Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Alternate Activity 2: Sikhs Are Not Muslims

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • An assortment of small items which could be worn or carried in a pocket-for example, a comb, rubber band, tiny mirror, coin, simple ring, various pins and pendants, small stone, small bell, small box of matches, locket, or tiny animal figure
  • Handout 5, Sikh Pop Quiz and pens/pencils
  • Handout 6, The Turban and Five Ks of Sikhism

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 5 as a two-sided handout for all participants.
  • Copy Handout 6 for all participants.

Description of Activity

Youth learn the importance of Sikhism and explore the idea of visible expressions of faith.

Share with youth the following:

We are going to look at a different religion-a very important faith, among the largest in the world with more than 23 million adherents. It is unusual to talk about two major faiths in the same workshop, but there is a good reason for this pairing: In North America, sometimes followers of this faith are misidentified as Muslims. In fact, after the September 11, 2001, incidences of attacks, profiling, abusive behavior, and discrimination toward people of this faith soared. Does anyone know, or perhaps have a guess, which religion this is?

If none of the youth know, inform them that the faith is Sikhism. If the youth name Sikhism, thank them, and then ask them to wait to share further until everyone has a chance to take the Sikh Pop Quiz.

Distribute Handout 5, Sikh Pop Quiz and writing materials. Ask youth to answer the questions without helping each other. After five minutes, have participants talk together and come to an agreement about the answers. Then, compare the group's answers with the Pop Quiz Answers:

Pop Quiz Answers

1. (c) Sat Sri Akal means roughly, "Blessed is one who says God is Truth"

2. (a) Sikhism

3. (e) Punjab-a region partly in India, mostly in Pakistan

4. (c) Early 1900s-Sikhs have been in the United States for over a hundred years

5. (e) All of the above

6. (e) One or two generations

7. (b) Tantamount to taking off their pants

8. (e) Fifth largest religion (behind Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and not counting indigenous faiths, atheism/agnosticism, or Falun Gong)

9. False – Sikhs are not to alter the body for purely cosmetic purposes

10. (d) Share with the needy, work honestly and hard, and always remember the Creator in everything you do

Share, in these words or your own:

Sikhs live all over the world. "Sikh" is pronounced "se-ickh" with a short "I," close to the word "sick," not "seek." Sikhism began in the year 1500, about 900 years after Islam and just before the birth of Protestantism in 1517. Its founder, Guru Nanak Dev, was born to a Hindu family in western Punjab (Pakistan near India). While still a young man, he decided he was neither Hindu nor Muslim, the predominant religions in the region. Then, when he was 30, Guru Nanak Dev experienced a revelation and began to preach a new message emphasizing generosity, awareness of God, and the unity and equality of all people, male or female, rich or poor. He named the new religion Sikh, meaning "learner," since Sikhs endeavor to learn constantly to be better people and serve God better.

Guru Nanak Dev began a book which is known as the Guru Granth Sahib. After Guru Nanak Dev died, nine more gurus ("teachers") followed, and most of them added to the Guru Granth Sahib. Since the death of the tenth Guru, there have been no more human leaders of the Sikh faith. However, the book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is accepted as a true Guru and the remaining holy teacher of living Sikh wisdom. The Guru Granth Sahib is considered complete and perfect.

An important aspect of Sikhism is that, at the ceremony where one becomes a full member, they vow to wear at all times five sacred symbols of the faith. The objects, some of which are visible and some not, are potent reminders of the wearer's strongest beliefs and of their sacred obligations to themselves, to their faith, and to others.

Distribute Handout 6, The Turban and Five Ks of Sikhism. Ask for five volunteers to each read a section aloud. Ask for thoughts about the Five Ks.

Continue discussion with these questions:

  • The Panj Kakkar, or Five Ks, remind a Sikh of gratitude, humility, cleanliness, discipline of thought, restraint from doing harm, self-control, and readiness to defend truth and the oppressed. As Unitarian Universalists, what do you most value? If you were going to choose items to remind yourself of your values every day, what would they be?
  • If you carried or wore something as a spiritual emblem, would you want it to be visible to other people or not? Why? The Search Sikhism website states, "The Khalsa cannot be anonymous." (Khalsa is a Punjab word for Sikh.) How do youth feel about the idea of not being able to be anonymous about their faith? Do you enjoy the ability to be anonymous in your faith? Do you think it could result in greater commitment to your faith if you wore a visible symbol of it at all times?
  • Would your visible emblem of faith be the flaming chalice, or something else? Have you ever worn such in public-a chalice pendant or t-shirt?
  • Do you wear something that represents a "signature" of you-a necklace, ring, piece of clothing, hat, anything you always or almost always have on you? What does it mean to you? Everything we wear or do conveys some message to the people around us. What do you think your signature item says about you to other people?
  • If you were wearing your chosen symbol and someone asked you, "What's that?" how would you answer? Would you say, "It's the symbol of my religion," hoping they move on to the next subject? Would you name your faith? Would you give a brief description? If you wanted to give a brief description of Unitarian Universalism, could you do it? What would you say?

Place the small objects on a surface where they can be seen. Suggest that every item could be invested with meaning of some kind, depending on who was carrying it and what the object reminded them of. Ask what some of the items might mean if someone were carrying them as sacred symbols.

Do some of the items represent qualities or values participants named as most important to them? If they were going to choose something to carry or wear, how would they go about choosing?

If you have decided objects will be available for youth to take if they wish, offer at this time for each to choose an object (or several). Then, ask youth to sit quietly holding their items for a moment. Suggest that they try, for at least a day, to carry or wear that object with sacred intention, reminding them of why they chose it-think about what it means and call them to their higher selves. Suggest, "It might be interesting to see how that feels."

Answer any remaining questions about Sikhism or, if you cannot answer immediately, plan to obtain answers for the next workshop.