A reception was held to celebrate Vaisakhi at 10 Downing Street recently. The Prime Minister David Cameron hosted the event and praised the contribution of Sikhs to Britain. He said he was very proud to to be the first Prime Minister to hold regular annual Vaisakhi parties at Downing Street. He told the audience, “Now, […]
A reception was held to celebrate Vaisakhi at 10 Downing Street recently.
The Prime Minister David Cameron hosted the event and praised the contribution of Sikhs to Britain.
He said he was very proud to to be the first Prime Minister to hold regular annual Vaisakhi parties at Downing Street.
He told the audience, “Now, there’s really two parts to tonight. Part is celebrating Sikhism and celebrating your faith and all your faith brings to you as people and to our country. But second is celebrating the immense contribution that Sikhs have made to Britain over what is now 160 years.
“That is when the first Sikh arrived, Maharaja Duleep Singh, who were – whose children actually had Queen Victoria as their godmother.”
“British Sikhs have been an absolute model in terms of integrating into our communities and playing a role in our communities; whether it is in our armed forces, whether it is serving in government, whether it is working in business, whether it is representing us brilliantly on the cricket field, there’s hardly an area of natural life where British Sikhs haven’t made a huge impact.
“But I believe as well as integrate, it’s very important in a tolerant, diverse and compassionate nation that we allow different faith and religious groups to keep separate to them what they think is really important about their faith.
“And I hope you will agree this government has always tried to do that. For instance, we stopped the unnecessary searching of turbans at airports, something we’re proud to do.
“And today I can announce – today I can announce that while there has always been for someone – there has been for some time an exception that mean Sikhs don’t have to wear hard hats on construction sites, I can announce today that from now on Sikhs will not have to wear hard hats at any places of work http://www.asianimage.co.uk/jobs in our country, and I think that is an important recognition.
“I also understand the importance of all the sacred places that British Sikhs have established, obviously here in our country where your gurdwaras are places of worship, places of education, places of great community cohesion, but I also understand the importance of sacred places on other side – on the other side of the world.”
He said he would never forget the visit he made to Amritsar and to the Golden Temple.
“I spoke about it last year as one of the most peaceful and tranquil and beautiful places I’ve ever had the honour and privilege to visit.
“I know how much hurt and pain there still is in the Sikh community worldwide about what happened at the Golden Temple, and that is why as soon as that information came out about what had happened I immediately ordered that inquiry and published that inquiry properly so that people could see whether there was any British role.
“But I understand the pain and the hurt that that whole episode has caused, but what I would say to you is that it’s so important we all demonstrate our understanding of the importance of Amritsar, the importance of the Golden Temple, to your faith.”
There was a special mention of the contribution of Sikhs during the World Wars.
“This year, as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, it is also perhaps worth saying something specific about how British Sikhs have served in our armed forces with so much devotion, bravery and courage over so many years.
“We must be teaching our children in the year to come about the role that the 1.2 million soldiers from the Indian subcontinent played in the First World War.
“Stories like the story of Manta Singh, who fought at The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, that massive battle on the Western Front in 1915, and when his English colleague was wounded alongside him, he picked him up, carried him, took him to the dressing station while being wounded himself, and then sadly, tragically died afterwards.
“Stories of heroism, stories of valour; the Sikhs have always had this extraordinary courage and bravery, and it’s been demonstrated so often in the British Armed Forces.”
~ Jagpal S Tiwana
~ Toronto, Canada