Sikh activist talks with US students on faith, bullying

American Sikh Council rep takes part in a New York event teaching world religions and bullying prevention for students

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Kavneet Singh taking questions from the school children – Photo: ASC
By Asia Samachar | UNITED STATES |

The American Sikh Council (ASC) representative S.Kavneet Singh participated in an event teaching world religions and bullying prevention held at Middle School 890 in Brooklyn, NY on Feb 6, 2020. The three-hour event had over ten speakers/participants from all the major faith traditions.

The format was held in what is known as community circles. Each guest speaker ran a 12-minute circle conversation with a group of around 10-15 students. The school children pose various questions to the speakers and then the guest speakers rotate groups, in order to cover all the children. The circle format instead of panel is bit more intimate while it provides deeper understanding and more ‘small group’ discussions with the students.

Most of the questions by the students were focused on learning about the practices of the various religions. The questions also included personal opinions on one’s faith, information on the scriptural texts, about suffering of humans, common misconceptions, death, after-life, hell-heaven, etc.

Guiding Questions:

  • Tell us about the religious tradition or spiritual practices of your childhood.
  • How has your faith changed over time?
  • Are there specific texts or documents that are important for teaching about your religion? Why are these texts special? Do people disagree about the history or meaning(s) of these texts?
  • Does your religion have an explanation for why people suffer in the world?
  • What would you say is, from your perspective, the most commonly held misconception about people of your religion?
  • How do you practice your beliefs? Are there rituals, objects, or dates that are important to you?

There were several representatives from the New York Department of Education in attendance, participating and observing the ongoing discussion. Out of the over 125 students who participated the majority of the students were 6th graders, but there were also 7th and 8th graders involved in the event.

He further highlighted the bias against adults and how the trickle-down effect impacts the children. The overwhelming reason for the unrelenting bias is the ubiquitous ‘turban’.

Ms Caroline remarked, “The information given by Kavneet Singh was very informative, the children were extremely engaged while the representatives from the DOE the an eye-opener for many of us.”

This was the fourth year American Sikh Council (ASC) representatives interacted with the convention attendees by educating and answering many questions posed by the various specialists and educators. Brochures covering the Sikh Faith, Sikhs and Scouts, History of Sikh Americans, Bullying of Sikh American Children were displayed and distributed. The recently published book supported by the American Sikh Council ‘Bullying of Sikh American Children – Through the Eyes of a Sikh American High School Student’, www.bullyingasikhamericanchildren.org was displayed; as this is another resource tool which can be used by all school professionals and law enforcements officials to help the widespread bullying and victimization of many minorities groups like the Sikh American children.

Bullying of Sikh American school children is a pervasive problem across America. The networking and the outcome of ASC’s collective work was a great success, but in order to continue to sustain this ongoing work ASC requests all the gurdwaras to generously support these very important educational initiatives in order to help our next generation thrive and not simply survive.

Extracted from American Sikh Council (ASC) newsletter for March 2020. The original article was entitled ‘ASC does a workshop on the Sikh Faith and Bullying Prevention at the Middle School 890, Brooklyn, NY on 2020’.

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