On January 20, 2018, Sikh Sangat of North America hosted an evening of interfaith and community engagement to raise awareness about the Sikh faith amongst local community members and to collectively express gratitude and appreciation for all of life’s blessings in the New Year. Over 400 guests attended the Grand Rapids Gurdwara for a one-of-a-kind interfaith event.
In partnership with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute and WGVU, the day began with guests being welcomed to the Gurdwara and receiving a free information package about Sikhs, followed by a personalized tour of the Gurdwara. Guests had the opportunity to participate in Turban tying which many of them participated in.
“I’ve always been curious about why Sikhs wear turbans and how it’s tied, and today I was able to learn about both,” said a member of the Christian faith. “The volunteers tying turbans were pleasant and took the time to explain the purpose of the Turban and really personalized the whole experience for me, from tying my hair into a bun, talking about how the Turban represents sovereignty and then allowing me time look into the mirror and really appreciate the crown that I was wearing. I enjoyed having a turban tied on me and it was definitely a unique experience which I’ll never forget.”
The main program then began with Simer Singh addressing the congregation and talking about who Sikhs are, the message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Sikh Holy Scripture) and how every single person has the ability to merge into the Divine while still alive. A question/answer period then followed with guests asking Simer Singh a wide range of questions such as: why do Sikhs bow in front of the holy scripture, what does Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji say about gender and racial equality, why is money placed in front of the Sikh holy scripture and much more. This portion of the program was one of the highlights of the evening for much of the congregation. It allowed for an open dialogue in an inclusive environment for guests to ask intimate questions and to receive well-thought-of, and accurate answers in a way that highlighted connectivity with the Divine, the world and each other.
“Thank you for such an enlightening evening. I had the chance to ask a question in the question/answer session, which I normally wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking,” said a guest from the local Presbyterian Church. “Quite often we don’t know how to ask questions of each other, in fear of offending one another. Today we were able to ask in a welcoming environment, and the answers were simply explained and helped me better understand who Sikhs are.”
Langar was then offered to all guests, which is a specially-prepared meal for the congregation by local volunteers. The congregation enjoyed a meal together with their brothers and sisters from various faiths further adding to dialogue and