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Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar / The Gateway To The Guru

A Gurdwara (Punjabi: ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰਾ, gurduārā or , gurdwārā), meaning the Gateway to the Guru, is the place of worship for Sikhs

A Gurdwara (Punjabi: ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰਾ, gurduārā or , gurdwārā), meaning the Gateway to the Guru, is the place of worship for Sikhs

I live in the city of LaSalle, right around the corner from Sikh Temple. It is a beautiful building that stands out amid all the drab office and shipping structures and the street after street of  houses and multi dwelling buildings that all look the same and have become the norm for residential areas.  The first time I really took notice of the Sikhs in my community was shortly after 9/11 .  Everybody in the USA was looking to blame anyone who looked anything like a Muslim and in Canada it was about the same.  People were attacking all Muslims although it was a few Muslim extremist that actually participated or had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but that is not why I am mentioning the events of 9/11.  Why I mentioned 9/11 is because the Sikh community was being harassed on public transit, on the street to such and extent that they felt that they had to distribute a flier door to door asking people not to blame all for  the acts of a few and to remind them that when Timothy McVeigh blew up a building no one blamed all white male Americans for the actions of one white terrorist.

There was so much hate and mistrust back then, it was a scary time to look different, dress different and talk a different language especially when confronted by ignorant people out to extract a pound of flesh on a race for 9/11, because they could not get their hands on the few guilty terrorist.  I had not really paid attention to these people as anything other than neighbors and that they dressed different from the average Canadian, because for the most part they seemed to keep to themselves, never caused any trouble and always returned a smile and a good day from me with a smile and a kind look of surprised thank you.  I remember my sister-in-law calling one day after she got home from work totally out of sorts almost shouting into the phone, “How dare they, how dare they allow them to get on the metro with us after what happened in New York.  I was on the train with one of them Sikhs and I was afraid for my life.”  I explained to her that it was not the Sikhs who were responsible for the terrorist attacks and even if it was it wouldn’t have been all Sikhs. I further explained that it was not all Muslims either and she was acting irrational and needed to get herself together.  I hung up the phone and wondered what it must be like to hated and blamed for something you had no part in because you were different, or resembled the perpetrator of the crime? I also wondered what it was like to have people stare at you and whisper about you, because you dress different and I decided to learn something about these quiet people, who mind their own business, turn their other cheek when society slaps them in the face with racially motivated laws that seek to tae away their freedom of expression and religious freedoms. I decided to learn a little bit about the Sikh community living within my community of LaSalle Quebec.

I guess like every other race, religion and culture they have their good and bad people within their community, because this is the way of things.  they seem to blend into the shadows for the most part trying to go about their lives in a peaceful quiet way, not wanting to be noticed and hopefully left alone.  I have watched these humble people light up with a simple good morning from me and I realise that it does not happen to them enough and my heart saddens.  I see these people most going to the temple, or leaving it and I note the ladies are always in groups. I know tis feeling of isolation, the feeling of oppression and quiet racism the kind that is hard to fight, because it is underground a kind of understanding that is never spoken out loud and always denied in public, because I have lived with it all of my life.  As I watched them tend their gardens in the backyard, play with their children, I take note that they are no different in any way that counts from everyone else.  As I get in their cabs, shop in their stores, I realise that they are no different from anyone else in any way that matters and they are as eager to talk share a story as anyone else.  What is different though is that they have been taught by prejudice the actions of government and other people that they are for the most part not welcome and in this day and age I finds it sad.

Yes I know about the Air India incident and as I said earlier every community bar none has their good and their bad, but this is no reason to ostracize a whole community of Canadians. As I watch their annual parade, I wish that they got more press.  I have watch these quiet people stand on the street and pass out water and drinks to walking people, people in cars and basically anyone who wanted something to drink and all for free.  I understand that on Sunday anyone form any faith, colour and culture is welcome to enter their temple and eat, for free.  These are an inclusive people who seem to be silently persecuted for being different and have been made to feel less and I think we as Canadians and Quebecers should be ashamed of ourselves and stop the racism we try to sweep under the rug.

Some interesting facts about the Gurdwara in my neighbourhood :

  • The Gurdwara in my neighbourhood is called Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar and was built in 2001

  • The Nishan Sahib, or flagpole flies the Sikh flag and is 72 feet high; one of 12 in the world standing that high and can be seen at that height for some distance.
  • Over 15,000 Canadians have visited Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, among them students from elementary and high schools, college and university and teachers and professors from all faculties of Quebec

Some facts concerning Sikhism take n fro Wikipedia:

  • Sikhism offers strong support for a healthy communal life, and a Sikh must undertake to support all worthy projects which would benefit the larger community and promote Sikh principles. Importance is given to Inter-faith dialogue, support for the poor and weak; better community understanding and co-operation.
  • Sangat and Pangat: which is a free community kitchen as a langar for all visitors, regardless of religious, regional, cultural, racial, caste or class affiliations.
  • In the langar room, food is cooked and served by the volunteers in the community. Only vegetarian food is served in the langar hall, to suit the visitors from different backgrounds so that no person may be offended. All people belonging to different faiths sit together to share a common meal, regardless of any dietary restrictions. Langar is always served to the sangat (the congregation) sitting on the floor, as equality amongst all members of the community is a basic tenet of Sikhism. The main philosophy behind the Langar is two-fold : to provide training to engage in Seva and an opportunity to serve people from all walks of life and to help banish all distinctions between high and low or rich and poor.

Given the fact that these people and their religion demonstrates such a sharing and inclusive way of life, based on giving of oneself and all that one possesses to helping the community in which you live and the respecting of all people regardless of their religion, social standing, political affiliation, race or cultural differences, is it not time we welcome these wonderful people into our neighbourhoods with open arms displaying the generosity and kindness that they bring with them as part of their natural way of living?  Let us get past the fear and mistrust of all things different and move beyond blaming all for the mistakes and wrong doings of a few.  Let us remember the words of Jesus Christ who said, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”.

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