PRAYERS, PEACEMAKERS, AND CELEBRATIONS
Indianapolis, Indiana USA, January 24, 2010
Kanwal Prakash Singh
During January, in Indiana, we experienced unusually cold winter days with gray skies, snow-covered rooftops, glazed side streets, and glistening landscapes. The month has also brought a great tragedy to Haiti and incredible suffering in the aftermath of a massive earthquake that devastated the lives, hopes, and dreams of millions.
In January, Americans celebrated many special events that enlightened the mind, uplifted the human spirit, and brought welcome sunshine to guide our individual and collective journey as Americans and as world citizens. For me, as for millions of fellow Americans and people around the world, this has been a time and cause for reflection. The unexpected event that unfolded before us, carry demands and responsibilities from each of us. Other special spiritual, cultural, and community events brought home lasting lessons from exemplary lives for our future. Some significant January celebrations included birthday celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Peace Service at The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana; Indianapolis Mayor’s Diversity Awards Luncheon; “Hoosier Heritage Live”: K.P. Singh on the Sikh Heritage in Indiana; and high school classroom discussions about the Partition of India.
BIRTHDAY OF AN AMERICAN ICON AND PEACEMAKER
The 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration on January 15th, organized by the Office of Multicultural Education and the Crispus Attucks Museum on the campus of Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School in Indianapolis was a beautiful affair. There were songs and music, words of inspiration and reminders about the life and great legacy of Rev. Dr. King, a celebrated American civil rights leader, champion of non-violence, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace. The program televised live and coordinated by Dr. Patricia Payne, Director of Multicultural Education at the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) who also served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Many dignitaries, including Dr. Eugene White, Superintendent, IPS, and representatives of several faiths, including Muslim and Sikh (formal remarks attached) participated in the hour-long festivities. The highlight of the program was the “Celebration in Song” by the IPS All-City High School Choir featuring Diva Angela Brown, renowned operatic soprano and a Crispus Attucks Graduate.
INTERFAITH SERVICE FOR WORLD PEACE
Efforts are underway at The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (TMBCC) in Bloomington, Indiana to create a serene and joyous spirit with teachings from sacred Buddhist texts and several enriching experiences leading to the much-anticipated sixth visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet to Indiana in May 2010. The Interfaith Service for World Peace and Harmony at the TMBCC on January 16th was rich in symbolism, presided over by Venerable Arjia Rinpoche, Executive Director and President of the TMBCC. Representatives of many faith traditions, including Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Baha’i, Unitarian Universalist, Native American, Buddhist, and Sikh (formal prayer attached), offered prayers for peace, unity, compassion, understanding, and for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Deputy Mayor of Bloomington, representatives of Hispanic, Tibetan Association of Indiana/Buddhism, and Mongolia/Buddhism; TMBCC Board Member Elaine Mellencamp, Venerable Arjia Rinpoche, and others greeted the gathering of members, guests, and dignitaries in the ornately decorated Cultural Center on the campus of TMBCC.
The highlights of the Interfaith Service were the beautiful chant by the Buddhist Monks, the lighting of the candle for peace and harmony by the representatives of each faith after their brief remarks; special prayers and donations for the victims of the Haitian earthquake; and an incredibly moving interlude: Saranbande, J.S. Bach by Michael Fitzpatrick. Mr. Fitzpatrick is a world-renowned cellist. His beautiful renditions took our minds and spirits above the temporal to the realms of the celestial radiance and bliss.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his upcoming visit will offer teachings on “The Heart Sutra” on May 12 and 13th in Bloomington, and a public lecture on May 14th at The Conseco Field House in Indianapolis sponsored by Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, Indiana Buddhist Center, and The Interfaith Hunger Initiative.
CELEBRATION AND CALL TO DIVERSIFY OUR DIVERSITY
The 9th Annual City of Indianapolis Mayor’s Celebration of Diversity Awards Luncheon last Friday at the Marriott Hotel in Downtown and attended by nearly 1200 people was a recognition and strong testimony of our growing diversity as the new and promising frontier of opportunity in our City and around the Nation. Among the business, civic, cultural, and educational leaders and organizations, the Asian American Alliance and several nationalities proudly attended and participated in this celebration. Abdul Hakim-Shabaaz, News Talk 1430 and Joy Dumandan, Anchor WISH TV Channel 8, served as Master and Mistress of Ceremonies.
Mayor’s Diversity Awards in Development, Community Relations, Leadership, and Workforce Diversity were presented to businesses and organizations that are making outstanding contributions and commitments to supporting efforts to diversify diversity in the City. Mayor Greg Ballard presented a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award to the late Melvin Simon, a successful builder, philanthropist, owner of the Indiana Pacers (professional basketball team), for his generosity of spirit, setting personal example of outstanding citizenship, and his contributions to the image and spirit of the City. The prestigious Sam H. Jones Diversity Award (named after the late Sam H. Jones, an outstanding civic leader, Executive Director of The Indianapolis Urban League, and a champion of diversity and race relations) to Citizens Energy Group.
In the introductory remarks of Indianapolis Mayor, The Honorable Greg Ballard and the acceptance speeches of the recipients, there was this welcome refrain: “Everyone has a chance to contribute; diversity is our strength and is non-negotiable; advancing diversity must be a driving moral obligation.” For Mayor and Mrs. Ballard, diversity is not just a good idea, it is a personal passion and an honorable commitment to make Indianapolis an attractive destination for the brightest and best from around the world and a proud and welcome place for every citizen.
NEW GATEWAYS AND IMAGINATIVE BRIDGES
In an amazing turn of events, in recent years, learning about ethnic, cultural, and spiritual communities, uncommon languages, new colorful festivals, and other unique facets and textures has captured the interest and attention of friends and institutions at many levels. High Schools, universities, foundations, religious and arts organizations, businesses and media circles are excited about this important untapped resource for civic discourse forums, race relations, perspectives on international events, developing inroads to world markets, and offering innovative solutions to local problems. As some of the area ethnic and cultural groups mainstream and interface with established community institutions, we have the opportunity and responsibility to integrate their ideas and experiences into various faith-based initiatives and other projects that enrich our City and State. Witnessing colorful and vibrant ethnic festivals, new skills with daring spirit of early pioneers, we are realizing that in an increasingly interdependent world, fiercely competitive world, this population serving as citizen ambassadors and cultural diplomats can open unfamiliar marketplaces with unimagined economic rewards.
ON THE NEAR HORIZON
Events in Indianapolis will continue to bring attention to the multifaceted, multicultural assets and strengths in our midst. International events will continue to challenge, impact our response and understanding of the complex world beyond our familiar horizons. In coming weeks, the State of Indiana will be welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a champion of interfaith dialogue, a Supreme Global Rattna (a brilliant jewel), a beloved spiritual leader, humanitarian, and man of peace. The International Center of Indianapolis will be honoring Governor Mitch Daniels as the International Citizen of the Year for his leadership in connecting Indiana to talents, markets, and potential investors in other countries. In April, a citizens group will be presenting the Second Multi-Ethnic Indiana Conference in Indianapolis that will explore ways how Indiana communities can best serve all groups and their special concerns. In May, the 40th Broad Ripple Art Fair will remind us that arts are a universal bridge to our humanity; the 500-Festival Parade, once again may feature the many nationalities that make Indiana their home.
KNOWING OUR WORLD
A quiet renaissance of thought and strategy is taking place at many levels and in multiple ways.
Suddenly, our challenge is to prepare our future generations to think globally; knowing our world may be the assured gateway to success. Learning about significant events in places once far removed from our experiences, whether that is the Partition of India in 1947; cultural groups and faith communities in our midst; ethnic struggles or landmark discoveries in distant lands; business practices and leaders in other countries that may form friendly partners for trade and exchange, is now all part of orientation. That, I believe, is the true superpower strategy of the future. Indianapolis and Indiana are ready to compete nationally and internationally and present Indiana as an attractive destination for new businesses, investments, or families wishing to relocate here. Now this is a major change: from a land-locked forgettable City of the 1960’s to a City and State that today offer an attractive alternative, a welcome place to bring ideas, innovations and pioneering energy, and build shared dreams in the Heartland of America.