B.C. Sikhs to raise awareness of violence against women Feb. 14 as part of One Billion Rising

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

President Bikramjit Singh Sandhar stands outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey

President Bikramjit Singh Sandhar stands outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, where food will be made to be distributed to women’s shelters on Feb. 14. Ric Ernst/PNG

Sikhs across the Lower Mainland will be joining One Billion Rising in a day of action to fight violence against women this Valentine’s Day.

“It’s an important cause,” said Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning, World Sikh Organization of Canada’s executive director. “One Billion Rising is about bringing awareness to the fact that one in three women on this planet will be beaten or raped in their lifetime.”

“That’s over a billion women and that’s not an acceptable amount — zero is.”

One Billion Rising is “a global strike” inviting men and women everywhere to “walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to this violence,” on Feb. 14, according to onebillionrising.org.

“One Billion Rising sort of had the artistic route through flash dances, music and theatre,” said Vinning.

“But they also did call out for services and they asked people to organize themselves and to serve women in shelters that day and that really spoke to us as Sikhs.”

So Sikhs will be baking or buying treats and Surrey’s Guru Nanak Gurdwara’s free kitchen and the World Sikh Organization of Canada will deliver them to local women’s shelters on Thursday.

While there’s been a rippling affect throughout the Indo-Canadian community to battle violence against women, Sikhs are stepping up because “service is a huge part of our faith,” said Vinning.

“Yes, in the media there has been the awareness — there’s what’s happened in India,” Vinning said, referencing the fatal gang rape in New Delhi last December.

“But on a day-to-day basis, as Sikhs that hasn’t changed our mandate to serve and we still continue to serve.”

Offering their help to One Billion Rising goes hand-in-hand with the Sikh tradition of Langar, “which is one of our ways we serve,” said Vinning.

Langar dates back to a Guru Nanak teaching “that it’s really hard to work on self-development and improve ourselves … when we’re hungry,” described Vinning.

“So if we deal with our hunger first we are then able to give thought to other parts of our lives when the necessity of hunger is taken care of.”

“[So] in the tradition of Langar we just adapted that and we thought we’d gather up food and we’d take it then as care packages to the various shelters.”

Eight gurdwaras have stepped up to help along with families across the Lower Mainland — and it’s even gone above and beyond their initial intention with bouquets of flowers and Valentine’s cards being donated.

“It’s important for us to serve unconditionally and to serve all,” said Vinning. “[And] it’s Valentine’s Day — well, it’s a tough time I think for people.”

“We wanted something to brighten their day.”

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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