Sikh community extends support to members of all faiths during pandemic

By Adeel Saeed


A Sikh volunteer offers face masks to passersby during a coronavirus awareness campaign in April in Peshawar. [Jatindar Singh]

PESHAWAR -- Khalid Saleem, a carpenter who survives on daily wages, was surprised to see a young Sikh man standing at the main gate of his house in the Mohallah Jogan Shah neighbourhood in Peshawar.

After sharing pleasantries, Khalid learned that the man had come to provide food since Khalid had lost his income because of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, which kept him from working.

Khalid accepted the food donation, which the volunteer brought by wheelbarrow.

"It was indeed a great blessing. At that time I was in dire need of support and was unable to fulfill basic requirements of my family ... because of the strict lockdown in the month of March and April," Khalid said.


A Sikh volunteer helps cook meals that will be distributed to needy residents of Karachi in June. [Tariq Rehman/JI]


A Sikh volunteer helps a worker of the Al-Khidmat Foundation in June sanitise a church in Karachi. [Tariq Rehman/JI]

"I can never forget this generous and timely support by the minority community and am very thankful to my Sikh brothers for this act of kindness," he said.

Interfaith harmony

The Sikh community's generous support of those affected by the coronavirus reflects the strong bond of interfaith harmony in Pakistan.

Members of the community and other minority groups in Pakistan have come forward to help members of all faiths.

"We have provided all kinds of help to those affected by the coronavirus and supplied food at [residents'] doorsteps," said Jatindar Singh, a Sikh resident of Peshawar and chairman of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chapter of the National Council of Peace and Harmony.

"The Sikh community has worked in collaboration with a number of charity organisations and donated financial assistance to help and support our countrymen who are facing problems due to restrictions on commercial activities from the coronavirus outbreak," Singh said.

Apart from providing relief, the Sikh community has participated in campaigns to raise awareness among the general public on safety measures against the coronavirus, he added.

This assistance has continued in different districts of KP, including Peshawar, Buner, Swat, Mardan and Swabi, he said.

"The Sikh community and representatives of other minority groups including Christian and Hindus have taken part in campaigns launched to help and raise awareness... during the pandemic," said Ubaid Ullah, president of the Pak-Youth Parliament.

His organisation has worked in 48 districts of Pakistan during the coronavirus pandemic with the full support of Pakistani minorities and has distributed hundreds of thousands of masks and put up posters on how to prevent the disease, he said.

Pakistanis appreciate the goodwill gestures by the minority community, he added.

"In Nankana Sahib, a district in Punjab Province ... named after the first guru of Sikhs, our community members distributed food and sanitiser," said Surjeet Singh Kanwal, general secretary of the Pakistan Sikh Council.

The Sikh community has installed a walk-through sanitiser gate on the main road in the district, through which thousands of pedestrians and even motorcyclists pass daily.

Members have spent time with the elderly, he said.


In Karachi, Anil Singh, a young Sikh volunteer, linked up with the Al-Khidmat Foundation, a charity organisation linked to religious party Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JI), to protect Pakistanis from the coronavirus.

"Anil Singh was not alone -- we had representatives from the Hindu and Christian religions who worked along with us in distributing food packages as well as sanitising different areas, including worship places," said Tariq Rehman, a spokesperson for Al-Khidmat Karachi.

The Al-Khidmat Foundation gave the same respect to mandirs (Hindu temples), gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) and churches as it gives to mosques and conducted sanitising campaigns in Karachi, Tariq said.

"Father Irfan of the Christian Awami Church worked side by side with workers of the Al-Khidmat Foundation to help those affected by the coronavirus," he added.

"This is the real face of Pakistan -- where members of different faiths mutually co-exist and extend co-operation to each other in times of happiness and times of difficulty," Tariq said.

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