PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
OFFICE OF THE PREMIER
December 2, 1990
It gives me great pleasure, as premier of British Columbia, to convey warm greetings and best wishes to everyone gathered at the University of British Columbia today for the Conference on Sikh Culture and Philosophy. May I extend an especially warm welcome to our visitors from outside of British Columbia.
I am certain that your deliberations today will provide an excellent opportunity for you to exchange a wealth of knowledge and ideas which will prove to be of great benefit to all. As you may know, the Government of British Columbia recently announced a multicultural policy that provides a framework for all British Columbians to share in our diverse cultural heritage. Accordingly, your Conference plays an important role as we strive to keep British Columbia as a place where everyone can live and work together in harmony, mutual respect and dignity.
You and your families are to be commended for your numerous achievements and valuable contributions to the prosperity and development of our Province and our nation, and for sharing your rich tradition with us all so generously. On behalf of the people and the Government of British Columbia, may I offer my best wishes for a most successful and rewarding Conferences and every good wish for the days ahead.
William N. Vander Zalm
Conference on Sikh Culture and Philosophy University of British Columbia
MINISTRY OF STATE, MULTICULTURALISM
AND CITIZENSHIP CANADA
December 2, 1990
Canadian Sikh Study & Teaching Society
P.O Box 67653, Station O
Vancouver, British Columbia
I am pleased to send greetings and best wishes to the Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society as you hold your Conference on Sikh Culture and Philosophy.
The belief in community values and service lies at the very heart of the Sikh way of life. As stated in the Guru Granth, 'The man who is lost in selfishness is drowned without water. . :' The work that your Society does in helping young people and in promoting Punjabi culture demonstrates vividly this philosophy of reaching out to one's brothers and sisters.
I note with particular interest your Society's commitment to the cause of peace, interfaith understanding, and general goodwill among Canadians. This particular area of your endeavours clearly serves the cause of unity among the members of Canada's diverse population. We are a country increasingly characterized by cultural and religious variety. Our differences of custom and 'belief, however, need not be divisive if we determine to treat each other fairly, with dignity and respect. In doing so, we not only preserve social harmony, but also enrich the very fabric of Canadian life itself.
May youromference prove truly meaningful and rewarding for both the members of the Sikh community and your invited guests of other faiths.
Although, the Sikhs are small in number but their contribution to world thought and their amazing achievements in the field of social reform have attracted many renowned historians and scholars such as Toynbee, Macauliffe, Pearl Buck and many more to study the historical development and philosophy of Sikhism. Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev five hundred years ago which established new institutions such as Sangat and Pangat in order to eradicate the caste system. Guru Nanak appeared in this world to reveal the new and original thoughts about God and the true way of Divine worship. Sikh Gurus challenged the authority of Brahmins as a high ranking caste and also rejected the policy of monopolising military power by the caste oligarchy. They declared "O Unwise, be not proud of thy caste. For, a myriad errors flow out of this false pride."
Guru Nanak Dev founded new and original principles to bring about social and political reforms. The other Gurus followed the principles laid down by Guru Nanak and continued their efforts to free the masses from the yoke of slavery under the cruel kings and religious leaders. Guru Nanak associated himself with the lowliest of the Iow caste. Bhai Gurdas writes that Guru Nanak, made the Dharma perfect by blending the four castes into one.
The Sikh nation also ruled over a huge part of India. Under the Sikh rule all were treated as equal regardless of their caste and creed. There was no exploitation and people had religious, political, and social freedom. The Sikhs always stood for human rights, and their contributions as a saviour of depressed people is very unique in the history of mankind. Even the concept of the Red Cross was also founded by the Sikhs when Guru Gobind Singh appointed Bhai Ghanaya Ji to provide medical aid and food to all the wounded soldiers in the battlefield.
Now, we see the growing number of Sikh organisations and Gurdwaras all over the world, but the way of their preaching is not very effective and also not acceptable to our new generation. Our younger generation is totally neglected and almost ignored. In 1873, when four students of the Mission School at Amritsar proclaimed their intention to accept Christianity, the whole Sikh nation was shaken with the news and those students were approached by the Sikhs not to embrace the other faith. The outcome of this incident was the formation of Singh Sabha. The Sikhs had to confront Arya Samaj and other movements to guard the Sikh faith and its principles. New Sikh educational institutions were established and new Sikh literature was produced to keep the Sikh identity alive. In order to prove the sovereignty of the Sikh doctrine new books were written which were entirely based on Sikh scripture (Sri Guru Granth Sahib).
Even today, we see Hindu styles of worship and practices that are accepted in many Gurdwaras because of their ignorance about Sikh philosophy and Sikh Code of Conduct (Rehat Maryada). On the other hand many quasi-informed scholars write that the Sikh faith is not a new faith and it is just a sect of Hinduism. These scholars appear biased. Their misinterpretations of Sikh history and philosophy are very damaging. Some of these scholars are accepted and appointed in the western Universities to teach Sikh religion. Sikhs need to be made aware of the misrepresentation of their unique and sovereign faith.
Keeping in view the basic needs of our youth and to confront anti-Sikh scholars, the Sikhs of Vancouver formed a society, named "The Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society" in 1987. Our resources are limited to cope with the growing needs of the Sikh nation, therefore, we seek the cooperation of an Sikh societies and organisations to propogate our faith very effectively. This society undertook to (1) restore Sikh practices in our Sikh institutions and Gurdwaras (2) edit and publish historical and religious literature and books (3) start magazines and newspapers in English and Panjabi (4) hold youth camps and Seminars, and (5) run Panjabi and Heritage schools for the younger generation.
It was a great opportunity when Sikhs of U.S.A. approached this society to hold an International Sikh Conference in December, 1990. With Guru's grace and the cooperation of the University Sikh students and the Sikhs of B.C, a very successful Conference was held on December 2, 1990 at University of British Columbia. Prominent Sikh scholars from all over the world participated and presented their research papers. At the present time, Conferences and Seminars: are considered the best source of information where distinguished scholars present their knowledgeable papers with new findings and thoughts. This Conference was the first of its kind and was very successful; more than 600 people participated. The Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society is very grateful to the scholars who presented their papers, and is also thankful to the participants who came from all over Canada and the U.S.A. The society is also grateful to the Ministry of Multiculturalism for their cooperation and financial assistance. .
THE CANADIAN SIKH STUDY AND TEACHING SOCIETY.
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