By Kanwal Prakash Singh
A Reflection on the Message and Challenge
Honorable André Carson is the second U.S. Congressman to visit the Sikh Gurdwara (Temple- Acton Road) in 2014; in May, Congresswoman Susan Brooks visited the Gurdwara. The Sikh community is encouraged by the growing interest in the central Indiana Sikh community and by their assurances and support of Sikh American concerns and challenges since 9/11. Both André Carson and Susan Brooks have actively endorsed the opportunity for Sikh Americans to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces with their faith-mandated articles and supported the rightful place and integration of Sikh Americans in the fabric of our nation. The Congressman was accompanied by Kathy Souchet-Moura, Immigration Liaison/Outreach Coordinator and a member of his staff.
INFORMED AND ENTHUSED
Congressman André Carson, during his briefing in the Gurdwara Library, following a very warm welcome by central Indiana Sikh leaders, mentioned that he has several books in his library on Sikhism and was familiar with the Sikh Founder, Guru Nanak. The Congressman indicated he has been looking forward to this visit to the Sikh Temple. Sikh Leaders briefed him about major Sikh concerns of workplace discrimination and harassment, the bullying of Sikh children in schools, and the continuing challenges of mistaken identity due to the Sikh turbans and beards that has led to hundreds of hate crimes and unprovoked violence since 9/11. Throughout this briefing, Congressman Carson showed great understanding, compassion, and assurance of his commitment to safeguard the interests of all Hoosiers.
WARM WELCOME AND HONORS IN SANCTUARY
The Sikh Ragis (religious singers) Joginder Singh and his companions were singing, “Na Ko Berrie, Nahin Bigana, Sugul Sung Hum Ko Bun Aayee: I have no enemy, no one is my enemy, I get along with everyone” as the Congressman and his party were escorted to the Gurdwara Sanctuary. Following a warm welcome by Maninder Singh Walia, President of the Sikh Satsang, KP Singh, a longtime Indiana resident and Sikh community spokesperson was invited to introduce the Congressman and provide an overview of the Sikh faith, culture and tradition, and the Sikh community in Indiana and in the U.S. KP reminded the gathering of the Oneness of God and unity of the entire human race, the precepts of inalienable rights and principles of universal equality, equal justice, human dignity, and preservation of sacred human rights form the core of the Sikh faith that echoes in the U.S. Constitution and the laws that govern the oldest and most advanced democracy in the world.
Giani Pritam Singh (Head Granthi), Maninder Walia, Jasvir Singh Lalli, and Narvinder Singh (Current and Past Presidents) participated in presenting the traditional Sikh Siropa (sacred scarf), a beautiful book: The Sikhs, the 2014 SikhLens Calendar highlighting the valor and sacrifices of Sikhs in World War I and World War II on the side of the Allies, and the report of the “Bullying of Sikh Children in Schools,” prepared by Sikh Coalition. In the spirit of the moment, Congressman Carson was made an honorary “Singh” with a resounding Jakara. Mr. Ranjit
Singh, Program Director of United Sikhs, an organization engaged in humanitarian work in the US and beyond, also addressed the gathering.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE AND CHALLENGE
With an all-embracing spirit and disarming charm, Congressman Carson addressed the gathering of about 250. He promised as a member of the powerful House Armed Services Committee to address the Sikh right to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. He talked about, “America’s foundation of diversity, land of many faiths- strains of thread that connects all these faiths.” The Congressman emphasized education of the community, schools, law enforcement offices, and civic leaders by the Sikh community. He applauded Sikh efforts with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, TSA-Homeland Security Personnel, area schools, and our networking with the civic and interfaith leaders. He advised that the real change would only come when the Sikhs get organized, field candidates to serve on major Boards, as City-County Councilors, as State legislators, as Mayors, and as Congressional Representatives. Congressman Carson presented a lofty prospect and challenge: “There can be a Sikh, may be a female Sikh, as U.S. President one day.” That brought an enthusiastic approval from the congregation. He added, “I proudly represent you as brother André Singh.”
WORKING SESSION AND A PATIENT HEARING
During the Langar, Congressman André Carson met with 25 Sikh community leaders in the Library, and for an hour heard community concerns and challenges and promised to look into them. He was incredibly patient and seemed to understand the unrealized hopes, dreams, and continuing frustrations of a young community. He expressed positive hope that the Sikh community would look to the future with its sights raised for a more visible presence and greater involvement and share their spirit and talents at many levels.
RAISING SIGHTS AND COMMITMENT