Bhai Mohinder Singh
Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh was born on 31 March 1939 and is the mukhi-Sewadar (the main volunteer) of the Sikh organisation called Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, which has its head office in Birmingham, UK. He has been linked to this organisation since 1974 when he met the founder and spiritual inspiration of the organisation, Sant Baba Puran Singh, Kericho-wala in Kenya.
Bhai sahib spent most of his childhood in East Africa mainly in Kenya; with most of his secondary education in Nairobi, Kenya. At an early age, Bhai sahib's mother passed away. Bhai sahib has such fond memories of his mother and the difficult time surrounding her sudden death. Bhai sahib's father re-married and with a stable family environment re-established, Bhai sahib excelled in his studies and went to the top schools in the capital city, Nairobi.
Often simply addressed as ‘Bhai Sahib Ji’, he is current chairman and spiritual successor of the GNNSJ, selected (in 1986) and appointed to this role by his predecessor, Bhai Sahib Bhai Norang Singh Ji in 1995.
Education and Career
Following the secondary education in Nairobi, Bhai sahib went to the UK to continue his further university level education; he is a graduate of a UK university and professionally recognised as an excellent and capable Civil and Structural Engineer; he has worked on projects in the UK, Africa and India.
Following graduation, he has undertaken many large scale projects involving the construction of petroleum refineries and other civil engineering projects in Mombasa, Kenya and elsewhere in Africa in the late 70's and 80's and then large-scale housing projects also in Africa and in particular Zambia.
Until 1989 he worked in Zambia for the National Housing Authority under the auspices of the British Government’s Overseas Development Administration providing expertise for the provision of low income housing, town-planning and infrastructure implementation.
While in Zambia he assisted Sikh communities in different parts of Africa in the construction of Gurdwaras. In 1989, he left Zambia in order to devote his life to full time service of the community under the personal supervision of Bhai Sahib Bhai Norang Singh Ji. In recognition of his many unique qualities and inner spiritual strength, he was chosen by the founder of the Jatha, Sant Baba Puran Singh ji to succeed to the chairmanship of this organization.
Meeting Baba Puran Singh ji
Bhai sahib was living in Zambia when he first met Baba Puran Singh ji and so Bhai sahib ji was fondly known as "Zambia-wala Bhai Sahib" in the 80's and early 90's by members of the Sangat. During the 1970's and 80's Bhai sahib was working in Africa and used to visit Baba ji both in Kenya and then in England. He was a very dedicated and impartial member of Babaji's sangat.
During his visits to the UK, Bhai sahib used to meet Babaji and Bhai Norang Singh ji at Baba ji's residence in Goodmayes, Essex and at the Jatha's Birmingham Gurdwara. There was a special relationship between Baba ji and Bhai sahib right from these early days; Baba ji always spoke very highly about Bhai sahib ji. Bhai sahib was devastated at the news of the passing away of Baba ji in 1983 but continued his regular visits to the Jatha events after 1983.
Heading the Jatha
It was in 1995 that Bhai Sahib was called to take on the responsibilities of this Jatha (organisation) when Bhai Norang Singh passed away suddenly in early 1995. His first main task was to successfully complete the UK sangat's project of re-gilding the Sri Harimandir Sahib. Since those times, with Bhai sahib's energy and dedication and Waheguru's kirpa, the Sangat and Jatha have completed many important projects of the Panth.
One of Bhai sahib's recent developments has been the involvement of the Sangat in furthering Interfaith dialogue. In this respect, the Jatha has been involved with CPWR , Religions for Peace, UN NGO Programmes, etc. In 2004, the efforts of Bhai sahib resulted in a first for Sikhi when on the occasion of the 400th celebration of the first prakash (installation) of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Jatha took part in the Forum 2004 in Barcelona. The legacy of the event was the serving of Langar to the many thousands who attended the Interfaith Conference. This was a most gratifying undertaking and all who took part remember it with fond memory and utter praise on the Guru for blessing of such Sewa.
Bhai sahib's views & kirtan on video
In the news
I can almost hear Bhai sahib saying "Only with the blessing of the Almighty can anything be done in this world. Only with His blessing otherwise NOTHING is possible"
Recognised for Dedicated work for Roman Catholic-Sikh relations
On Sunday, 22 April 2012 Dr Bhai Mohinder Singh was recognised for his "dedicated work to Roman Catholic-Sikh relations and for his enthusiastic commitment to working for peace among people of all faiths"
History was made in the Catholic Church during a special Mass and Investiture at Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, of Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia and Mr William Ozanne, as Knights of the Pontifical Order of Pope St Gregory the Great, on Sunday 22 April 2012
The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, invested the internationally known and respected Spiritual Leader and Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, based in the Handsworth area of Birmingham, with one of the highest Papal Awards.
