A call out to Sikhs around the world

Dear Sikh brothers and sisters around the world,

We as a community often stand together in times of crisis and when we are made aware of people who need our support. I am now reaching out to all the Sikh communities, and challenging them to join the Pride events that are occurring around the world this month and to actively support your local LGBTQ community.

I have come across many LGBTQ Sikhs, who still have not ‘come out of the closet’ due to the intolerance within our community and I think it’s time we all began to actively support each other. I don’t claim to know what it would feel like to have to hide a certain part of ones identity, because people do not understand or do not accept your sexual orientation. However, as friend to the LGBTQ community, I can provide my support and challenge those who do not.

Similarly, this year the Khalsa Diwan Society, of Vancouver, also extended this hand of friendship and support during Vaisakhi in 2017; when they joined forces with the LGBTQ support group for South Asians, Sher Vancouver. The significance of this union was paramount given the religious importance of Vaisakhi. Together, this union between the Khalsa Diwan Sikh religious organization and the LGBTQ support group Sher Vancouver, they made a profound statement.

That statement was clear and a defining moment for many Sikhs around the world: that intolerance within the Sikh communities was unacceptable and the Sikh mandate is to support all people; in particular those being marginalized and oppressed in society. Let us embrace the union these two organizations have created and extend it around the world.

As a Sikh woman, I can understand why many LGBTQ find it difficult to come out and or discuss aspects of their life, because traditionally our community has been very homophobic. I can only imagine the pain that I have personally seen in some of my friends eyes when they talk about their experiences and fears as a LGBTQ Sikh.

I have Sikh friends who are part of the LGBTQ community, many still are or have been, at some point in time too afraid to ‘come out.’ As a friend, I have a responsibility to support them. I have a responsibility to stand for those who are afraid to speak out or to come out – As a good friend of mine once said “You don’t have to be gay to support the gay community, you just have to be human.”

There are many LGBTQ Sikh children and adults who are suffering, because they are being marginalized and sadly, in some cases being persecuted for their sexuality and we as community need to rally around them and give them the support that they need.

In light of all the hate and fear that has been coming forward this past year, there have also been many great acts of love and support from people. This month is also Pride month and is a time we all need to gather together in solidarity and support one another regardless of sexuality, race, gender, faith, caste, class or creed.

For all the people who have not ‘come out of the closet’ because they are afraid – show them, they need not to be afraid.

Perhaps, seeing Sikh men and women marching for their rights will give the LGBTQ Sikhs that are too afraid, the confidence to come out and to be themselves. Moreover, by showing support and marching during the pride parade you will also be actively challenging societal misconceptions of both the LGBTQ community and the Sikh community. Lastly, and most importantly it gives us all an opportunity to learn from each other.

We need to start embracing each other and supporting each other.

I challenge all Sikh men and women, whether you are LGBTQ or not, to support Pride this month and every other month.

I will be at the London Pride parade on July 8, 2017, and I hope to see many of you joining your local pride events.

Lastly, as a proud Canadian, I would also like to acknowledge the Canadian High Commission in London, U.K., for the very first time in history will be participating in the Pride London parade. In fact, I believe the Canadian embassy is the only embassy that is participating in this year’s pride parade – I will update if I hear of any other countries joining in, but until then… Go Canada Go!

Representation is important – Please share your support

Love is Love

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

Religion should never supersede humanity.

Religion should never supersede humanity.

I am not an overtly religious person, but I have my moments. More specifically, I don’t follow any religion in extreme, but rather I follow the teachings of all religion. However, I do believe that religion is personal; within the large umbrella of religious faiths such as Christianity, Catholicism, Islamism, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism etc. For many of us, we were born as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs etc. and we were never given any other choice. We were never taught about other religions, in order to make an informed decision. However, as we grow older and educate ourselves we make religion unique to us, we make it personal, we pull from it what we need and when we need it. Some of us have given up on religion altogether, some of us are following our chosen religion, some of us have moved from one to another, and some of us are still searching for what is right for us. Truth be told, I have sat in many Churches, Mosques, Gurdwara’s, Mundar’s and Temples and I always get the same feeling, irrespective of “whose” place of worship I have entered – a sense of peace. This peace stems from the silence and self-reflection that occurs within that religious space and/or sometimes the unified hymns of people singing. The space given for religious worship is meant for peace, regardless of your religious background, so when you enter – you should feel safe.

Often, we struggle internally with our own beliefs and those that have been enforced on us, from when we are born. Many people, such as some in the LGBTQ community can probably agree. On the one hand they are homosexual, but on the other hand they are unable to come out due to ‘their’ religion, or perhaps they have come out to their family, but are forced to be ‘straight.’

The base of all religions is meant for maintaining peace and harmony within society, thus if your thoughts and beliefs supersede humanity – then that is not the doing of religion. If you turn to your religion as your card to offend, hurt or manipulate – then that is not the doing of religion. If your religion makes you feel angry, depressed and spiteful then you need to re-evaluate, find your place and continue your journey.

In simple terms, if you believe that your religion outweighs humanity, then you are following the wrong religion. Find another.

Religion is meant to find hope when you are feeling hopeless. Religion is meant to provide strength for when you are feeling weak. Religion is meant to provide compassion during times of hatred and cruelty. Religion is meant to provide peace amidst anarchy.

Regardless of which religion you follow – that is what religion is for.

