Why youth shunning Sikh organisations in Singapore?

Talented individuals are attracted to institutions with a mission and organisational culture that resonate with them, argues AMRITPAL SINGH


By Amritpal Singh

It was strange to hear the panelist speak about their worry of finding leaders among the youth to eventually take leadership positions in our community institutions when there were more pressing concerns about the institutions themselves.

I believe that talented individuals are attracted to institutions that have a mission and organisational culture that resonate with them. If we want youth to step up, the institutions need to have a look at themselves first and determine if their mission and culture are relevant, and if not, evolve to fit the needs of the community.

Our institutions had a good understanding of their mission in the old days and people were incredibly driven in executing the mission. It was to provide spiritual guidance to Sangat (congregation) and support to all who arrived in Singapore since civil and social support was not as good back then.

Now, in Singapore, civil and social support services are provided by the government and other agencies with good channels for communication and awareness. If our Gurdwaras want to continue to be community hubs, they must complement or provide enhanced community services to Sangat. Otherwise, people will not see any value-add in services since other organisations do it better. Eventually, if not already, more families will see less reason to make a trip to the Gurdwara for non-spiritual needs.

With the widespread availability of information available from the internet, the role of spiritual guidance provided by the Gurdwaras has been threatened. Not everyone needs to wait till Sunday morning to receive Guru Ji’s Hukam. Live streaming from Gurdwara programmes around the world as well as the many free online resources make accessing Sikhi a breeze. Visiting the Gurdwara has become a social and networking experience for special occasions like weddings or Gurpurabs rather than intentional trips to improve spiritual knowledge and experience.

Sikh institutions in Singapore are still being run the same way they have been for the past decades. The organisational culture stifles any real innovation or evolution to adapt to the changing social needs of our community. For any youth looking in to these organisations, joining such an organisational culture is unattractive and often times depressing.

There was also a comment about new youth organisations sprouting to provide opportunities for spiritual learning. Aside from celebrating such efforts, shouldn’t the incumbent institutions who were supposed to do the same question why this has happened? If the mission of these new and old organisations are the same, has someone dropped the ball in executing the mission? Is the organisational culture of the incumbents attractive for youth to get involved?

Ultimately it goes back to what mission they want to fulfil that is relevant to the Sangat in Singapore and whether the organisational culture is able to facilitate good execution of the mission. If they get these right, i have no doubt that youth will step up to join a cause worth fighting for with people that they admire, or at the very least, can work with.

[Amritpal Singh attended a recent Singapore Sikh conference. This note captures the essence of his comment shared at the event]

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


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Singapore Sikhs told to prepare for major disruptions (Asia Samachar, 26 Nov 2017)

Hearing voices of Singapore Sikh community (Asia Samachar, 11 Nov 2017)

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  1. I agree with Amritpal’s frank view (incidentally one of the few during the discussion on the Sikh community) that enacting some changes in the way our Sikh institutions are managed may yield benefits. The problems quoted at the conference are symptomatic of institutions, and by extension a community (or vice versa), in decline.

    There was talk amongst the panellists about talented Sikh youth not stepping up to serve. We have talented youth, so there well could be some positives to be gained by re-examining our vision and mission, and figuring how to inspire and re-lay the foundations for the upcoming generation of Sikhs. The fact remains that a proportion of our Sikh youth see some of our Sikh institutions as self serving for those who wish to increase their profile and political ambitions.

    It is worth noting that the loudest cheer by far during the session was reserved for the gentleman who proposed the folding in of some Sikh institutions.

  2. Another evidence that their is urgent need for change of mind set of MANAGEMENT COMMITTEES OF GURDWARA JIs and its umbrella body MALAYSIAN GURDWARA COUNCIL and NGOs and go beyond their current priorities to cater for the needs and what will be of interest/benefit to the present day highly educated and inquisitive Y-GEN as they may not be willing to go along with the perceived outdated mindset and thinking of the leaders many of whom may be more interested in continuing to hold the position KERUSI even though some of them may have long passed the age of being able to be active.

    The justification that the majority of the Sanggat wanted them and thus voted them leaving them no choice but to continue in the position should not be acceptable anymore. Everything functioned before their arrival and will continue after their departure as all are ‘disposable’ and it it their fallacy that they are the only ones who can perform. No malice against anyone nor being personal and with humble apologies

    Gur Fateh

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