Archive for the ‘Empowerment’ Category.

Religious Tolerance or Religious Embrace? Memorial Service Honoring the Six Slain Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

“Spreading Love and Peace, Defeating Hate” Attendees and Speakers at the

Garden State Sikh Association Gurdwara, 977 Washingtonvalley Road, Baskingridge, NJ

on August 24, 2013

 

Bridgewater, New Jersey- UNITED SIKHS and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP), together organized a vigil/memorial service in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the Oak Creek Tragedy last year. The memorial event was hosted by the Garden State Sikh Association Gurudwara Sahib in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The theme and topic of the event was “Spreading Love and Peace, Defeating Hate.”

The congregation was addressed by Hon’ John Jay Hoffman, Acting Attorney General of New Jersey and Mr.Edward Dickson, Director, NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. AG Hoffman was kind enough to attend the service with his wife and spend a Saturday afternoon interacting with community members. AG Hoffman while addressing the gathering said that he was extremely saddened by the tragedy in Oak Creek. He ensured that Sikhs and other communities should be rest assured that his department will not sleep unless they have secured all houses of worship in the state. He discussed how uncomfortable he was using the term “religious tolerance” in explaining how people should be respectful of different faiths and said the correct word should be “embrace.” He explained we should embrace people of other faiths and not just tolerate them.

AG Hoffman also praised Director Dickson along with the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness for the work their continuous efforts. Director Dickson informed the gathering about the achievements of his department including conducting workshops over the past year to train security coordinators and community members of various houses of worship in the state. He went over a dashboard and a timeline of OHSP’s work over the year in engaging closely with Presidents and security coordinators of various houses of worship to conduct workshops and threat based trainings on how to secure houses of worship, how to identity threat factors and suspects, and active shooter workshops. Director Dickson informed of OHSP’s significant achievements on the aforementioned fronts after the Wisconsin massacre and will continue to conduct more training and workshops. He acknowledged and complimented the efforts of UNITED SIKHS in working together with NJOHSP to develop a Sikh primer for law enforcement. He also acknowledged the efforts of UNITED SIKHS in working with the Department of Education to include information on Sikhs and Sikhism in the New Jersey School curriculum.

The Sikh turban is still seen as a symbol of hostility in the paranoia that has gripped the nation after 9/11. All the aforementioned incidents indicate that there is still a section of people that equate the Sikh turban with Islamic extremism.  These people fail to understand the fact that this is a country of immigrants; that their fathers or forefathers were also immigrants and there is no set of rules, or a set definition of an American appearance. There is still a pressing need for more awareness campaigns to educate people about the fifth largest religion in the world, Sikhism.

Dr.Gurparkash Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS, gracefully conducted the stage as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. Other speakers at the event include: Nina Chanpreet Kaur, MSEd; Scot Pruiksma, Founder of Interlocking Arms; Howard Norgalis & Filipe Pedrose, Councilmen

Bridgewater Township; Rev Moises Bogdady; Dr. Ellen J Lindeman; Timothy Burk; Anju Bhargava, Hindu American Seva; Dr Ali Chaudry, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge; Hafiz Samiullah Chaudhry, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; and Micheal Tiger, Anti-Defamation Leagure, NJ.

UNITED SIKHS Staff Attorney Manmeet Singh spoke on the topic of “Spreading Love and Defeating Hate.” He narrated Bhai Kanahaiyaji’s story to to illustrate the importance of the principle of spreading love and defeating hate in Sikhism. The story contained an account from 1704 during the battle of Anandpur Sahib when fellow Sikhs complained to Guru Gobind Singh ji, pointing out that Bhai Kanahaiyaji was serving water to the wounded soldiers from the enemy camp. Guru Gobind Singh summoned Bhai Kanhaiya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

Guruji said, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?” Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied “Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, … Guru Ji, .. they all have the same God’s Spirit? – Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God’s people as the same?” The Guru was very pleased with the reply. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji had understood the deep message of Gurbani correctly. Guru ji smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya. Guru Ji said, “Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, You are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani”.

Mr. Manmeet Singh also spoke about the Wisconsin massacre and the various hate crimes that were perpetrated against Sikhs around the country even after the massacre. Prominent among them were the recent scribbling of the word “terrorist” twice on the walls of a Gurudwara in Riverside, California; the vicious attack on 82 year old Sikh, Piara Singh, after he had just exited his local Gurudwara for a morning walk. Singh’s attack was confirmed as a hate crime; the attacker, a 29 year old male named Gilbert Garcia was arrested. The police reported that upon Garcia’s arrest, he shouted that he hated “those people” and wanted to bomb their temples. The shooting in Port Orange, Florida where a Sikh man named Kanwaljit Singh was shot multiple times while driving a car with his 13 year old son sitting next to him, was also mentioned.

