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Calvin students visit and meditate at Sikh Gurdwara

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Calvin students visit and meditate at Sikh Gurdwara

Calvin students at the inter-faith event.

Calvin students at the inter-faith event.

Andrew James Gilbert

Calvin students at the inter-faith event.

Andrew James Gilbert

Andrew James Gilbert

Calvin students at the inter-faith event.

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According to Manato Jansen, the Service-Learning Center’s interfaith intern, 48 students and faculty from Calvin College visited the Sikh Gurdwara on Oct. 12. The group was joined by others from the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Kuyper College and Cornerstone University. The Sikh Gurdwara, their place of worship, is located in Ada, Mich.

Jansen commented on impressive turnout. He said, “We’ve never had a group this large at any of our events before.”

Jansen believes these events are important for Calvin students who often haven’t had much experience outside of the “CRC bubble.”

He said, “I hope that by offering opportunities for Calvin students to visit other places of worship, students will learn more about other people and their different faith systems […] how can we say that we love someone if we don’t even take the time to learn about who they are, what they believe and what’s important to them?

On arrival the participants removed their shoes, covered their heads with a scarf that was provided if needed and washed their hands. Entering the sanctuary they were instructed to bow before the Guru if comfortable, although it wasn’t necessary. Rishi Makkar, the host, instructed that the bowing down was not in any way idol worship; it wasn’t bowing down for any objects, books or person, but it was a recognition of the person’s inability to find God on their own and their need for help.

People were instructed to sit on the floor as a sign of equality. If there were any impediments or physical ailments, chairs were provided. Children, parents and elders from the Sikh congregation were also present. In the middle of the sanctuary there was the seat of the 11th Guru, the Sikh scripture, which was covered in a patterned cloth of red and gold. The seat sat under a canopy-like structure that had a Punjabi inscription in the front.

According to Makkar, a Sikh is “a learner,” so everyone can be a Sikh even as they practice another religion, and that the temple is open and a safe space for people of all faiths. Other main points of the presentation was the ultimate goal of the Sikh to reunite with the Creator, the practices of meditation, giving and sharing and the practice of honest labor.

Makkar emphasized the Sikh’s duty to give up their life in protection to others, to defend the weak. He finished by inviting those who were comfortable to a brief meditation where participants chanted together Ware Guru, meaning “Wonderful Creator.” No one left the space before the meditation finished.

Afterwards, participants went downstairs for a shared meal and questions.

Naomi Niewenhuis, a junior sociology and spanish major, and Jamie Kuiper, a junior art education major, shared how affected they were by the visit to the Gurdwara. They reflected on the congregation’s focus on helping and loving others, and how their position in society has helped them keep their focus. Niewenhuis said, “They’re not a powerful religion,” and Kuiper reiterated, “Their whole thing is not being powerful, which is what I think Christianity is supposed to be.”

Students interested in future interfaith events can contact Service-Learning Center at [email protected]

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