Gardening with SikhsBy John Longhurst
There are lots of ways to address racism and distrust between groups — start a campaign, issue statements, hold meetings, develop workshops.
Or you could plant a garden.
That’s what members of River East Mennonite Brethren Church and the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Winnipeg, Man., are doing. The two congregations, which are neighbors, are planting a garden on a popular walking and biking path near both meetingplaces.
The congregations have two goals for the garden. The first is to beautify the walkway, using an array of native Manitoba flowers, grasses and shrubs. The other is to give the two faith groups a chance to build new friendships.
“Through the garden, we want to get to know each other better and foster understanding between our two groups,” says Sara Jane Schmidt, one of the pastors at River East.
Adds Gurpreet Brar, a member of the gurdwara: “We hope this partnership between the two faith communities will grow into a special friendship and inspire other groups to collaborate on areas of mutual interest and concern.”
Last August, more than 100 people from the two groups gathered for the official sod-breaking. Following the ceremony, which featured blessings and prayers from leaders from River East and the gurdwara, the crowd celebrated with a meal of traditional Mennonite and Indian foods — like platz and samosas. In June people from the two groups got together again, this time to plant flowers and plants.
But it doesn’t stop there; members from River East have gone to the gurdwara for a service and a meal, and in June a member of the gurdwara visited River East to share about the Sikh faith.
“Since the beginning of our inter-faith collaboration, we have worked together hand-in-hand,” says Brar, adding that the project has been an opportunity to “explore values we share while respecting differences.”
Sikhs originated in India, while Mennonites came from Europe. Sikhs use Punjabi in their worship services, while English is used at almost all Mennonite churches in Canada.
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