417.The Man in Blue – Moving to St Truiden

Since February I have been living in West London for ten years, on the 6th of May I will be 63 and on 14 July I will be a 14 year old Amritdhari Sikh.

Somewhere around June 15 I plan to move from Southall to St Truiden in the Belgian province of Limburg.

I will miss wonderful Southall, I will miss the choice of ten Gurdwaré to visit, I will miss the many people in the UK Sikh community who have become my friends and I will miss my many friends of different faiths and beliefs who I met in the course of my interfaith/multi faith work.

In Belgium and the Netherlands together there are about ten Gurdwaré. In those Gurdwaré you rarely hear the sort of kirtan that takes you to a spiritual high, the sort of kirtan that you often hear in the Southall Singh Sabha Gurdwaré.

I was born in and lived my first seventeen years in Roermond, in the Dutch province of Limburg, which is to the east of Belgian Limburg. The culture of St Truiden is similar to the culture I grew up with. St Truiden is nearer to French speaking territory and further from German speaking territory than Roermond, and that does make a difference.

I look forward to represent the Sikh community in St Truiden, in Limburg and in Belgium. I hope to be able to contribute to improving the already good relations with local government.

Hopefully the Sikhs in Belgium will be able to improve their profile in the country and to get more recognition from the Flemish regional and the Brussel based national government.

I also want very much to be part of the Sikh community in and around St Truiden and play a part in the life of the Gurdwara. But I might not stay in St Truiden for the rest of my life as I have always been a bit of a gipsy. Belgium will be my fifth country. I do not think I will match the time I spent in Amsterdam, about 25 years with an interruption of three years in Dublin.

I have thought beyond being in Belgium, but as we all know my speculations are all in vain, as I have no idea what God has in store for me. I like the idea of going to Barcelona or Valencia, an area of the world that I know quite well and feel at home in. These cities now have small Sikh communities.

Another obvious option would be to come back to the UK, with its vibrant Sikh community and its rotten climate. Financially things should be easier after I reach the magic 65 and will get small state and private pensions. But you never know what will happen, God will steer me, I will follow.

Appeal to stop the use of violence

All Sikhs, Sikh organisations and Gurdwaré should undertake never again to use violence as a means to settle differences of opinion. There is no precedent from Guru’s days for this bad practice, the Guru taught us to stand up against injustice, not against opinions that we do not agree with.

394.The Man in Blue – St Truiden en Ieper I

I am busy preparing for interfaith week, for which many of the FE Colleges I work with want my advice and assistance. I am also preparing for the London Regional Forum of the 24th of November, where London FE Colleges learn about new developments in interfaith work and get some training.

To restrict my time even more I went to Coventry on November 7 to meet my friend Balwant Singh and to visit all the Coventry Gurdwaré and I am writing this during a four-day visit to Belgium to attend the 11/11 Armistice Day commemoration in Ieper.

Saturday 14/11 I will be at an all day Lib Dem London Region conference where I will speak about my work with FE Colleges, Tuesday 17/11 I will be in Birmingham for the Association of Colleges conference and on Friday 20/11 again in Birmingham to discuss the status of the Sikh 5 Ks and turban.

I am not complaining or bragging, just explaining that the interesting and rewarding life that I have been blessed with sometimes gets too interesting.

On 10/11 I went to Belgium by Eurostar and got my kirpan through without too much trouble. From Brussel Zuid station I took a train to Landen and a connecting bus to the Sikh Sangat Gurdwara, Halmaal, St Truiden.

The bad news from St Truiden is that my brother Mohinder Singh, the Gurdwara pradhan, has recently been attacked by some white thugs. The good news is that the Gurdwara held its second Nagar Kirtan where this time the Panj Piaré were allowed to carry their traditional talwar.

On the afternoon after my arrival I went with Manpreet (Louke) Kaur and Granthi Kewal Singh to an event in the adult education centre where the Flemish equivalent of ESOL classes are given. I spoke with the burgemeester (mayor) about the cultural and religious communities in St Truiden.

The political situation in St Truiden is complicated. I hope that if the mayor loses his job the good work he is doing with the diverse communities of the town will continue.

November 11 is a national holiday in Belgium, and as per usual we went from the Gurdwara by coach to Ieper. The grey sky did not look to threatening, but it also did not really promise sunshine.

We left late and arrived in Ieper late, we missed the actual parade but were on time for the ceremony at the Menen Gate.

This report on my visit to Belgium will be continued next week. Pictures will appear both on this blog and on my flickr account.

Published in: on November 14, 2009 at 7:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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