FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2005 Contact: Dr. Tarunjit Singh, Secretary General,
The World Sikh Council – America Region (WSC-AR), on behalf of the United States Sikh community, expresses it condolences on the death of Pope John Paul II. The Pope dedicated his life to promoting peace with justice, and increased inter-religious dialogue among the religions of the world.
Mr. Amolak Singh, Chairperson of WSC-AR remarked, “Pope John Paul II was a beacon of hope and joy for millions of Catholics and other people of faith in the world. He will continue to be a source of inspiration for generations to come.”
Dr. Anahat Kaur, Vice-Chairperson of WSC-AR added, “Pope John Paul II was one of the world’s leading champions for interfaith understanding. He brought together religious leaders from across the world to commit themselves to peace and justice. With his vision and dedication, the day when people of faith will view people of other faiths as being partners in faith rather than in competition with each other to save souls, is not far.”
The WSC-AR reaches out in prayer to the Roman Catholic community across the world in this hour of grief and expresses its deepest condolences to the Vatican on the passing away of this great soul.
The WSC-AR is a representative and elected body of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions in the United States. Its members include 36 Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) and other Sikh institutions across the nation.
Sikhs Celebrate The Memory of Pope John Paul II as a Champion of
Interfaith and Human Rights
2nd April 2005, London : 25 million Sikhs around the world remember the intrepid Pope John Paul II for his support for human rights when their religious freedom was attacked last year and twenty years earlier.
Last year Pope John Paul II threw his weight behind Sikhs to oppose the French government s ban on religious signs, including the Sikh Turban, at schools, saying ”the government cannot be an arbiter in any religious matter.”, said Sameep Singh, inter-faith Director of UNITED SIKHS, a global human development organization that works for the betterment of Sikhs globally.
”In other words, Governments should respect dignity of the human person and of his inalienable rights among which his right to adhere, practice and propagate his religion is fundamental. No Government should interfere with the inner core of any religion,” the Pope had said in a message.
The Pope’s message came after the Sikh community sought his intervention to oppose the French ban on the Sikh turban, an expression of the Sikh identity and faith. UNITED SIKHS led a petition campaign seeking the intervention of world leaders to persuade the French government to abandon its plan to pass the ban-law.
Pope John Paul II said in a message, ”In recent times, we have witnessed in some European countries an attitude that could endanger the effective respect for religious freedom. Everyone may agree to respect the religious sentiment of individuals but the same can not be said of the religious factor, that is the social dimension of religions. It is nothing other than respect for all beliefs on the part of the State that assures the free exercise of ritual, spiritual and cultural and charitable activities by communities of believers.”
The Pope said a healthy dialogue between the Church and the State would encourage harmony in society.
“The Pope’s contribution to interfaith dialogue made him a veritable saint-soldier whose influence on spiritual and temporal matters was phenomenal”, said Sameep Singh.
Twenty years earlier, when the Sikhs’ holiest shrine in Amritsar, popularly known as the Golden Temple, was attacked by the Indian armed forces, the Pope did not mince his words in support for the human rights of thousands of innocent worshippers who had been killed during the attack.
“In these days, the news has followed the ever more serious events in the state of Punjab. I do not want to go into the delicate and complex motives behind these disturbances in a great nation. But the sad fact is that the place where so many people met a tragic death is a temple where men gather in prayer.
“I address an immediate sentiment of human pity for all the victims with a call that a way to resolve the current strife can be found in a mutual understanding…” Pope John Paul II said.
Washington Sikhs Express Sorrow and Offer Prayers for Pope John Paul II
Washington, April 2, 2005 – The Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) and Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (GGSF), based in Washington, have expressed sorrow at the death of Pope John Paul II. Dr. Rajwant Singh, National Chairman of SCORE said, “We express our deep sorrow at the demise of Pope John Paul II. He was a godly person who gave hope to many in need and brought smiles on many faces. He enjoyed a unique moral stature. He worked hard to highlight the plight of the people behind the Iron curtain and eventually gave them the hope to fight for their own freedom. He was a symbol of freedom and justice for all people.”
Dr Singh added “During his pontificate, John Paul II tried to create bridges of friendship and understanding among and with all religions. His was a great ministry of reconciliation. His leadership in calling the meeting of Assisi in 1986 of different religious leaders gave an impetus to the worldwide interfaith movement.” The Pope invited the Sikhs to this gathering for the first time.
Dr Rajwant Singh further stated, “Pope John Paul II was a man of history who was able to reflect upon and apologize for the mistakes of his own church. Sikhs had also deeply appreciated that it was Pope John Paul II who was the first religious and Western leader to raise concern at the attack and killing of the Sikhs by the Indian army at the Golden Temple in 1984.”
In days after this great tragedy, the Pope issued a statement, saying, “In these days, the news has followed the ever more serious events in the state of Punjab. I do not want to go into the delicate and complex motives behind these disturbances in a great nation. But the sad fact is that the place where so many people met a tragic death is a temple where men gather in prayer. I address an immediate sentiment of human pity for all the victims with a call that a way to resolve the current strife can be found in a mutual understanding.”
Amrit Kaur, Secretary of GGSF said, “He greatly respected the moral and religious teachings of other faiths, a mode of thinking to which Sikhs can easily relate. Although an expounder and defender of his own faith, the Pope recognized and vigorously asserted the spiritual values of other religions. We join in prayer with our Catholic brothers and sisters in these prayerful moments at the loss of their leader and for ourselves at the loss of an authentic moral human being. “
Dr Rajwant Singh added that “We are very confident that the current deliberations at the Vatican will bring forth a leader who would emulate the actions and philosophy of Pope John Paul II.”