The Order of St Gregory is normally bestowed on Catholics but in rare cases it is also conferred on non-Catholics in recognition of meritorious service to the Catholic Church and the exceptional example they have set in their communities and country.
More than 120 Sikhs, from Birmingham, London, Leeds, and some who had flown from Kenya and India were present in St Chad’s Cathedral for this unique and ground-breaking event in inter-faith relations involving the Catholic Church and the Sikh faith.
Mr Bill Ozanne, who has worked in the area of inter-religious dialogue locally, nationally and internationally for many years as a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Committee for Other Faiths, has recently been appointed by Archbishop Longley as Chairman of the Archdiocese of Birmingham Commission for Interreligious Dialogue.
During the Rite of Investiture, which took place immediately after the homily, Bhai Sahib Bhai, was escorted by Sewa Singh Mandla, and Mr Bill Ozanne by his two sponsors, Michael Hodgetts, KSG and Tony Flanagan KSG.
Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral, read out the two Papal Briefs of “Benedict XVI Supreme Pontiff”, given at St Peter’s in Rome, signed and sealed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone.
Archbishop Bernard Longley invested each of the knights elect In the name of the Holy Father with the insignia of a Knight of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great, pinning the Cross to the left breast of each and presenting them with their framed Papal Brief. The Archbishop also presented Bhai Sahib-ji with the sword of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great.
In his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “This is a truly joyful day for it witnesses a moment of recognition and gratitude on the part of the Catholic Church for the dedication of two men of faith for whom our city of Birmingham is their home and the base for their work. This is also a unique and historical moment in the life of this Cathedral and in the experience of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and perhaps further afield.
“It is very fitting that Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia and Mr Bill Ozanne are receiving Papal Knighthoods from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on the same occasion and in the same ceremony of investiture. Over a friendship of many years they have discovered not only within each other, but also within the faith traditions that they represent, an openness to dialogue and a desire to deepen understanding and co-operation for the common good.
“They have both personally committed considerable time and energy to the goals of interfaith understanding and of common witness to shared values. But they have also encouraged and enabled the Sikh and Christian traditions to make progress along the pathway from mutual respect towards the deeper insights that friendship brings. They have prompted us to work more closely together in service of others.”
The Archbishop continued: “I believe that it is the first time that a Papal Honour has been bestowed in this way on a spiritual leader from within the Sikh community. It represents the Holy Father’s recognition of Bhai Sahib Bhai’s deeply held desire for fruitful and lasting relations between Sikhs and Catholics and opportunities to witness together.
“We recall Bhai Sahib Bhai’s presence in Assisi for the international meetings of faith leaders at the invitation of Blessed Pope John Paul II and of Pope Benedict – and I am sure that he will long remember being present with Mandla-ji in St Peter’s Square at the funeral of Blessed John Paul II during April 2005.” Continue reading at: Peter Jennings - News and Blog
- Birmingham: Papal honours for Sikh leader
- BBC - Dr Bhai Mohinder Singh, from Birmingham, was recognised
- Sikh awarded papal knighthood
- Peter Jennings - News and Blog
Sikhs Celebrate Leeds 800 at Rounday Park Leeds Oct 04 2007
From 11 to 14 October 2007, Roundhay Park will be abuzz, as Sikhs join in celebrating the 800th birthday of Leeds, demonstrating their pride in their city and their gratitude to the wider community.
Living up to the 500-year Sikh tradition of ‘Langar’, they will prepare and serve thousands of free, vegetarian meals to all participants, inspired by their faith’s founding principles to ‘see God in all’, promote ‘unity in diversity’, and put the qualities of compassion, generosity and selflessness into practice.
This is just one of the highlights of the four-day event which sets out to explore and share the rich spiritual heritage of the Sikhs.
Alongside a stimulating range of educational and interfaith activities is a host of opportunities for family fun. You’ll even have the chance to see in action the world-record breaking Sikh marathon-runner, Fauja Singh; still going strong at 96 years, he’ll be leading a fun-run to raise money (as he always does) for charity.
This Sikh Religious and Interfaith Event is the first of its kind to be held in the North of England, after a track-record of similar successful programmes held in Glasgow and as far afield as Nairobi, Kenya. Beeston’s Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (UK) (GNNSJ) is collaborating with Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in Yorkshire to host the programme, which is also supported by Leeds City Council, Leeds Faith Forum, Yorkshire & Humber Faith Forum, Leeds Met. University and Joseph Priestly College.
