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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-09-11-2006-00.htm

Press Release: Thursday, 09 November 2006, 25th Katak, Samvat 538 Nanakshahi

Promote Diversity Celebrate Difference: NYC Multifaith Forum on Religious Identity

“The day that Hindus see Parmatma in all, Jews see Al Shadai in everyone, Muslims see Allah in all and Sikhs see VaaheGuroo in everything, all wars will stop and the earth will become the promised land.”: 16 yr old Tejkaran Kaur told the Forum.

November 5 th, 2006 : Prejudice breeds when diversity and difference is not celebrated. This was the resounding message delivered to 150 participants at the Multifaith Forum on Identity in New York city , organized by UNITED SIKHS, Religions for Peace, Gurdwara Makhan Shah Lobana Sikh Center, the Interfaith Center of New York and Gurdwara The Sikh Cultural Society New York .

9 Year Old Sikh Activist, Harmehar Kaur 
Attendees At The Conference 

P articipants drew upon their theological and philosophical understandings to address particular issues relating to identity in contemporary society. In a world that is continually clashing over identity, especially religious identity, it is becoming more and more important to find a way out, the Forum concluded. For a full list of speakers see the poster at http://unitedsikhs.org/events/

The Multifaith Identity Forum, the first of a series, heard how different identities had experienced conflict and need to seek unity in diversity.

Hate Crime Task Force Detectives 
ICNA Director Youth And Common Develop Malika BeyRushdan 

Jennifer Rapoport, Assistant Director, New York Defamation League, said, “More than fighting anti-Semitism, we strive to secure safety and justice for all. Most of our work is on interfaith education. Prejudice results from not knowing the other side.”

Speaking on backlashes against communities, Jasleen Kaur, UNITED SIKHS, International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy, coordinator, NY region, said, “Hate crimes--violent acts against people, property, or organizations because of the group to which they belong or identify with--are a tragic part of American history. Sikh organizations in the US have documented more than 500 incidents that reflect hate or bias against Sikhs”

Mohinder Singh, Queens County Democratic Committee Member 

Rev Cheryl F. Dudley, D. Min, s enior advisor to the executive director at the Church World Service in New York City , spoke on the importance of such forums. She said, “Cultures have gone through many changes but identity is something that needs to be respected and every culture and its religion should strive to protect and preserve its heritage as it is part of their being.”

Participants At The Forum 
President Of Makhan Shah Lubhana Gurdwara, Richmond Hill NY, Pritam Singh, presenting his views 

The participants felt that honesty was needed in acknowledging the difference in another. The Executive Director of the Muslim Women's Institute for Research and Development, Nurah Amat'ullah said, “Diversity can only be celebrated if we are honest with ourselves. I hope communities pause and look at what makes us co-exist for our survival. The communities’ survival needs everyone. We should start by giving the other person time and space to share a part of them with us.”

Avtar Singh, President of The Sikh Cultural Society, Richmond Hill NY ( extreme right) with other committee members  
Rev Cheryl F-Dudley 

Tejkaran Kaur, a 16 year old Sikh girl, said, “God is not limited to the Church, Mosque, Gurudwara or the Synagogue or the Hindu Temple . But God belongs inside the hearts of those who love and serve humanity. The day that Hindus see Parmatma in all, Jews see Al Shadai in everyone, Muslims see Allah in all and Sikhs see VaaheGuroo in everything, all wars will stop and the earth will become the Promised Land.”

Tejkaran Kaur, 16 year old Sikh Activist, Speaking On Identity 

Nine year old, Harmehar Kaur, spoke on “Why she is a Sikh”. Her speech can be read here .

Tejindar Singh, Legal Advisor to UNITED SIKHS said, “In the case of Rajinder Singh Khalsa, the judge found there had been no hate crime committed against him even though Mr. Singh had been brutally assaulted by men shouting racist remarks about his Turban.”

“The court held that Mr. Rajinder Singh was not assaulted because of his religion but because he had called the police and therefore this assault was not a hate crime. If this is not hate than what is?” Tejinder Singh said. For details on Rajinder Singh’s case click: http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-29-12-2005-01.htm.

Tejinder Singh added, “The identity problem in France, where religious signs are banned in schools, is spreading to other parts of Europe. This is a major concern for the Sikhs worldwide today and the solution lies in the community lobbying and making themselves visible to the mainstream communities. UNITED SIKHS is there to assist the community to execute these solutions. The six Sikhs who were elected to the Queens Community Board recently is just a start of rise to power of a new immigrant groups. There will be more.”

UNITED SIKHS Legal Advisor, Tejindar Singh, speaking on hate crimes 

The Director of Youth and Community Development, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Malika Bey Rushdan , said, “We serve on common ground, discuss true feelings and social justice and we should celebrate our difference. God has created us as a nation and a tribe so that we may know one another and not destroy each other.”

The Multifaith Identity Forum was moderated by Jessie Kaur, Australia-based Multifaith Director of UNITED SIKHS, who is visiting USA on a conference commemorating women in the 21 st century. To see the complete profile of Jessie Kaur, please click here.

To view the picture gallery, please click here: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/multifaith/112006/

To read a previous Community Voice on UNITED SIKHS’ multifaith projects please click http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-21-09-2006-01.htm

Issued by:
Multifaith Coordinator-NYC Region
Rabinder Singh
Phone: 888-243-1690

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