April is Sikh Heritage Month in British Columbia—and it's traditionally a time when the community digs deep into its pockets to help the less fortunate.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's not possible for B.C. Sikhs to hold massive public Vaisakhi celebrations to raise funds as they commemorate the origin of the Khalsa.
The Khalsa is a Sikh military order created in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh in northern India. It protected Sikhs and those of other faiths from being forcibly converted to Islam by Moghal rulers.
So this year, fundraising is being conducted through what organizers are calling Virtual Vaisakhi.
“We are directly asking and inspiring Sikhs and non-Sikhs to collectively open their wallets and hearts to help invoke the Spirit of Vaisakhi to address the most pressing and emerging needs with organizations working with local food banks, seniors outreach, marginalized communities and domestic support services," spokesperson Jessie Kaur Lehail said in a news release. "Let’s celebrate Vaisakhi by helping others. We’re all in this together and 100 percent of proceeds will go directly to community initiatives.”
Participants include the Kaur Project, One Voice Canada, SAF, Khalsa Aid, Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, SAMHAA, SikhRi, Future is Partnership, Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, SEYVA, S.A.L.M.O.N Project, and others.
In less than a week, they have managed to serve more than 1,500 meals, complete more than 100 grocery and prescription deliveries, and coordinate the distribution of gloves and masks.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact www.virtualvaisakhi.com.
Adherents of the Sikh faith believe that everyone is interconnected, reflecting Guru Gobind Singh's emphasis that we're all responsible for looking out for the well-being of others.
The religion's founder, Guru Nanak, preached equality of all people, regardless of their caste, religion, or gender. What's remarkable is he was saying these things in the 15th and 16th centuries, long before these concepts became embedded in western countries' constitutions.
In fact, Canadian Sikh leaders sometimes point out that there are many parallels between their faith and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
That idea was reinforced more than a decade ago when the World Sikh Organization came out in support of legalizing same-sex marriage just as conservative forces in society were vehemently expressing their opposition.