UNITED SIKHS thanks Mr.David Leonardis, OHSP, and Director Dickson for leading and coordinating this event; as well as all the activities and efforts that OHSP had undertaken in the aftermath of Wisconsin to make all the Houses of Worship safe and secure; and  their efforts to achieve grants for those houses of worship who need them. We strongly believe that such trainings play a pivotal role in thwarting similar attempts by misguided people to attack the congregation. We hope that these trainings, workshops and grants will continue until there are strong systems in place at all houses of worship to prevent such tragedies. We also thank AG Hoffman for his promise to the community, and his inspiring and insightful message that he gave to the  congregation. Special thanks to all the speakers who took time out of their busy schedules to give insight on the topic at hand.

Please click here for a link to the album from the event.

 

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UNITED SIKHS highly recommends ‘My First Sikh Books’-A set of children’s board books designed to empower pre-school to Grade-1 Sikh girls and boys and their peers.

Atlanta GA: UNITED SIKHS has added My First Sikh Books in its recommendation list for Sikh Awareness Through Libraries (SATL) project. This set is a perfect resource that empowers preschool through Grade 1 children and their peers about the Sikh identity.

My First Sikh Books is a packaged set of two board books: My First Kaur Book and My First Singh Book. These books are designed to instill pride and confidence in young minds, as they leave the comfortable setting of their homes to enter their first classrooms, where they will become aware of their identity for the very first time.This is a much needed resource for little ones entering schools and a must for their classrooms.

   Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS highly recommends ‘My First Sikh Books’-A set of children’s board books designed to empower pre-school to Grade-1 Sikh girls and boys and their peers.’ »

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UNITED SIKHS Voter Registration Drive at Illinois Gurdwara

23rd Assu (Samvat 544 Nanakshahi)

Oct 7th. 2012, Palatine, Illinois: On Sunday, October 7th, UNITED SIKHS along with the Asian American Institute held a Voter Registration Drive at Palatine Gurdwara. A total of 35 people were registered to vote in Illinois at the Gurdwara. The President of the Gurdwara, Sukhdev Kaur Ghuman was very supportive and commended UNITED SIKHS for their successful and collaborative community advocacy efforts. Ekta Kaur of UNITED SIKHS said, “We loved working with the Palatine Gurdwara community and request other Gurdwara leaders to play an active role in encouraging their members to register to vote.”

UNITED SIKHS would like to thank Ami Gandhi, Executive Director of South Asian Policy and Research Institute and Reema Ahmad, Civic Engagement and Field Operations Manager at the American Asian Institute for all their assistance. Two members of the Asian American Institute assisted UNITED SIKHS at the Gurdwara and also brought Illinois Voter Registration forms and Mail-In Ballot forms.

While the Gurdwara had held voter registration drives in the prior two weeks by other organizations, this event registered significantly more members of the Gurdwara because of the ability of the UNITED SIKHS team to communicate effectively with community members, many of whom only spoke Punjabi. Sukhdev Kaur, the Gurdwara President said, “I am very excited about UNITED SIKHS efforts and look forward to working with you again in the future on advocacy projects directed toward the Sikh community.”

Vikram Singh, a UNITED SIKHS Volunteer Attorney based in Chicago, IL, said, “Sikhs and other minorities in every state should make their voices be heard by registering to vote and encouraging their communities to participate in civic engagement. Our vote is a very powerful mechanism for giving us a voice and the ability to control the legislation and policies enacted in our states, including laws that affect the rights of Sikhs and other minorities.”

To initiate a voter registration drive in your Gurdwara or local community center, please reach out to Ekta Kaur at ekta.kaur@unitedsikhs.org or voter-registration-usa@unitedsikhs.org.

Ekta Kaur
Cell: 516-286-6727 | Tel: 1-646-688-3525 | Toll Free: 1-888-243-1690
Fax: 1-810-885-4264 | Email: ekta.kaur@unitedsikhs.org

UNITED SIKHS – Recognize the Human Race as One

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Great Opportunity for NYC Youth- Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)

NYC Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provides New York City youth between the ages of 14 and 24 with summer employment and educational opportunities. In 2011 Department of Youth and Community Development employed 30,628 participants and placed them at 5,732 worksites.  Participants work in a variety of entry-level jobs at government agencies, hospitals, summer camps, nonprofits, small businesses, law firms, museums, sports enterprises, and retail organizations.

The application deadline for this program has been extended to Friday, May 25th, 2012.

Click here to apply

 

 

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UNITED SIKHS Partners with NC Health Department to Educate about Swine Flu Pandemic at Health Fair

http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-17-11-2009-00.html

UNITED SIKHS Partners with NC Health Department to Educate about Swine Flu Pandemic at Health Fair

52nd Sikh Aid health fair offers free flu shots, free lab tests and health screenings for all ages at local Gurdwara in North Carolina

Charlotte, NC, USA – With concerns that the ‘Swine’ flu pandemic continues to spread worldwide this Fall, UNITED SIKHS Carolina Sikh Aid Team, in collaboration with Gurdwara Sahib of Charlotte, organized its second health fair this year and provided free flu shots, free lab tests (Cholesterol and Diabetes) and free health screenings for the public.