Pope John Paul II called a second meeting in Assisi of 200 religious leaders including the Jathedar of Akal Takhat (highest Seat of Authority among Sikhs) from all over the world on January 24, 2002. The Pope wanted the day of prayer to reinforce the message after the 11 September attacks that religion must not be a motive for conflict in the 21st Century but a stimulus for peace and reconciliation.” Dr. Rajwant Singh attended this meeting.
At the closing of this great gathering, the Pope said, “With all our differences, we sit at this table, united in our commitment to the cause of peace. That commitment, born of sincere religious sentiment, is surely what God expects of us. It is what the world seeks in religious men and women. That commitment is the hope we have to offer at this special time. May God grant us all to be humble and effective instruments of His peace.”
Pope John Paul II further added, “God himself has placed in the human heart an instinctive tendency to live in peace and harmony. This desire is more deeply-rooted and determined than any impulse to violence; it is a desire that we have come together to reaffirm here, in Assisi. We do so in the awareness that we are representing the deepest sentiment of every human being.”
SCORE has worked with various officials of Vatican on many different issues. Dr. Rajwant Singh of SCORE and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington were together at a meeting called by the World Bank President recently in Ireland which was hosted by the Bishop of the Catholic Church. GGSF representing the Sikhs has also worked with the Archdiocese of Washington headed by Cardinal Hickey in the past and now by Cardinal McCarrick.
Religious Freedom Program Named in Honor of the Pope of Freedom
April 6, 2005
Institute on Religion and Public Policy
Washington, D.C. – His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, who passed away this past Saturday at age 84, tirelessly struggled for freedom, dignity, solidarity and respect for all peoples regardless of faith throughout his life.
As a young man, Karol Jszef Wojtyla experienced the brutality of a godless totalitarian regime and defied the Nazi occupation forces first-hand, risking his own life to protect Polish Jews from persecution.
Even as a priest, Karol Jszef Wojtyla worked against the tyranny of the Communist oppressors in Poland, continuing his indefatigable resistance to despotism and working toward the expression of inalienable freedoms by all peoples of the world.
During the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Wojtyla was an articulate and outspoken advocate for religious freedom. As a recently passed Senate Resolution honoring the Holy Father stated, Archbishop Wojtyla “assert[ed] that the Church could not claim religious liberty for itself unless it was willing to concede it to others”. Pope John Paul II, upon returning to his homeland, frequently cited the Council’s declaration that religious freedom was ‘the first of human rights’, a phrase embraced by Polish Catholics in their struggle against the hegemony of the Communist regime.
In order to honor the life, legacy, and mission of the Pope of Freedom, Institute on Religion and Public Policy President Joseph K. Grieboski announced on Monday that the Institute s religious freedom program will be named in honor of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II.
“The relentless pursuit of the Holy Father for peace, justice, equality, and liberty of all peoples was a centerpiece of the mission of His Holiness pontificate,” stated Mr. Grieboski. “The Pope John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Program will endeavor to follow in the footsteps of John Paul the Great to resist oppression of religious liberty around the world and to advance the cause of liberty, justice, and solidarity for all religious believers.”
Each year, the Institute on Religion and Public Policy presents an award to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to freedom, particularly religious freedom. Previously named for his countryman Jan Karski, the award will now be presented as the Pope John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award. His Holiness, Pope John Paul II was the 2004 recipient of the Jan Karski Award. Institute representatives were scheduled to present the Holy Father with the award in this spring. Unfortunately, the Holy Father was unable to receive the delegation due to poor health.
“The leadership and compassion of Pope John Paul the Great were a prime source of inspiration for the founding of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy in 1999,” Mr. Grieboski continued. “This is but a small token of appreciation and deep-seeded respect for the legacy of the Pope of Freedom who single-handedly shaped the course of contemporary history.”
Bibi Inderjit Kaur Khalsa Speaks at the Largest Interfaith Memorial Service
for Pope John Paul II in US A
April 8, 2005
Sikh Dharma of Los Angeles
Bibi Inderjit Kaur Khalsa, Bhai Sahiba of the Sikh Dharma, addressed a gathering of 500 in an Interfaith Memorial Service for Pope John Paul II at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles in Los Angeles, California. She shared some personal experiences with her husband Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Khalsa Yogiji and their three meetings with the late pontiff, including photographs of those visits. The interfaith assembly also included Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of the Christian faith.
Bibi Interjit Khalsa recalled one meeting, which was scheduled to be for 5 minutes and went on for 20 minutes, where the Siri Singh Sahib Ji discussed with His Holiness an idea of getting a group of spiritual leaders together from around the world to meet in Assisi, the place of St. Francis. That conversation led to the Pope’s announcement in October of 1986, the United Nations International Year of Peace, to hold an Interfaith Conference in Assisi, where some 90 religious leaders of diverse faiths were be recognized for the vital role that all the world’s religion played in promoting a spirit of mutual understanding as a prerequisite to world peace. This group of religious leaders included a delegation of Sikhs.
Other interfaith speakers who spoke to the congregation included the event host, Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Ecumenical and Inerreligious Officer Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Archbishop Hovan Dederian, Primate, Armenian Church-Western Diocese; Rev. Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., Fuller Theological Seminary; Judge Dorothy Nelson, National Assembly of Baha’is of the US; Rabbi Harold M. Schulwies, Valley Beth Shalom; Dr. Maher Hathout, Islamic Center of Southern California; Bhante Piyananda, Buddhist Sangha Council; and Rabbi Mark Diamond, Council of Religious Leaders.
Mayor Jim Hahn of Los Angeles also expressed his sympathies and greeted the Sikh contingent. Officials and sevadars from various gurdwaras of Southern California attend the program.