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Sikhs join in celebrating American Civil Rights leader's birthday


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    Washington: February 5, 2008 - Guru Gobind Singh Foundation represented the Sikh community in the InterFaith Conference’s InterFaith Prayer Service marking the birth-anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King. Tributes were paid to Late Dr. Martin Luther King, America's prominent civil rights leader. This was attended by local and national political leaders including Ike Leggit, Montgomery County Executive and US Senator Benjamin Cardin. Guest speaker was US Senate Chaplain Rear Admiral Dr. Barry C. Black (Ret.), author of the book "From the Hood to the Hill."

    From left to right: Dr. Harminder Kaur Mangat, Gursean Singh, Senator Benjamin Cardin from Maryland, Sartaj Singh Dhami, County Executive Ike Leggett, Supreet Kaur Dhami, Sabreena Kaur

    Dr. King led non violent movement for Civil Rights of Blacks and ultimately forced the American government to yield and recognize the need to give blacks the real freedom and freedom to vote. His birthday a national holiday in the mid 80's.

    This annual event is a one of a kind for the whole Washington DC area, as it is the only InterFaith and Multi-Culture event in the DC area to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, America's pioneer for civil rights and social harmony. Persons from all eleven member faith communities in the InterFaith Conference -- Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Latter-day Saints, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Sikh and Zoroastrian -- participated in this service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which the InterFaith Conference(IFC)

    Representatives of various religions sharing passages from their own faiths at the service. Children from various communities lined infront

    Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of IFC said, “The national Capital region's only multi-religious service was 'a tremendous celebration' in the words of a retired minister who was present. U. S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black challenged us all to Strive for the Beloved Community, the theme of the service, in an amazing sermon preached without a note. The 'Beloved Community' was an important phrase Dr. King used to describe the goal of all of his work -- a community of justice and of peace where, for example, people would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

    From left to right: Gursean Singh Aujla, Sabreena Kaur, Dr. Harminder Kaur Mangat, US Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry C. Black

    Music was also a very important part of the service as well. The Mass Choir of the host church, Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church in Silver Spring, Md., was accompanied by the church's orchestra! An interfaith children's choir, including many children from the South Asian Seventh Day Adventist Church nearby, sang their own song and led the congregation in a second song before leaving for their own program. They returned in time to lead all those gathered in singing the most beloved song of the civil rights' movement, 'We Shall Overcome.' The congregation of about 400 persons also enjoyed singing two hymns.

    Another highlight of the service was the responsive reading from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolence in Atlanta, Georgia. Fourteen youth and young adults of many faiths took turns reading parts of it, with the congregation readings its responses. Interspersed were a sentence each about ten different community groups that are 'striving for the beloved community,' read by representatives of the organizations.

    Sikh youths from GGSF, Sabreena Kaur Mangat and Gursean Singh Aujla, participated by reciting powerful portions of to Dr. King's speech

    Sartaj Singh Dhami, An active member of GGSF sangat, stated that although Dr. King was an individual who stood for the rights and freedoms of all and was a martyr to this belief. But before all of this, he was a man of faith. In today's world, it is important to practice their faith, whatever it may be, in order to promote a better society for all like Dr. King did.

    Gursaen Singh Aujla, 18, said, “I found the service enlightening especially after the sermon given by Dr. Barry Black. His sermon was very deep and had a universal message. He spoke of equality and brotherhood among all people, which is analogous to Dr. King's message as well as Sikhi.”

    Meghan Kaur

    Meghan Kaur while speaking about Dr. King at the GGSF Gurdwara, said, “Guru Nanak Dev Ji some 500 years ago was trying to make a difference. He said “ there is no hindu nor any mussulman” Guru Ji was declaring an act of brotherhood. He was making a statement of love your neighbor as you love yourself. Dr. King also believed that anybody could make a difference, anyone can be great. He said. “You do not have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

    Dr. Harminder Kaur, GGSF’s Gurmat School coordinator, said, “I felt very fortunate that I was at this powerful service along with our youth. I think we should have more of a representation there. At first I thought I missed gurdwara but listening to Chaplain Black and the words of Dr. King were a sermon.It is the only event to show the true diversity of Washington DC and Dr. King's dream, as it had representatives from all major world religions participating. ”

    Sabreena Kaur Mangat, 17, said, "The best part of this service was Chaplain Black's sermon and the dinner after the service which was a real interfaith experience where we could share our background and learn about the faiths of others at the service extending Dr. King's dream into the present day.

    Dr. Rajwant Singh, Executive Director of GGSF, said, "It is thrilling to see our youth participate in these events and feel inspired to contribute to the society. Dr. King strived all his life to make people stand for themselves."

    GGSF has been participating in this program since 1989 and it also represents Sikhs in the IFC.
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