Ravinder Kaur Nijjar
Today we visited one of the most diverse areas of New York City, the Borough of Queens which has over 50% residents born outside the US. We were going to meet the President of the Borough and the immigration task force. However I had difficulty in getting into the building as I was wearing a Kirpan (an article of faith worn by initiated Sikhs). The community and cultural Coordinator, Susie Tanenbaum personally came and accompanied me together with a police officer, ‘what an entrance’. They are now aware of the importance and significance of the Kirpan.
The task force members were from a variety of faith and secular organisations who I felt were aware of the social issues of common concern e.g. domestic violence, mental health but did not appear to include the faith perspective. They were interested in our work as to how religious communities were working in partnership with national and local government. We presented gifts for the President, Helen Marshall.
The afternoon was spent in visiting the Ganesh Hindu Temple and the Gurudwara in Queens. The Temple provided us with a delicious lunch provided by the vegetarian café within the Temple. It has a unique outreach programme to which all communities are welcome, and a multi faith, multicultural elderly centre which has a particular focus in promoting inter generational projects. This is something that could be taken forward in Scotland.
We then continued on and visited the Gurudwara, a short distance from the Temple. The street that it was on must be one of the most holiest and spiritual as it has so many different religious places of worship on it. The Sikhs as usual as in any part of the world offered us langar and made us most welcome.
Although there is so much diversity in New York the issues regarding articles of faith have not been resolved, Scotland is much further on in having this dialogue with faith communities and ensuring equality for all its citizens. Tomorrow we will be visiting the Harlem Community Justice Centre, who have already indicated that they will not allow a person into the building wearing a Kirpan, so we will see what happens. Watch this space!