Langar Served, Turbans Tied, Sikh Issues at the Forefront at Parliament
SALT LAKE CITY, USA—The Parliament of the World’s Religions ended on Monday after five days of interfaith dialogue, exhibitions and performances. The 2015 Parliament was officially opened with a parade of flags and Native American drumming as regional tribal chiefs welcomed us to their land, and prayed for world peace. It was attended by 10,000 people from 80 countries and 50 faith and non-faith groups. Lord Indarjit Singh of the UK, delivered the Sikh message of interfaith understanding and of defending religious freedom, during the opening plenary session. You may listen to his address here.
This year, UNITED SIKHS volunteers at the Parliament spoke on service (seva) as a pathway to alleviate human suffering; that society will have to address fear in order to address hate crime and prejudice; how technology may help alleviate poverty in Punjab where a farmer is committing suicide every few hours; and how there can be no peace until truth is revealed for justice and reconciliation to take place.
Kamalla Kaur addressed attendees on her journey discovering Sikhi and said, “Having so many people from so many faith traditions talking, singing, praying and working for world peace is grand. The Parliament of World Religions gives me renewed hope for humanity, and faith in Creation/Creator.”Norman Kreisman, a Californian attorney, spoke as ‘The American who lived with Bhindranwale’ and shared insights into the spirituality of Sant Jarnail Singh. Mr Kreisman lived for 1.5 years in a room next to Sant Jarnail Singh’s at Guru Nanak Niwas at Darbar Sahib (The Golden Temple), before the June 1984 attack on the Sikh sanctum sanctorum.Prof Indira Prahst, from Vancouver, examined media representations of Sikhs and how the turban has been signified through a “violent” gaze by the public towards the turban against the back drop of the war on terrorism, secularism and Nation Building. She argued that the image of Sikhs is a politics of representation.
Langar was prepared and served by Sikhs to thousands of attendees every day of the Parliament. Langar is a Sikh tradition of a free community meal for anyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, colour or class. By the end of the conference, maybe a third of those serving Langar were non-Sikhs who were inspired to join in the great seva.Rev. Marie Gasau, from Oak Creek, Colorado, who had not partaken Langar before, approached one of the Langar organisers, Balwant Singh, and requested his help to start Langar in her home town where there is no Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship). You may listen to her moving story here.
Sikhs also made their presence felt, when volunteers of the American Sikh Council tied turbans for non-Sikh Parliament attendees. Hundreds of non-Sikhs were seen sporting colourful turbans at the Parliament and on the streets and shopping malls near the Parliament venue.One non-Sikh attendee who wore his turban to the airport on his way home said, “I have not taken my turban off because I want to know what Sikhs go through at airports when their turbans are searched.”