Religions unite for conference 9th February 2007
The European Council of Religious Leaders, tackles the topic of Muslims and terror in Birmingham in its first UK conference.
The ECRL event 'Muslims in Britain' takes place at Birmingham's Sikh temple, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, and Soho Road's Civic Centre.
With sessions entitled 'Terror and Fear' and 'Muslims in Britain - what's the problem?', the event will engage with the key challenges facing British Muslims, particularly after today's charges of five Muslims following last week's events.
Bishop Gunnar Stålsett, moderator of ECRL, hopes the gathering will generate more vocal support for Muslims from non-Muslim faith leaders: 'When Islam is invoked by terrorists to justify their destructive ways, there is at the same time a louder calling for non-Muslim leaders to speak up for a faith they know to have non-violence and compassion at its heart.
"It is poignant that this event is being hosted by a Sikh temple in Birmingham, and just as we look forward to listening to and learning more about the excellent interfaith work in Birmingham and throughout the UK, we hope the non-Muslim faith leaders will learn something from the Council's vocal model of solidarity and unity with Muslims.' The event will hear from John Battle MP, Tony Blair's faith envoy, and numerous religious leaders, including Bhai Mohinder Singh, chair of GNNSJ and member of the ECRL.
He will speak about the need to stand up for Muslims: 'There is a great deal of confusion and misrepresentation about Islam.
"The Sikh faith has a very strong tradition of standing up against the oppression of other faiths and it is in this spirit we are honoured to host this ECRL meeting.' The conference takes place at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, 18-20 Soho Rd, Birmingham on Monday 12 February.
More 'In the news below......'
- Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha
- Baba Puran Singh Ji Kericho wale
- Bhai Sahib Bhai Norang Singh Ji
- Hugged by God; In the first of our series on faith leaders in the city, Jo Ind meets Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji who is chairman of the biggest Sikh gurudwara in Europe.
- An Inter-faith Perspective on Globalisation for the Common Good FOURTH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON AN INTERFAITH PERSPECTIVE ON GLOBALISATION Kericho, Kenya 2005
- Phaldip Singh - Sikh Youth Role Model
- His Holiness Joins Religious Heads To Promote Love And Forgiveness
More 'In the News'
JPost.com » Jewish World
The keeper of the Golden Temple in Amritsar looked out the window of the airplane and felt overwhelmed with emotion. Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji,...
"You could feel the spirituality," Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji explains, recalling the approach to Israel.
The land that is holy to the three Abrahamic faiths is not holy to Sikhs, except that "holiness is the legitimate heir for all humanity," Singh Ji says.
One of the world leaders of the Sikh faith, now living in England, Singh has never been to the Holy Land before and was anxiously anticipating touch-down
"I felt like kissing the ground," he remembers, raising his eyebrows, his light green eyes flashing against his brown skin.
Curious security officials at Ben-Gurion Airport didn't know what to make of Singh and his 16 Punjabi Sikh disciples, including three women, from the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha community in Birmingham, England.
Religious leaders in robes and headdresses and faithful pilgrims regularly make their way through customs in this part of the world. But this group was distinct, with their long beards, high white turbans and tunics, and with each male traveler sharing a last name - Singh - a symbol of the initiation to their faith. Singh means "lion" or "lion-hearted" in Punjabi.
It was the first-ever Sikh delegation to Israel and the first of many encounters with people here who know little or nothing of the Sikh people and their faith.
The Sikhs were unfazed. Part of the logic for the journey was to raise consciousness about the world's fifth-largest religion. But more than that, it was a pilgrimage, to learn - one religion from the other - to pray together, and have a dialogue about the role of spiritual communities in healing ethnic and national rifts.
Sufi sheikhs, Druze sheikhs, a Muslim mufti, a Muslim mayor, Christian Arabs, Catholic nuns and priests, an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, Bahai leaders and Jewish Orthodox rabbis, community members and children comprised the line-up of hosts, organized by the Jerusalem Peacemakers organization and the Elijah Interfaith Institute.
THE SPIRIT of the trip recalls the 1990 journey made by a delegation of Jewish rabbis to India, following a request from the Dalai Lama for interfaith dialogue. At the time, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader called the survival and proliferation of the Jewish people "the Jewish secret," and wanted to unearth clues for continuity he could pass on to his own people. Jewish religious leaders were anxious to comply, explore and share traditions and history, and to consider from their own perspective the attraction of the eastern religion to Jewish youth.
