KP Singh’s remarks on being awarded Interfaith Ambassador of the Year
GREETINGS AND GRATITUDE
Thank you CIC for this prestigious Award and generous tribute. I am overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. Thank you everyone for your presence. You have come in your Punjabi and ethnic-native or Sunday best and brought your spirit and blessings to the occasion. Some of you have come long distances and many of you have carried me high on your shoulders, in your hearts and your prayers. I like for you to meet my amazing brother-in-laws – John Paul and his wife Joyce Ketels from Washington D.C.; Bill and his wife Judy Prakken from Grand Junction, Colorado; my beautiful family – Janice, my wife and mentor for nearly half a century, our sons Jay Prakash and Rabindra Paul. I like for you to meet my extended family – Would everyone please give yourself a thunderous applause!
Thank you Rev. Dr. Richard Hamilton, Venerable Arjia Rinpoche, and Giani Pritam Singhjee for sharing inspiring unifying spirit in your uplifting Invocation. Thank you Anita Lerche for serving as the Mistress of Ceremonies.
Thank you CIC Awards Planning Committee, sponsors, friends, and dignitaries present and others that sent special messages included in the Tribute Booklet. Thank you my family in Indiana and India for your love; my wonderful teachers and mentors for your patience in shaping my ideas and priorities, showing me the way and giving me the opportunities to learn and discover the promise and purpose of life and enrichment and fulfillment that comes with commitment, getting involved, and seeing life and faith through serving.
I take a moment to remember my very learned, courageous, and enlightened father and my beloved mother who was a living saint and salt of the earth. They taught me all that know and who I am; they struggled and sacrificed to create opportunities and instill meaningful values in me and my six siblings. I dedicate this Award and evening to my parents who are watching from a distance, very great distance, from somewhere among the stars.
I know that each of you have special people in your lives. Let us extend a hearty applause and respects to them. Please thank yourself for the love and generosity of spirit that guides your lives; the great causes that you support with your time, energy, and gifts to make Indianapolis a welcome destination and blessed home for all of us. No one has done more for our City than my beloved friends – our Honorable Mayor Greg Ballard and former First Lady Winnie Ballard. For eight momentous years, they lived and loved our City and made it an enviable model for cities around the USA and across the world. Please rise and let us give a thunderous thank you for their vision, righteous labor, incredible personal sacrifice, and courageous leadership in the tradition of my friend the Honorable Senator Richard Lugar and Hoosier greats and distinguished Americans.
I hope that I have covered everyone when I say: Thank you God, family, circle of friends in many cultures and faith traditions across continents; thank you India – my place of birth and thank you USA – my place of rebirth and “my Indiana home.”
LESSONS ALONG THE LIFE-JOURNEY
Being a refugee at age 8, frightened and bewildered by what we saw, dispossessed of home and everything familiar teaches you much. Having survived the nightmare of murder and madness that claimed two million lives, disrupted the lives of 15 million people in the Indian subcontinent, and tonight this unimagined opportunity to stand before you 68 years later – it dispels all doubts about the Power of God, the strength and healing in prayer, and the amazing angels that come into your life, take their rightful place in your heart, guide you in times of intense darkness and uncertainty.
One understands the meaning of the sacred Sikh precept: “God as the Father and Mother of All Creation; we as His Children;” … “Every living being is a repository of Divine Light;”… “No one is outside the Circle of God’s Love and Benevolence;”… therefore, “No one is holier and higher, nor unworthy” of God’s Grace and Mercy. And that we have to embrace this eternal revealed Truth and live its spirit in humility and faith to honor God and Life.
As I grew up and reflected and explored the meaning and promise of life, I learned about the “…awesome nature and limitlessness of a Higher Spirit,” … “God as the Ultimate Source of All Divine Knowledge and Wisdom”…”God’s Immaculate Presence from before the beginning of Time and Creation;” the central messages and commandments enshrined in sacred scriptures; the lessons not to indulge in pride and self-righteousness; to respect, “…All humanity as One Race, One Brotherhood;”… “Honor and celebrate the sanctity of all and spiritual traditions;” and that “…Every act of Seva (selfless service), a major pillar of the Sikh faith, is an offering to a universally-loving God.” We are asked to see, pursue, and welcome Light, and not dwell on or in darkness; discover hope and new lessons in all failures and triumphs; in all encounters and at every crossroads where God places us; and surrender to His Hukam (God’s Will).
VISION AND PRECEPT OF INTERFAITH
What is interfaith! Interfaith is entering into faith with people pursuing traditions and cultures different from our own. Even amidst the distinction that may define each faith, with understanding and respect serving as a bridge, we can discover remarkable threads that unmistakably converge: The concept of Love, Faith, Hope, Service, Human Dignity, Justice, Grace, Compassion, Salvation-Emancipation, Unity, Universality, the idea of God or a Higher Spirit, an Immaculate Reality that has existed from before the beginning of Time and Creation. The unifying spiritual currents affirm, as the Sikh faith teaches us, that “God is the Fountainhead of all Divine Knowledge… all languages” and that God has “…Sent Messengers throughout the Ages to save and emancipate humanity…;” to teach humanity the path to righteousness living and the Way to know God.
