WASHINGTON (Nov. 28, 2012) — This week marks the 543rd anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Sikh Guru and the founder of Sikhism.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday sent best wishes to Sikhs in America and around the world who observe the anniversary.
“As always, this is a time to celebrate the principles of equality, respect, service and interfaith cooperation that are the core of the Sikh faith, and to recognize the extraordinary contributions that Sikh Americans make to our country every day,” Obama said.
Obama said that this year especially, we remember the innocent lives that were lost in the unspeakable violence directed against the Sikh congregation at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
“I can think of no better way to honor their memory, and to join our Sikh friends as they mark this sacred time, than to recommit ourselves to the spirit of pluralism, equality and compassion that define both the Sikh community and our nation,” he added.
According to the Sikh Society of Minnesota (www.mnsikhs.com), Sikhism is 500 hundreds year old and now the fifth largest world religion with over 20 million Sikhs worldwide. Sikhism was in the Punjab region, which is now divided between Pakistan and the northern Indian state of Punjab since the partition in 1947.
The word Guru is composed of Gu meaning darkness and Rumeaning Light. In Sikhism therefore ‘Guru’ is the “Light that dispels all darkness” and Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the Embodiment of Divine Light.
Sikhism is based on compassion; service; equality between males, females and all religions and encourages an honest, truthful living with a rejection of idol worship, the caste system, ritualism and superstitions. In Sikhism, heaven and hell are states of mind represented by joy and sorrow, bliss and agony or light and darkness.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus also released statements to mark the anniversary.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji established the Sikh Articles of Faith. This includes the “Five K’s” — as Kes (Uncut Hair); Kangha (Comb); Kachha (Breeches); Karra (Steel Bracelet); and Kirpaan (Ceremonial Sword).
Kirpaan represents a Sikh’s duty to uphold justice especially for the downtrodden. For Sikh’s living outside Punjab, the spiritual center if Sikhism, they carry an enormous guilt in not carrying that symbol with them in countries where it would not be allowed.
CAPAC Chair and Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), said Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings emphasize the values of peace, respect, hard work and service to those most in need.
“The Sikh American community has embraced these values and made significant contributions towards the betterment of our country,” Chu said. “As we mark the anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth, we must also remember the victims of the tragic Oak Creek gurdwara shooting and commit ourselves to preventing future incidents of hate-based violence. I send my best wishes to the Sikh American community and all of those that follow Guru Nanak Dev’s teachings as they celebrate this auspicious day.”
CAPAC Chair Emeritus Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15) said Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings and message of love and harmony have made a profound impact on humanity. Today, he said the Sikh community continues to embrace principles of unity, peace, and compassion that enhance the social and cultural fabric of our great nation.
“In spite of the terrible violence, hate crimes, and trauma experienced by Sikh Americans in the aftermath of 9/11 and this summer at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the community remains resilient in its virtues and steadfast in the practices of Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” Honda said. “I am proud to work closely with the Sikh community, and I join in celebrating the birth and righteousness of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.”
Congressman Joe Crowley (NY-7), said that as Sikhs in the U.S. and around the world gather to honor the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we are all reminded of the values and principles of the Sikh religion, including social equality, righteousness, and service to our fellow neighbors.
“Today is also a day to recognize the many contributions Sikh-Americans have made to our nation,” Crowley said. “I send my best wishes to all those celebrating this momentous occasion.”
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-16) said that in observing the anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birth, we celebrate a religion that preaches peace and tolerance.
“Those principles remained firm even in the face of this year’s terrible tragedy in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, when the faithful like those in the Bay Area Sikh community turned their grief into action by organizing peace rallies to promote greater understanding and unity,” Lofgren said.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-12) said that as Sikhs from across America and the world come together in celebration of the birth and life of Guru Nanak, we can all reflect on the virtues of unity, honesty, and truth which he extolled.
“We also stand together to remember and honor the innocent lives lost in the tragic events earlier this year at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,” Speier said.