Catholics from various parishes were greeted with a surprise even before they stepped into the Central Sikh Temple at 2 Towner Road. They caught a glimpse of a newly-wed Sikh couple.
The 16 Catholics including the executive secretary of the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD), Mr Gerald Kong, learnt more about Sikhism on Jan 24.
As a sign of respect, the group removed their footwear, washed their hands, and covered their heads with bandanas and scarfs.
A highlight of the visit was when tour leader, Ms Manjit Kaur, gave a slideshow on the history of Sikhism. She also answered questions posed by the participants.
She started her presentation by demonstrating the Sikh way of greeting guests. “We would put our hands together and say, Sat Sri Akaal,” she said.
Ms Kaur shared that Sikhs believe in living a truthful and honest life on earth. “We do not believe in heaven as we believe that salvation is here on earth because when we die, we do not know what happens to us,” she added.
Ms Kaur also spoke about the turban which is worn to preserve the Sikh identity, as well as to promote equality. She then went on to explain the Sikhs’ five Articles of Faith.
The first article is the kirpan or dagger, which is carried by Sikhs to “protect the defenceless”, she said.
The second article, the kesh, refers to long hair. As “hair is a gift from God, we should not cut it”, said Ms Kaur.
Next is the kangha or a small wooden comb, which is worn in the hair and used to keep it neat.
The last two Articles of Faith include the kacchera or undergarment, and the kara which is a steel or iron bracelet worn on the right hand.
Boxer shorts are to be worn to deflect lustful thoughts, while the bracelet is worn as a reminder to Sikhs of their faith, said Ms Kaur.
Another point shared by Ms Kaur was on the gurus. Even though guru when translated to English means “teacher”, Sikhs “believe that they [the gurus] bring us from darkness to light”, she said.
Ms Kaur also spoke about the Sikh’s Holy Book which is called the Guru Granth Sahib.
At the end of the presentation, Catholics asked some questions.
A male participant asked why some Sikh boys cut their hair.
“It’s a trend now but it’s up to parents to instil the Sikh principles in their children,” said Ms Kaur.
“Do Sikh women have to change their surname when they get married?” asked a female participant.
Women can keep their surnames, she said. “In Sikhism, men and women are all equal.”
Ms Kaur shared with CatholicNews later that she was “very happy” to be able to “show Catholics around”.
The group then proceeded to the main hall where the Sikh granthi or the temple’s caretaker demonstrated how Sunday services were held.
They also enjoyed some samosas and sweets in the canteen while having a cup of tea.
In the canteen, volunteer cooks were busy providing free food for anyone who visited the temple.
“I like the way the Sikhs have an open canteen. It’s the fellowship that they have that makes them stronger,” said a female participant from the Blessed Sacrament Church.
“These trips allow us to understand other religions. It is great as now we know how to approach others who come from different faiths,” said a male participant from the Church of the Holy Family.
A similar visit to the temple took place in September 2013.
By Lorna O’Hara