Granth Sahib, advises us as humans to have purity of thought, action, and deed. They have to consider responsibilities as a precursor to rights. Religious leaders will foster peaceful and inclusive justice societies if they genuinely practice their religion day in and day out with unwavering commitment.
They must however just work within the interfaith before venturing into interfaith. No religious leader should promote hate speech and incitement to violence. There would be hypocrites if they do so. No religion allows this. The core essence of religion peace-building within oneself is peace-building within oneself.
One has to fight and win first and foremost internal battles in the mind between vices and values and virtues. Broadly speaking within the Sikh Dharma the five vices are lust, revenge, greed, worldly attachment and arrogance. And the five virtues are compassion, truthfulness, contentment, humility and love. To nullify and neutralize the vices one is advised to engage in unbroken, sustained prayer and praising of God.
Harboring superiority above others coupled with poisonous arrogance can lead to belittling, mocking and ridicule of others. Which is no less than a spiritual sin which robs the believer of his or her spiritual wealth, respect, peace and the sanctity of the human life. And these are the essential ingredients of all religious teachings. Your consciousness must challenge arrogance, revenge, intolerance, greed and selfishness. selfishness added to this is the abuse of religious power, conflicts occur when we violate someone’s dignity, destroying their self-esteem and self-respect.
Every human act has its origin in the mind, which has the capacity to be one’s best friend or worst enemy, or it can be the sight of the hidden enemy which propels one towards greed, cruelty, selfishness, hate, and even condemnation of others, or it can be the nucleus of divine power with almost an infinite capacity for goodness capable of self-analysis, self-regulation, and accountability, a place to handle inner peace which when collectively leads to peace in mind, the family, community, and society at large. Loving, protecting, and serving God’s creation is loving and serving God. Thank you.