SPEECHES

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Talk given by Ranjit Kaur
The Sikh Education & Cultural Association UK

I joined the Mothers' Union Group, Kent, in December 1997. A few months later Daya Sharrna, a Hindu and Farida Usman, a Muslim joined the group. From then on the group was renamed as MULTIFAITH MOTHERS' UNION. The purpose of the group is to bring about change that honours the diversity of family and community life. Our work is inspired by our multifaith experience. Because of its multi formity we began to look ahead to develop our involvement in the community. We are also active members of the North Kent Council for Interfaith relations. We further worked with the Interfaith Council to produce guidelines for Spiritual and Pastoral care of patients and relatives in hospitals. The religions included in the handbook are - BAHAI, BUDDHISM, CHRISTIANITY, HINDUISM, ISLAM, JUDAISM, RASTAFARIAN and SIKHISM. These handbooks are available on the table at the cost price of 5.00 each.

Apart from being members of the Multifaith Mothers' Union and the North Kent Council for Interfaith Relations we are also members of the SAHELI GROUP OF GRAVESEND. Saheli means female friend. We organise many social and cultural events the last being Multicultural Multifaith Family Social evening in February this year. All communities played an active part. Onlookers were surprised to see the different communities getting together and enjoying themselves - some chatting away, some dancing and some meeting one another for the first time. It was indeed a multifaith gathering with exotic food and flavours of different countries.

As wives and mothers we take our diverse experiences to our homes and community hoping and helping to create better understanding and tolerance amongst us. Ignorance so often leads to misunderstanding, stress and creates barriers.

As we continue to work together, we affirm each others efforts. Mutual respect and understanding develops and community life is strengthened. The faith each one of us hold dear inspires all we do. It encourages us to come together and trust one another. Thriving communities are built on trust. We should celebrate ethnic diversity and cultural richness.

Over the years the culture of Britain has changed. Today Britain is a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. Therefore, social inclusion and awareness about the faith of the communities we live in is crucial because ignorance so often leads to misunderstanding. We now have diversity within our communities. Rather than seeing people of different ethnic backgrounds as a problem, we should exercise tolerance and recognise that cultural variety only makes the country more vital and prosperous.

When the Honourable David Blunkett became the Home Secretary he set out his vision of a successful, multicultural Britain - based on respect for every citizen and for the law, regardless of race, colour or creed. Successful partnership is vital for the effective implementation and delivery of policy at all levels and ensuring that the interests of all those involved are properly taken into account. At the present skills and vision of many of those talented people are being allowed to go waste. Let us exercise tolerance and encourage social inclusion which in itself will open opportunities for everyone regardless of their gender, race or disability.

If we fail to bring about integration, mixing and sharing it will trigger a recipe of disaster. Instead it will encourage segregation and separation, often along racial lines causing conflict. This will be compounded by the insufficient efforts to teach an understanding of the different cultures and religions across the spectrum. Unemployment, poverty, poor health and social deprivation are diseases that eat away at the very fabric of society. Self esteem and community fellowship are replaced by the cancer of resentment, isolation and ignorance. To overcome the conflict of ignorance and misunderstanding we must collectively, government and the public at large, work towards an agenda of common Civic identity based on trust and confidence of all communities. Attitudes and behaviour must change. Collectively we can reverse this down turn but only if there is tolerance, co-ordination and accountability. There are no quick fix solutions. If there is Will there is a way.

Let us remind ourselves of the tragedy of September 11th 2001. Many of us will feel inspired to pray and meditate on the situation. In this circumstances the use of the Great Invocation is the key for solace. As with the current situation in the Middle East the people of goodwill everywhere must find deeply distressing. At the centre of this conflict are two people, as I see it, whose conflicting claim to one area of land have been magnified and distorted by religious, historical, economical and political extremists. The one thing that the current situation requires, above all, is an atmosphere of goodwill. Only through goodwill, understanding and tolerance that right human relations can be built and ultimately peace can be found. Our prayers, if rightly used by all the people of goodwill, can bring about a new era of friendship, good relations and peace, not only in the Middle East but throughout the world.

Conclusion:

RESPECT - is the name given to the Prince's Trust initiative launched by HRH Prince Charles at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham on 29th April 2002 to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee in a more lasting way - by encouraging people of different faiths to GIVE TIME to those of other faiths and to increase tolerance, respect and understanding. The highlights of HM's Queen's Golden Jubilee will be celebrated in the week of 2nd to 9th June 2002. Sikh organisations throughout UK will celebrate this event by giving strong support to an initiative to serve the people of all faiths.

RESPECT and TOLERANCE echoes the basic Sikh teachings as demonstrated by our Gurus. The Prince's Trust initiative will give Sikhs the opportunity to serve the community at large and befriend with all. Prince's Trust guidelines suggest that all places of worship should welcome people of other faiths to visit their Churches, Mosques, Temples and Gurdwaras throughout the week. As for the Sikhs, Gurdwaras will be open to all faiths, regardless of gender race or disability, to partake in the 'Langar' - Guru's free kitchen - particularly in the Queen's Golden Jubilee week of 2nd to 9th June 2002. Thank you.

Ranjit Kaur

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