Religion is fluid and personal and will change with time as we grow older and have experiences within the world. Religion does not mean that you believe in a god, it can be many gods, your god may not be a person, or your god may be a living person. For myself, my god comes in many forms such as my parents, my brother and my sister – my family. I also believe god comes in other forms such as doctors, police officers and teachers etc. – those who serve the public. That is not to say my way is the correct way, but your god(s) whomever that maybe, should provide you only peace.

As I was reading about what happened in Orlando, it made me incredibly sad to think that at the very same time when a conflicted man, in the name of his god, murdered people for their chosen way of life – because he was unable to choose his. Yet, at the very same time, those who were being innocently killed were turning to their god for mercy, strength, peace, compassion and hope.

What happened in this man’s life that filled his heart with such hate? And why is that these young innocent lives were taken so viciously and harshly? My heart literally broke, as Mina Justice read her son’s text messages during the shooting “Mommy I love you,” which was one of Eddie Jamoldroy Justice’s last text messages to his mother. He didn’t deserve this and neither did his mother.

Religion is such an interesting concept, one in which we turn to when we are feeling at our most vulnerable. Religion can also corrupt our souls when we don’t stay true our hearts. I question why we use the power of religion to hurt each other and in some cases ourselves? Why we continue to fight over whose religion is the one to be followed? In particularly, when even those who follow the same religion are divided into many sects themselves. Yet, we fail to question that. Moreover, why we continue to follow a religion that does not give us internal peace? There are many who are conflicted with their own religious beliefs, because they have never stopped to question their beliefs. We are so quick to defend our communities and our beliefs, but fail to question them when something goes wrong. We need to start accepting others for who they are, but most importantly we need to start accepting ourselves for who we are – we cannot have peace, if we do not have peace inside ourselves.

As you may have noticed throughout this piece I write ‘your religion,’ I do this because religion is personal and we have no right to push our beliefs on anyone else. When we start to understand, that each of our experiences in life shapes our thoughts and beliefs; only then can we obtain peace. If we continue down a path of division and we move away from understanding each other, then we will have given up on humanity.

Once we give up on humanity, then there is no religion in the world that can save us.

I will always believe that humanity comes before any religion.

#LoveWins – at least in my book. How about yours?

Sunny Mangat

Twitter: mangat_sunny

Will the Sikh community ever receive closure for the 1984 Sikh massacre in India?

Today, June 1st, 2017 marks the 33 year anniversary of operation bluestar, which led to the attempted genocide of the Sikh people of India.

Over a three day period, October 31 – November 3 1984, approximately 3000 Sikhs were brutally murdered, Sikh women and girls were raped and the homes and businesses of the Sikh community were burned down in India. Yet, the Indian government to date still fails to acknowledge and pursue justice for the victims of the massacre. According to Graff & Galonnier, the massacre followed after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, by her two Sikh bodyguards. On the other hand, according to Singh (2009) the Delhi massacre was caused by Operation Bluestar that took place five months before the killing of the PM Gandhi. Operation Bluestar was comprised of the Indian army attacking the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar Punjab. The attack consisted of over 150,000 Indian army soldiers being sent to find a single man that was hiding within the confines of the Sikh Temple. Suggesting, Operation Bluestar was not about this lone man, but an attempt to terminate the sanctuary of the Sikh community.

What is interesting to note is the silence behind this massacre is not something new for the state of India. Rajeshwari (2004) lists over 100 communal ‘riots’ from 1947 to 2003, with deaths reaching far above 10,000 in addition to over thousands of gender-based violence victims. Scholars such as Butalia (2000) and others believe the violence that had arisen during the partition of India has manifested itself within other communal ‘riots’ in Indian history. D’Costa (2011) argues the partition of India, created the initial base of trauma in India. This trauma has led to the reconstruction of Indian identity that has played a pivotal role in the communal violence that exists today. The unanswered communal tension from partition has developed a profound infused anger within the Indian identity. Yet, silence is how the government of India chooses to deal with these communal ‘riots.’ In many of these massacres the government authorities, were culpable in either participating themselves, or turning a blind eye or minimizing the massacres to mere communal ‘riots.’

On a larger-scale breaking the silence behind the Sikh massacre of 1984, and the others will give the nation and its citizens’ closure from the trauma of war and rape. In turn, may assist in re-constructing the divide between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities. The attacks against the Sikhs in 1984, the Muslims in Bihar 1989, later the Ayodhya riots and the attacks against the Muslims in Gujarat in 2001 and so on indicates that partition, most certainly is not over.

However, is it really an issue between religious ideologies? Our worlds are socially constructed through the discourse of our state, community and family. Thus, when particular groups are marginalized within society and their voices are silenced, this changes the collective history. D’Costa (2011) argues failing to acknowledge historical injustices, such as the 1984 Sikh massacre or other communal violence, results in the silencing of its citizens. Thus, by neglecting to recognise the broader effects of muting certain citizens of a state, have detrimental effects on nation building.

In short, communalism is not a product of religion but is a by-product of politics. Through political exploitation, religion [as religion has a powerful emotional appeal] is used to incite violence and marginalize certain groups within society. Thus, communal ‘riots’ are not about Hindu, Sikh and Muslims learning to co-exist, but are about power and domination. This is about acknowledging the current and historical injustices people have faced based on their religion, ethnicity, gender, caste, and class or combination of them all.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny