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Religion Library: Sikhism


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The SGPC directly runs the historical Gurdwaras in the Punjab. Elections for committees to run non-SGPC-affiliated Gurdwaras that are created for the worship of local congregations have typically been based on popular votes amongst the congregation's membership. Ideally, such elected or appointed positions are seen as an opportunity to serve the community through leadership. The very word Sikh refers to a "learner" of the divine message, and so there is a moral imperative for all leaders to be checked in their humility and service to the community. Congregations worldwide face challenges in finding ways to exercise this principle.

The question of what authority this governing body has over Sikhs outside of Punjab is becoming more important. Sikh life abroad is very different from that in the homeland, requiring much more effort and awareness as diaspora Sikhs interact with non-Sikh neighbors as minority populations. These Sikhs try to educate their youth in organizations like summer camps, in the Gurdwaras, teaching them about traditions. It is likely that Sikh reforms and changes outside of Punjab will be driven by the education taking place in these institutions.

In the United States, Sikhs have developed a network of non-governmental organizations that carry out Guru Nanak's mission of working for truth and justice, while advocating for the community's causes. The Sikh Foundation (founded 1967) and professional associations like the Association of Sikh Professionals (1984) have provided philanthropic expression and support for Sikh activities and education. More recently, groups like SALDEF and Sikh Coalition  advocate for Sikhs' rights in the United States. Sikhs for Justice is a New York-based group that calls attention to global issues facing the community. United Sikhs is a United Nations affiliated group that enacts Guru Nanak's vision for helping others with one's own hands. As indicated by their robust health and growth, Sikh summer camps like Camp Khanda in Syracuse, New York buttress the aims of local Gurdwaras and congregations to ensure the transmission of Sikh heritage in an American context.

Study Questions:
1.     Who leads Sikh congregations in worship and ceremonies?
2.     Who was the head of the first Sikh community?
3.     Why did Guru Gobind Singh dissolve the masand office?
4.     Who overseas Sikh holy sites today?