The British Sikh Association (BSA) hosted an inter-faith Seminar at the Nehru Centre, London on 28th July 2011 to promote interfaith dialogue for peaceful coexistence.
Over 130 guests attended the seminar including high profile guest speakers: Lord Hylton; Lord Popat of Harrow; Founder-Director of Faith Matters, Mr. Fiaz Mughal OBE, FCMI; Vice Chancellor of World Sikh University, Dr. Sukhbir S. Kapoor OBE.
Mrs. Jasminder Kasturia, Acting Director of the Nehru Centre, welcomed guests and was proud that the Nehru Centre was promoting such seminars designed to build bridges between communities. She also said that she was looking forward to more events of this nature in the future.
Vice Chairman of the BSA and Chair of the Seminar, Mr. Hardyal S. Luther welcomed guests and commenced the proceedings by quoting Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s saying ‘Manus ke jaat sabhe eke he pahchaan bho’, translated as recognise the whole of humanity as one. He went on to say that there are many different names given to God but there is only one God and all are his children and equal in his eyes.
Chairman of the BSA, Dr. Rami Ranger MBE, FRSA, described the importance of inter-faith seminars and dialogue in gaining a better understanding of each other and moving forward into a better future. He stressed that we must reflect upon the world of today and not that of yesterday. He said that we must accept diversity as an act of God and without its presence the world would have been a dull place. Dr. Ranger closed by saying that we have a simple choice, “we either live in harmony or consume ourselves in hatred in the name of religion”. He praised the Ahmadiyya ethos, “Love for all and hatred for none”.
Mr. Fiaz Mughal OBE spoke of the unity and energy we need to have as humans in-order to counter and push aside those who create division, pull us apart and sow the seeds of discontent. He described interfaith, co-existence and harmony as being central to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and being in the DNA of Sikhs around the world. He gave an example of Guru Nanak Dev Ji who had travelled to Mecca and had conducted one of the earliest inter-faith journeys to gain a better understanding of cultures and faiths, adding that Sikhs through their core have a rich tradition of trying to understand and reach out to people.
Lord Popat praised the commitment of the Sikhs to the public good and described Sikh teachings as an inspiration to all. He said that when we respect other faiths we in turn respect our own faith. Speaking on integration, Lord Popat stated that we must focus on what unites us rather than the things that divide us. He added that in-order to have true inter-faith understanding, we need a better backdrop on which to discuss faith, as too often in this country we are afraid to talk about faith with fear of offence or because we do not understand something.
Dr. Sukhbir S. Kapoor OBE spoke on the essence of Sikhism stating that in the eyes of God there are no Hindus or Muslims; religious labels are manmade. He said that a temple and mosque are the same, puja and namaz are the same, all humans are one and it is through error they appear different. He spoke about religious fundamentalism and terror, stating that the use of terror in a religious sense is a distorted stream that constitutes a deformation of the Almighty; it is not a religion but is a crime against humanity. He added that we must separate religion from terror; there must be a common effort by all believers regardless of faith, creed or gender.
Lord Hylton opened by saying blood is the same colour, whatever your race or creed. He then spoke about division between sects of the same religion, giving the example of Northern Ireland where in spite of having full political devolution, it remains deeply divided due to the majority Protestant and minority Catholic tensions. He spoke of Inter-faith dialogue as being valuable in solving religious tensions, by developing and applying their understandings of forgiveness, they can all help to deal with grievances. He added that the aim of forgiveness should always be the common good for the whole of society.
There was then a brief question and answer session followed by scrumptious dinner courtesy of Shehnai.