Sikhs in Flushing: overcoming misconceptions and promoting religious understanding

At the Gurudwara Sikh Center of New York, Flushing, a community of Sikhs strives to promote religious understanding and acceptance for people of all faiths. 

Flushing, New York, is one of the most diverse communities in the United States, with residents from all different religions and ethnicities all residing in one ZIP code. Harpreet Singh Wahan, a prominent member of the Sikh community, is one religious believer in the area that works on interfaith initiatives and aims to dispel misconceptions about people of his faith.

Wahan with a group of visitors to the Sikh Center. Photo by Wahan.

Wahan helps organize an interfaith walk within Flushing where residents come together to walk between different places of worship and learn more about other religions and their practices. He hopes to be able to promote unity among all people through these efforts. As Wahan says, “We are siblings of destiny all on the same plane.”

Another thing the Sikh Center does to cultivate acceptance is to bring others into their center of worship to observe, ask questions, and eat with the members of the community. In fact, part of the Sikh tradition is to always have a meal, called langar, ready to feed to anyone who asks, regardless of who they are. This meal helps promote the unity and love that are preached by the Sikhs. 

Langar, the traditional Sikh meal. Photo by Annika Ohran

One visitor to the Sikh Center, 24-year-old college student Julia Orellana-Funes, said of her visit, “I felt incredibly validated to keep following my faith while following the pursuit of harmonizing with people of other religions. It was a special moment of bonding.” The way that Sikhs dress and worship can appear foreign or strange to others, but through these different outreach efforts, the Sikh Center seeks to change misconceptions or prejudices. 

Wahan said, “I’m not here to convert others, I’m here to convert the feeling of hatred into love.” And he’s doing a great job.

A group of students visits the Sikh Center. Photo by Joel Campbell

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