Sikh Religious Survival

Sikh Religious Survival

Question: Is religion alive and well or struggling to survive in Canada?

BALPREET SINGH is legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

It would be presumptuous of me to speak of all religions in Canada, but I think the Sikh faith is doing very well. Young Sikhs continue to learn about their faith and are involved in initiatives such as spiritual retreats and seminars.

Sikhs also endeavour to give the teachings of their faith a practical form and reach out to others. In the spirit of seva or selfless service to humanity, which is a principle Sikh tenet, young Sikhs in Mississauga have established the Seva food bank which serves all low-income families in that city. Overall, the Sikh faith is indeed very much alive and well in Canada.

What does give rise to some concern is the growth of attitudes of intolerance towards the expression of faith and religion in general. Some commentators have suggested that public spaces should be completely free of religion and restrictions should be imposed on personal expressions of faith such as the wearing of religious symbols. This appears to be following the French model of secularism which imposes similar restrictions.

While the state must remain religiously neutral, it is important to allow Canadians to express their faith freely. Calls to limit religious expression ignore the fact that for many Canadians faith is an integral part of their identity. As both a Canadian and a Sikh, I can’t divorce one identity from the other.

My turban and articles of faith are a part of who I am and can’t simply be left at home. Similarly, I don’t find it inappropriate or feel uncomfortable if a Christian friend chooses to wear a crucifix or wishes me a “Merry Christmas.”

What makes Canada unique and such a success is that we value religious diversity but keep our policies and laws secular. The Canadian model has worked and we should guard it jealously.

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