God is interfaith and so also His Truth. Therefore, interfaith is not, and must never be, a threat to our embraced sacred beliefs and faith doctrine. Interfaith is an invitation to sharing and learning about other dimensions and spectrums of faith mystery and manifested spirituality. Interfaith is about affirmation and strengthening of our own understanding with recurring enlightened spiritual ideas and precepts. Interfaith is about seeing the universe through faith-scopes, spirit-lenses thoughtfully trained to highlight our common Origin and shared destination in Afterlife.
Interfaith is a spiritual embrace: where no one is a stranger because of caste, creed, ethnicity, gender, and lifestyle; where peace and goodwill are an accepted mandate, a cherished universal blessing and a unifying destination.
ABOUT AWARDS, RECOGNITIONS, HONORS AND LOOKING AHEAD
Thank you CIC and everyone for this wonderful honor, precious gifts, and amazing affection expressed at this celebration. I will enshrines the highlights of this evening deep in my heart, lest I forget to remind me of this day and its lessons and inspirations to guide my passage from here on. The Tribute Booklet speaks of your generosity and about how much lies ahead for me to deserve and be worthy of the generous sentiment expressed by family, friends, and distinguished giants that touched my life in significant ways.
I never forget that there are so many people that shape our lives and spirit; contribute to making us the person that we are. We walk in the giant footprints and lofty shoulders. I share this Award and my blessings with them. The Tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh (1666-1708), regarded by the Sikhs as one of the most dazzling Light that graced our world, when challenged by the Brahmins that you are elevating the lower castes into equal status as saint-soldiers, replied in great humility and with the pride of a benevolent father: “I am exalted by their Grace and incredible generosity; by their righteous testimony in triumphs, sacrifices, and philanthropy; otherwise there are millions like me that walk this earth unheralded and unsung.” An important lesson in humility and grace!
It is your Grace that has brought me here and kept me here, and made a places in homes and special places and made many undreamed-of blessings possible. I am always moved by the words of Amazing Grace: “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far, And Grace will lead me home.”
These words talk to my soul and remind me that inspite of many inequities and glaring imperfections, God’s limitless Benevolence is eternally forgiving and reassuring, uplifting us from the valleys with deep shadows to horizons of promise of the impossible. For that, God sends us beautiful family and friends, His angelic messengers, amazing parents and teachers. He places us at crossroads where hopes and dreams paves the way, faith anchors the spirit, outcomes and gratitude fill the heart. I find myself at such a place tonight.
INTERFAITH LIBRARY: A BEAUTIFUL FAITH PROJECT
To discover and witness God-Light, often obscured by our shortsightedness, self-righteousness, fear and suspicion, unfounded stereotyping, wrongful associations, and unfair judgements, I pray that we create an Interfaith Section within the CIC Library in honor of all of you. Learning alone can lead us to looking at other faiths, cultures, and people through unclouded lenses; provide wisdom and perspectives that are above reproach and san prejudice. Tis section should serve as a scriptural and faith-related resource that is above politics, time-honored, and the best available. This section should be devoted to serous study and learning by scholars, students, interfaith leaders, and all interested citizens. This collection of books, CDs, DVD’s, artworks, traditional icons, and will offer material that enlighten us about matters of spirit, sacred facets, and heritage of faiths – Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Bahai faith, Native American and African spiritual traditions, Taoism, and other major and distinct faith doctrines, philosophies, and practices. In time, we imagine a sacred space at this library: to experience and discuss distinct and unifying elements within our sacred journeys and spiritual-treasures; thread ideas and initiatives that enlarge our understanding and ability to relate to one another in profound and respectful ways; together affirm myriad dimensions of One Supreme Immaculate Reality, God-Highest Spirit-Wonderful Lord that governs all Creation.
AN UNIMAGINED MOMENT OF JOY AND DEEP GRATITUDE
I am grateful for receive this special honor to be your 2016 Interfaith Ambassador of the Year. I rejoice in this moment and feel the generations of my family with me. My heart and spirit are full and there are no words left to express fully my feelings of deep gratitude and thanksgiving. Thank you for adopting someone who came as a new kid, a stranger 48 years ago; who worked hard on his passions about arts, culture, community, and service and advocated to make room for the “new winds of culture” to flow through here and flourish. You have beautiful responded over the years. So I see myself as a symbol of the new generation of pioneers that came with new experiences and served with their gifts. You have opened doors and spirit of Indiana to the world and new renaissance of culture and greatness is underway as we together celebrate the Bicentennial of our State this year and in 2021 the two hundredth anniversary of the great City of Indianapolis.
I know that Interfaith Ambassador of the Year (2016); International Citizen of the Year (1992); Honorary Secretary of the State (1989); Sagamore of the Wabash (1994, 2015); and other awards are only honorary titles. Still, I want to test their power on you: For the next several minutes, as my Hoosier subjects, I request that you all get to the dance floor and show us your dancing skills to the robust rhythms of Punjabi Bhangra Dance music. Our sensational Danish-Punjabi singer-dancer Anita Lerche is waiting to lead us! Have fun! Share your spirit!! Make new friends!!! Build new memories!!!! And safe journey home!!!!!