Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Addresses the Closing Plenary
Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh addresses the Closing Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA. The Closing Plenary was sponsored by The Fetzer Institute.
Dear brothers and sisters, accept Sikh greetings. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh. This assembly at a time when we are facing some of the most intractable challenges in our human history is phenomenal and timely because of the prevalent challenges.
It is against such a backdrop that we have to consider this Parliament’s theme, a call to conscience, defending freedom and human rights. Sikhs have acted upon this in India for centuries. They have a glorious record of it. Our fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, and tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and indeed all the gurus exemplified this in an unparalleled way.
Sikhs continue to stand up against injustices for promoting their own and others’ dignity and honor now, and they will continue to do the same for all time to come. They are the Guru’s Saint Soldiers, Sant Sipahi. They never offend but defend with all their might without letting go of mercy and compassion, which is the foundation of any religion.
I interpret such a call as a moral and ethical appeal, one that implores us to reflect on our beliefs, values, and religious teachings, to guide our actions, to promote justice, compassion, and forgiveness. Such a call to conscience is more than self-reflection. It is about coming together in solidarity as religious people to use our faith to provide a moral compass to address the most difficult issues of our time.
A call to conscience for all of us is to be exalted for embodying the highest ideals of our different faiths, to uplift humanity, promote social justice, and create a more compassionate and inclusive world. Two practical actions that we have hosted at the Parliament, one the serving of langar, in all humility, love, and spirit of hospitality, which is fundamental to the Sikh ethos. We believe the whole of humanity is one family. Guru Nanak, our first Guru, called it a true divine transaction. It teaches us the essence of seva, selfless service of inclusivity, community-bounding, spiritual development, and in a way addressing poverty and hunger which should not exist in the world at all. We have begun the conversation and dialogue about the importance of the peace charter for forgiveness and reconciliation, which is vital to foster healing and achieving sustainable peace.
I repeat, sustainable peace, especially in societies afflicted with violence, acknowledges past, present, and future injustices, providing healing for forging a better future. It’s about moving beyond conflict to a new paradigm, underpinned by noble forgiveness, with potential to heal trauma, break cycles of violence, rebuild trust and hope, create social cohesion, provide long-term stability, to provide transitional justice, heal broken families and friendship, to gather with reconciling divided communities and nations.
It is in the forgiveness that we feel, the power of God’s love. Allow me to quote a verse from our six scriptures. Translated, oh Kabir, wake up to this deep truth where spiritual wisdom flourishes. There is virtuous and responsible living where falsehood holds power. There is wrongdoing, sin, and spiritual decay, where there is selfish greed, there is famine, death and destruction, and where there is forgiveness, there is God Himself.
The two profound acts of serving of langar in the maquis and presenting the peace charter are our humble efforts towards answering the Parliament’s call to conscience. The Peace Charter calls upon all people of faith and none and those in governments and within the United Nations to join us in a movement of forgiveness for reconciliation, which is the only way of achieving sustainable peace in the world.
Surely, God commands and urges us as His children to seek global peace and prosperity for all living nobody behind. Thank you.