The Sikh leader has similar aspirations.
"We are a relatively new faith, only 500 years old," he kept repeating. "We are here to learn."
Born into a North Indian Sikh family living in and moving around East Africa, Singh has met religious peoples all over Africa and India. Since becoming leader of the largest Sikh community outside India and traveling worldwide for interfaith missions, he has, like the Dalai Lama, become fascinated by the Jewish people's curious ability to thrive through periods of persecution, Diaspora and assimilation.
At one of the first stops, in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, on a hill overlooking the wadi, the local rabbi joined the Sikhs as they prayed their sunset service, chanting from their holy scriptures in gold tomes, while playing the tabla and harmonium - ancient Indian instruments. Just before the sun disappeared, Rabbi Menahem Froman stood up amidst the crowd without missing a beat and davened the minha service aloud, keeping time to the Punjabi melody.
Later, the Sikhs were the talk of the local yeshiva students, after they came to observe Jewish study methods.
"There was a bit of an uproar in the beit midrash - suddenly 20 Sikhs came in while they were studying. [The students] were blown away," says Mordechai Zeller, a student at the Tekoa Yeshiva. "It opened them up to things they don't usually see - to see people of a different faith who believe in one God, who they [assumed were] idol worshipers. [The students] have ideas about Indian and eastern religions - that these people wouldn't usually believe in God."
The Sikh leader said the concept of students learning in pairs, the young with the elderly, was especially eye-opening.
"This is exactly what we want to import," he said.
AT MOSHAV Modi'in, the Sikhs also felt a connection to the Carlebach tradition of reviving music and melody as part of prayer.
Interfaith connections have not always been easy for them. Following hate crimes and increased prejudice against Sikhs in the western world after September 11, 2001, and most recently a sentencing of five New York men for harassing and beating Sikhs, the group said they felt wholeheartedly embraced by Israelis and Palestinians.
"[In England and elsewhere] People on the street sometimes say, 'Hey, bin Laden.' They think we have something to do with him, because they think our turbans look similar," says Sewa Singh Mandla, the group's chairman. "Or they think we are [religious fanatics]. Here, nobody made these associations. They had no idea who we were. After they did, everybody actually treated us like royalty."
In Safed, two community members pulled dusty books off their shelves after seeing the Sikhs, excited that they resembled the ancient Jewish high priests, according to artistic renditions of the Second Temple services.
"They were dressed like cohanim, all in white, like on Shabbat," says Kabbala teacher and artist Avraham Loewenthal, using the expression "blown away" to describe his reaction.
"Thing after thing [that the Sikhs explained about their religion], I said, 'Oh, we have that, we have that, we have that,' like he could have been a rabbi," says Loewenthal. "I felt a real spiritual kinship.
"Even though they are very strong in their own faith, they were open in a real way to discussing other faiths without being threatened," he added. "I don't know how well we've manifested [that] in Judaism."
At the Kotel, after being pulled into circles of Orthodox revelers singing and dancing in the rain during Kabbalat Shabbat services last Friday night, Singh pulled himself away to press his hands against the ancient wall and close his eyes in prayer. Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji,...
Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji, one of the world leaders of the Sikh faith. Photo: Courtesy Photo
"Beyond feeling my own heart beat, I could feel another beat in my palms coming from the wall, as if it were alive," he says.
Then the group made their way to a traditional Shabbat dinner at the home of Rabbi Dr. Elon Goshen-Gottstein, head of the Elijah Interfaith Institute. Singh has been involved with Elijah and the Jerusalem Peacemakers since meeting them at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Barcelona in 2004.
The group stared in awe as the rabbi laid his hands on his children's heads for the parental blessing before the meal.
Talk at conferences was different than witnessing spiritual life, Singh explained.
"The beauty of Shabbat showed us what we need in our family life. How inspiring to see every Friday they meet with the family - that parents bless their children [with their hands]."
Sikhs, who believe that blessings don't only come through words but through touch and sight, were making mental notes of what new traditions could help youth uphold their ancient ways.
"It was not the first time to meet, but [the first time] to really see the Jewish people," says Singh.
THE OTHER Holy Land religions also made a special effort to reach out to the Sikhs and find common ground.
The Bahai Temple in Haifa, the Tabgha Benedictine Monastery on the Sea of Galilee and the Muslim community of Faradis in Wadi Ara all welcomed the Sikhs.