The fair, which was held on 1st November, 2009, at the local Gurdwara, is part of our ongoing effort to engage, educate and empower the community through health initiatives. Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS Partners with NC Health Department to Educate about Swine Flu Pandemic at Health Fair’ »

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Lessons from Shining Hope

As a sophomore at Wesleyan University, I had the great privilege to cross paths with Kennedy Odede, then a freshman. Kennedy grew up in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya. In 2004, he started a grass roots movement called “Shining Hope for Communities” (SHOFCO) and became a visionary change maker and community organizer. By the time he left Kenya to get an education, he was popularly known as the “mayor” of Kibera since it was he who regularly responded to his community’s day-to-day needs and helped them to have a voice. Continue reading ‘Lessons from Shining Hope’ »

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The Power of Face-to-Face Encounter

After graduating high school, I spent a year living in Jerusalem, the epicenter of many of the world’s religious conflicts. As a resident I was privy to the ways that misunderstanding and intolerance play out on a day-to-day level. From witnessing hateful graffiti and humor (on both sides) to hearing conflicting historical narratives, it was plain to see that the rift between the Jewish and Muslim communities there runs deep, and that much of the population accepts this state of affairs as the only way. Continue reading ‘The Power of Face-to-Face Encounter’ »

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UNITED SIKHS Co-Sponsors the 9-11 WTC Memorial Floating Lanterns Ceremony

The 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial Floating Lanterns Ceremony, in its tenth year, brings a day filled with deep emotion and reflection to an aesthetically serene and peaceful close. As light fades to dusk, and the sun’s warmth gives way to the Hudson River’s cool breeze, the rhythmic beating of the Japanese Taiko drum signals the beginning of this most poignant and embracing interfaith ceremony led by Reverend Alfonso Wyatt.
Location: Sunday, September 11 at 6:00 PM, Pier 40 (West Houston Street & West Street by the Hudson River)
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UNITED SIKHS Partners in a Symposium on Interfaith Perspectives on Communal Trauma and Harmony in New York

The Interfaith Center of New York, the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service,
and our partners, invite all mental health professionals to attend a symposium 

Interfaith Perspectives on Communal Trauma and Healing: Religious Leaders and Mental Health Professionals Explore the Emotional Life of the City at the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS Partners in a Symposium on Interfaith Perspectives on Communal Trauma and Harmony in New York’ »
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A Hope at a time – Note from Nairobi

Children at Africa Hope Center performing in the Activity Session with the UNITED SIKHS Team

Gurvinder Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director from Texas, USA, recalls the famous lines of Nida Fazli, an Urdu poet from India, “Ghar se Masjid hai bahut door, chalo yun kar lein, Kisi rotey huey bachhey ko hansaya jaaye” (The Prayer Hall is a long distance from home, let us instead bring laughter to a child in tears). This line summed up his experience with the volunteers from various grassroots organizations working for the children of Kenya. When you help a child, divinity is right there.

The UNITED SIKHS team from USA was at Africa Hope Center on January 13, 2010. The Africa Hope Center Children’s Home is located in Kayole, Eastland of the city of Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. The center opened its doors in January 2005 with 5 AIDS affected orphan children. This number has grown to 107 today including boys and girls ranging in age from 4 to 18 years. The center provides basic necessities of life namely food, clothing, and shelter, and helps the children overcome the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through counseling programs. Africa Hope Center also ensures that the children get the best education given the available resources. The average cost per child is $100 per month.

Children at the Africa Hope Center, Nairobi

Jaswinder Kaur, UNITED SIKHS Kenya Director has been involved with the Centre since inception. The center is in the process of constructing its own premises. The facility, once completed, will be a center of excellence with education center, hostels, computer laboratories, and a vocational training center. The entire project is set to cost KSH 40 Million (about USD 500,000). The first phase (costing approximately USD 120,000) is under construction, supported by UNITED SIKHS. The 5 children currently sponsored by UNITED SIKHS spent some time with our team and we will share what they had to say in a later note. The team also engaged all the children at the center in activities conveying the message of hope and Chardi Kala.

New Africa Hope Center Building under Construction, supported by UNITED SIKHS Kenya

Children are the future of the world, clichéd, but true. In our own small ways we can do a lot to shape the future – volunteer or donate for grassroots projects for helping children in our own communities, nationally, or internationally. According to Analysts, despite the Millennium Development Goals and International Aid flowing into Africa, the major reasons that Africa continues to lag in development are: corruption, unfair trade practices and policies on the part of developed countries, and the lack of strict monitoring and non-involvement of beneficiary communities in donor-funded development projects. As individuals, we may not have much direct control on the first two factors, but the answer to the third issue is organizations like UNITED SIKHS that work with local communities, involve them, and are transparent (with negligible overheads). Sounds like democracy? It sure is at work with UNITED SIKHS!

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