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Sikh Youth Community Thriving in Denmark

A group of 10 youngsters decided to form a group titled 'Sikh Ungdom' (Sikh Youth Association) with the purpos...


Sikh Youth Community Thriving in Denmark

Since 2013 the small Sikh community of Denmark has seen a massive increase in events targeting the youth.

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Inspired by the video "a wake up call to Sikhs" by Basics of Sikhi (link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udySr8YQcvs) , a group of 10 youngsters decided to form a group titled 'Sikh Ungdom' (Sikh Youth Association) with the purpose of spreading knowledge of Sikhi and building a community of Sikh youngsters. So far this had been unprecedented during the almost half a century of Sikh presence in the country.

Denmark has one of the Western world's smallest communities of Sikhs. There are no official figures but estimates range from as low as 800-1500. Most Sikhs are based around the capital of Copenhagen. Since the 80s there has been a Gurdwara which mainly caters to the parental generation. There is also a Punjabi school for kids named "Punjabi Cultural Association, Denmark' that has been teaching Gurmukhi, Gatka and Sikh rahit for a couple of years. With the emergence of Sikh youth in 2013 it can be said that the Danish sangat has come to a position where it is able to serve all three generations: children, youngsters and adults.

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Teaching Sikhi in a Danish context

"There is hardly any information on Sikhi in the Danish language and we have had to start from zero. Inspired by the Basics of Sikhi project we have tried to teach Sikhi in a Danish context. All our material is written in Danish while all our lectures are likewise in the Danish language" says Hardeep Singh, the vice president of Sikh Ungdom. He continues "It is important to stress the practicality of Sikh principles in everyday life. How do we convert seva into daily life? How can we do seva in our schools, at our workplaces and on the streets of Copenhagen? We want to make Sikhi practical".

Since 2013 when activities only took place on a monthly basis, today there are events on almost a weekly basis. Every second week there is a study circle where the youth come together to discuss deeper issues of the Sikh faith - the purpose of life, seva as a lifestyle, Japji Sahib as the foundation of Sikhi, Sikh philosophy, music and spiritualism etc. Approximately every six weeks a larger event is held that focuses on some of the basics of Sikhi - the purpose of Vaisakhi, Diwali and the lives of the Gurus. "By having these specialized as well as basic events we are hoping to cater to Sikhs of all levels,- it does not matter how long they have been into Sikhi or how much they know already" says Hardeep Singh "the important thing is just that we don't leave anyone out".

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The largest event was the Danish Turban Day inspired by the Norwegian Turban Day. About 40 youth came together to host an event on the City Hall square of Copenhagen. More than a thousand citizens came by to try a turban and hear more about the Sikh faith. "It was a great event and way of building community amongst the youth. It is definitely something we wish to continue as an annual event" says Hardeep Singh.

Linking up with other community actors

It is vital that Sikh Ungdom partners up with non-Sikh actors in order to enhance it's work. Sikh Ungdom has participated in two national diversity festivals where more than 30.000 people attended. It was a great opportunity for people to hear more about the Sikhs of Denmark. In partnership with Afghan, Pakistani and Kurdish group Sikh Ungdom has also held discussion events related to issues of identity, cultural challenges etc.

Building a strong Sikh identity

One of the main purposes of the Sikh Youth project is to build a strong Sikh identity amongst the youth. It is vital to make them aware of their glorious past and aware of the progressive values of the Sikh faith which can contribute in creating a greater future for all people. A lot of the work is linked up to the Basics of Sikhi project from the UK. There are occasional link ups on the facebook pages as well as many of the Danish lectures being inspired by the Basics of Sikhi lectures. Jagraj Singh of Basics of Sikhi visited Denmark for a weekend camp in February 2014 and later in December 2014 a small group of Danish Sikhs went to Norway to hear the Qi Rattan perform Kirtan. In March 2015 a team of three Singhs from London will host a Sikh camp in Denmark focusing on community building, spiritualism and practicing Sikhi in a modern context. Furthermore, in the future there are plans to make inspirational study trips to the UK and India. In this way lot of inspiration is taken from the UK and Norway and adapted to a local Danish setting.

"We are hoping to see more and more of our youngsters become interested in their religious and cultural heritage. With the Guru's grace we have had success so far with the work we have tried to accomplish. In the long run we hope to be able to create greater relations between the scattered Sikh youth sangats around Europe and in this way create a sangat that transcends national borders. This is what is needed at the moment and with the help of social media and internet this is something that will hopefully be achieved within the next 5 years" finishes Hardeep Singh, vice-president of Sikh Ungdom.

 

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