At a monastery near Beit Shemesh, many of the Sikhs shed tears, moved by the silent prayers of the monastic nuns of Beit Jamal.
In Bethlehem, the mayor, overwhelmed with plans for Christmas, took time to join the group, along with the directors of the non-profit groups the Holy Land Trust and the Wiam Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center.
Sheikh Muhammad al-Jamal, head of the Jerusalem Higher Sufi Council, who usually receives only Muslims, invited the group into his office opposite the Dome of the Rock, saying he could see they were "true believers in the One God."
"For sure something positive can come of such gatherings; every person who is for peace and against violence has something to add," said Druze Sheikh Hussein Abu-Rukun, who invited some 60 Druze sheiks from around the Galilee to host the Sikh group for a vegetarian feast.
"In the Middle East, serving a meal without meat does seems deficient," Abu-Rukun says, laughing. "But we respect the Indian traditions."
Members of the Druze, Sufi, Muslim and Christian communities have previously joined interfaith efforts in Israel and abroad, hoping to forge common connections away from the political arena.
The Sikhs, Abu-Rukun said, are excellent models for dialogue because "they are educated, they behave respectfully to everyone and they give pride." Beyond that, he says, maybe they have a special role here as people who are not part of the mess.
WHEN FORMER Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron arrived to meet with Israel's first delegation of Sikhs, they all simultaneously stood in respect.
In a dialogue about the role of religious leaders in bringing about peace, the two groups agreed that spiritual leaders must reach beyond their prayers and teaching to be role models.
"My learned friend," said Bakshi-Doron, "so many ideals we share in common. The way to spread peace is to follow the divine example and give to everyone, without creating distinctions between peoples. It is the responsibility of every religious leader to seek to minimize pain, suffering and bloodshed in the world, as well as in their own communities. We are all part of the larger world and must put our heads together."
When a Sikh asked the rabbi to be more specific, he suggested encouraging communities of faith to use the media and the Internet to inspire larger worldwide communities with examples of charitable deeds. He also suggested introducing international Jewish and Sikh communities to one another for their mutual benefit, and said he was open to exploring the idea of a joint prayer center in Jerusalem for all communities to pray side-by-side, each according to its own tradition.
Bakshi-Doron was one of only a few Israeli chief rabbis to regularly explore religious solutions to Jerusalem's problems with Muslim clerics.
"All religious leaders around the world must pay attention to this strengthening of a global family," he said.
A haredi teacher who happened upon the exchange stopped Goshen-Gottstein.
"He was astonished. He had never seen a religious dialogue between a Jew and a non-Jew before," the rabbi recalls. "He told me that it totally changed his life and he would now try to give his students a broader perspective on other religions and what it means to be religious."
Outside, haredi children and teens with black robes and sidecurls stopped Jerusalem Peacemakers head Eliyahu McLean to ask about the Sikhs. Were they Muslims? What did they want? When one boy heard that the Sikhs wanted to pray for peace, he smiled. "More power to them," he said.
Later that night, Bhai Sahib Mohinder looked out the window at the Jerusalem skyline and felt overwhelmed with emotion.
It was the last night of his group's seven-day pilgrimage and a group of locals had gathered in McLean's Jerusalem apartment to share devotional song, prayer, dialogue and Indian food.
"It's been soul stirring and I can't stop crying," the Sikh leader related. "When you feel that way, you know God is with you."
London, Aug. 15, 2007, by Sant Singh
NRI, Bhai Mahinder Singh of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, UK, had donated Rs 60 lakh for purchasing a big crane machine to clean the Bein.
Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, who has taken up the task of cleaning Bein river. He conducted meetings with NRIs in UK during his 20-day visit over the issue.
The villagers want to construct a gurdwara at the place and they are maintaining that the place is associated with the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev.
To restore purity of natural resources of water, rivers, streams, beins, etc. To stop the inlet of polluted waters of sewerages and factories into the rivers. To prepare paths on the banks of the rivers, and beautify them with flowers plants.
- Sant Balbir Singh Ji Seechewal believes that man is the supreme creation of God. God has made man in His own image. What is even more important is that God has given to man a freewill and capacity to decide for himself and thus has made him a responsible being. Here lies the uniqueness of man's being. But man should not try to assert his separation form God (i.e., his ego) in opposition to his unity with Him
Man can be called man only if he rises above his narrow self and works for the welfare of the whole humanity, remembers God the Almighty and does the naam simran, helps the needy and recognizes One God in all......Sant Balbir Singh