By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: Richmond City’s Highway to Heaven (also known as No 5 Road) seems to have become a must-see place for foreigners visiting the Vancouver area.
Dotted with places of all faiths, it has become a major attraction not only for Richmond residents but also from people all across the province and the country.
Nearly every day there is a delegation of one or other kind visiting the places of worship along this strip of No 5 Road.
That includes school and university students of all ages and grades. The latest group of visitors was rather unique. It included the consul general of Indonesia, his staff and a number of diplomats from Indonesia, as well as a number of scholars and community activists.
This special delegation was in Vancouver to attend a conference on comparative religions organised by Simon Fraser University (SFU), Vancouver. It also included scholars on comparative religions from various post-secondary institutions. Ms. Ellen Vaillancourt, coordinator, Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures at SFU, was one of the main organizers of the event.
The delegation had a very enjoyable visit to various places of worship before stopping at India Cultural Centre’s Gurdwara Nanak Niwas on Thursday. After getting a tour of the premises the delegates were invited to the Diwan (Prayer) Hall. This writer gave a brief description of Sikhism and its basic principles. That was followed by a brief history of the Sikhs in Canada and around the globe and this community’s work ethic, hard work, generosity and resilience. The formal presentation was followed by a question and answer period. The visitors seemed to be very impressed not only by the spacious facility but also by the basic principles of Sikhism and the Sikh community’s generosity.
For a vast majority of visitors, especially those from Indonesia, it was their first exposure to a Sikh Gurdwara and the Sikh religion. Seeing more than twenty place of worship representing most of the religions of the world along a few kilometers of a road in Richmond was quite an eye opener for most of them.
As a matter of fact, some of them were in awe by their experience.
Tasting a vegetarian Indo-Canadian meal was another exciting experience for them. Nearly all of them were very appreciative of this wonderful opportunity.
For the management of India Cultural Centre of Canada, it has been a very valuable experience to spread the message of our Gurus.
As the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanakji has emphasized that we are all children of God. As such, as human beings we have a lot more in common than we realize. Interactions like this go a long way in promoting intercultural harmony.
(Honoured with the Order of British Columbia, Balwant Sanghera is a community leader in Richmond near Vancouver)