Singapore Sikhs have launched a unique volunteer work initiative to as part of their year-long celebration of Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday in 2019.
The 12,000 strong Sikh community targets to clock in a collective 550,000 hours of volunteer service by 31 December 2019. If calculated for the next 13 months, that works out to about 3.5 hours per month for every Singaporean Sikh.
Launched last week, the year-long celebrations, which culminates in Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday on 12 November 2019, includes a slew of both internal community events and wider nationwide activities.
As Sikh communities around the world mark this milestone with their own set of celebrations, Sikhs in Singapore aim for their celebrations to have a broader impact on society, according to a media statement from the steering committee for Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Birthday Celebrations.
The steering committee consists of heads of all Singapore-based Sikh institutions as well as community leaders. The 15-person committee is led by former Member of Parliament and entrepreneur Inderjit Singh, who also chairs the Coordinating Council of Sikh Institutions (Singapore).
“Our youth groups got together to brainstorm,” Inderjit told Asia Samachar when asked how they came up with the volunteer work idea.
“The Sikh youth leaders in Singapore, who are very enthusiastic about celebrating Guruji’s 550th birthday decided that this initiative will help rally the community together for a common and positive purpose.
“They also felt that as we celebrate internally, we should use this opportunity to highlight and remind ourselves of our contributions to the wider society. This is one of the many initiatives they have come up with and are working together on and it is inspiring to see them living Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s mission of oneness,” he added.
In the statement, Inderjit said the Sikh community in Singapore has always had a strong sense of belonging to Singapore and its contributions are a testament to that.
“Thus, it was natural that, as we mark a milestone for the community, we also include the wider society in our celebrations and ensure that our activities have an impact beyond the Sikh community.
“After all, that is line with Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s core teachings of universalism, equality and inclusiveness,” he said.
A volunteer portal www.sewapledge.org was launched last week and will now be rolled out to get members of the Sikh community to sign up and record their hours.
For the purpose of this pledge, volunteer work has been defined broadly to include service outside of the Sikh community and functionally vary.
“As long as it is done selflessly, and not for personal gain in mind, Sikhs can record their contributions as hours clocked. Through this initiative we hope to rally the community together for a common, positive purpose and to also document the community’s contributions to the nation, which will undoubtedly strengthen Singapore’s social fabric,” said Inderjit.
Besides the volunteer pledge, the celebrations during the year will also inter-faith engagement efforts at the Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar at the Singapore Expo Hall in December 2018, a Sikh Heritage Day in May 2019 to create awareness to the public, a Harmony Walk in August 2019 to bring different faith representatives together on a common journey.
In September 2019, the Sikh community will also commemorate, at the Kranji War Memorial, the Sikhs who perished defending Singapore during World War Two.
“We hope to bring to everyone the messages of peace, love, goodwill for all, equality and inclusiveness that Guru Nanak Dev Ji had ingrained in Sikhism. In doing so, we hope to play our part in eradicating divisiveness from society here and strengthen common spaces – both physical and ideological,” he said.
International peace bridge connecting Kartarpur in Pakistan and Dera Baba Nanak in India (Asia Samachar, 21 Sept 2018)