ONTARIO: The Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations (SCIR) coordinated the Sikh participation and presentations at the 2015 Salt Lake City Parliament of the World’s Religions at which about 300 Sikhs attended from across the world.
In view of the November 2018 Toronto Parliament of World Religions, a Parliament Sikh Task Force was established by SCIR in early February 2017. The task force has been meeting since then about every other week to plan the Sikh participation under the leadership of Dr. Satpal Singh of Buffalo, New York as Convener and Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia (PWR Trustee) as Secretary. The charge of the task force is to coordinate and implement the active participation of the worldwide Sikh community at the upcoming parliament through:
- Significant international Sikh presence and engagement,
- Presentations at plenary and parallel sessions focused on interfaith and intrafaith issues, and
- Guru ka Langar, if possible, at the parliament to be led by the local Sikh community.
Task force members include over 20 Sikh representatives from Canada, US, Europe, India, and Australia.
Over 500 Sikhs from across the world are expected to attend the Parliament in Toronto. About 50 Sikhs speakers will be presenting at the Parliament. The plenary speakers include:
- Gobinder Singh Randhawa, Chairman of Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council, will address the Opening Ceremony on Nov 1 evening
- Simran Jeet Singh of Sikh Coalition will speak at the Opening Plenary session on Nov 1 evening – Tarunjit Singh Butalia of Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations will be the Emcee for the Nov 2 evening plenary at which Valarie Kaur, interfaith activist, will speak
- Valarie Kaur will address the Women’s Assembly on the morning of Nov 3 and Tripat Kaur as well as Mahnaam Kaur will participate in the opening processional
- Keertani Jatha of Sikh Youth Alliance of North America will participate in the Sacred Music Concert to be held Nov 4 evening and share a Sabad through Keertan by young adults
- Valarie Kaur will address the Justice Assembly on the morning of Nov 5
- Kanwaljit Kaur, OBE, President of Global Sikh Council, is coming from UK as an invited guest of the Parliament to address the Closing Plenary on Nov 7 morning
More than 50 concurrent Sikh panelist sessions are being presented at the Parliament with about over 10 Sikh sessions per day of the parliament. Some such sessions are:
North American Sikh Experience: Emerging from the Fringes (Nov 2, 12:15pm to 1:45pm)
A four-member panel will discuss how Canadian and American Sikh organizations brought together new community members, organized, and challenged institutional biases. The panel will address legal challenges that changed religious freedom accommodations, international advocacy, and geopolitical events that brought the community together to challenge human rights injustices. Panelist will outline how global events challenged established community frameworks and how addressed issues were brought back to the forefront. A particular focus will be placed on educating institutions, such as school boards, universities, police agencies, and municipal governments in Canada and the USA.
Moderator: Balpreet Singh Boparai, WSO-Canada
Panelists: Mukhbir Singh, President WSO-Canada; Amrith Kaur, Legal Director, Sikh Coalition; Jaskaran Sandhu, Brampton, Mayor’s Office; Gian Singh Sandhu, WSO-Canada
Breaking Bread Together: Sikh Concept of Langar (Nov 3, 6pm to 7pm)
In this seminar on langar, several Sikh panelists will come together to engage with each other on (a) how they perceive the concept and implementation of the Sikh practice of langar, (b) what role can langar play in religious communities serving the needy in their local communities, and (c) how can local Sikh Gurdwaras across the world partner with their neighboring places of worship of other faiths to alleviate hunger and homelessness?
Moderator: Dr. Anahat Kaur Sandhu, President of Sikh Educational and Religious Foundation Presenters: Mr. Kuldeep Singh, Sikh Youth Alliance of North America; Mandeep Singh, Detroit Sikh community; Jasvir Kaur Singh. Cofounder,
North American Sikh Experience: Lessons from History (Nov 4, 6pm to 7pm)
A four-member panel will discuss the Sikh journey from Punjab, India to Canada and United States. The panel monitor will provide a background of significant events that the community endured in both countries, including the Komagata Maru incident. Comparisons will be drawn between how journeys between the two countries varied, the familial approach to migration, detailed accounts of labor relations issue, and different community responses. Panelist will outline how democratic and legal frameworks of the United States and Canada enabled the Sikh community to challenge unaccommodating frameworks.
Moderator: Balpreet Singh Boparai, WSO-Canada Panelists: Pardeep Singh Nagra, Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada; Jaideep Singh, Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations; Amrith Kaur, Legal Director, Sikh Coalition
Interfaith Peacemaking in South Asia: Diverse Perspectives (Nov 5, 2:15pm to 3:45 pm)
South Asia is home to many of the great religions of the world. Yet religiously motivated violence, especially against religious minorities, is prevalent across many South Asian countries despite a long history of interfaith interactions. Lessons learned will be shared. Q&A will follow the panel presentations.
Moderator: Dr. Satpal Singh, Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations Panelists: Muralivallabhan, Hindu – India; Jayendra Soni, Hindu – India; Muhammad Umer Adeel, Muslim – Pakistan; Oonnoonny Thomas, Christian – India; Thenmozhi Soundarajan, Dalit –
India Persecution of Religious Minorities (Nov 6, 12:15pm to 1:45pm)
Persecution of minorities is a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed at international forums so that minorities all over the world can be helped and protected. Initially persecution explicitly referred to oppression due to one’s religious practices and faith, it now encompasses race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation as well as religion. Persecution can be a two pronged attack from the governments through its actions, laws and policies, as well as hostile acts from private individuals, organizations and social groups with the concurrence or toleration of state actors.
Presentations of speakers from Rohingya Muslim, Dalit, Sikh, Baha’i, Hindu, Chinese and Indian Muslim will highlight the problems from their individual experiences and explore avenues for assisting oppressed minorities and explore the role of interfaith engagement in this work.
Moderator: Mr. Gurbux Singh Alag, Chair of Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations Panelists: Dr. Geoffrey Cameron, Director of Public Affairs, Bahá’í Community of Canada; – Ms. Thenmozhi Soundarajan, Dalit Buddhist Activist and Executive Director of Third World Majority; Ahmed Ramadan, Chair of Burma Task Force Canada (Justice for All); Dr. Anahat Kaur Sandhu, President of Sikh Educational and Religious Foundation; Swami Agnivesh, Arya Samaj scholar and social activist; Khalid Ansari, Indian American Muslim Council; Rukiye Turdush, Chinese Muslim Representative
Sikh morning religious observances will be held Nov 2 to Nov 6 from 8am to 9am.
The Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council (OSGC) is taking the lead in organising Guru ka Langar during lunchtime from Nov 2 to 6. Other Sikh communities from Canada and internationally are providing support for implementing the langar.
Two Sikh exhibits will be highlighted at the PWR Toronto. The Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada will showcase its award winning Sikhs and Canada Timeline Exhibit. An Exhibit on Langar will be placed in the langar hall by OSGC in collaboration with Khalsa Aid.
Vishvajit Singh, Founder of Sikh Toons, will be a part of the Interfaith Family Festival at the parliament and interact with attendees as Captain America. Exhibit booths are being planned by World Sikh Organization – Canada, American Sikh Council, and Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations.
Current Sikh Trustees of the Parliament are Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia (Ohio, US), Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal (Vermont, US), and Dr. Sagina Kaur Hanjhra (Illinois, US).