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Canada Ahead By A Century

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Jun 17, 2004
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This new year will be a particularly special one for Abbotsford when its Sikh population and the larger community unite to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Gur Sikh Temple located on South Fraser Way.

Satwinder Bains, director of the UFV Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies, said the historic temple, or gurdwara, is a testament to the pride, vision and community commitment of early Sikh immigrants.

A designated national historic monument, the temple was completed in 1911 by struggling pioneers.

The oldest, and longest standing building of its kind in North America, it is the only gurdwara to have a national historic designation outside of India and Pakistan.

"We're so lucky it's still here. The legacy of this rich heritage is on our shoulders, but we are prepared to maintain it," Bains said.

To honour the anniversary the temple's Khalsa Diwan Society is organizing one event a month for the entire year. The celebration's kick-off takes place at city hall on Jan. 10 with a proclamation by Mayor George Peary, and the unveiling of a historical exhibit about the temple.

The centennial celebration is an opportunity for the whole community of Abbotsford to reflect.

"We're really looking back, but also looking forward," Bains said.

"If we don't know where we came from, we won't know where we are going."

Sikhs first arrived in the area in 1905, working primarily on farms and in the forest industry.

Sikh pioneers managed to purchase a one-acre property; then they, and other men who worked at the lumber mill on Mill Lake carried timber, donated by the Trethewey family, on their backs from the lake up the hill to the temple site.

Mayor George Peary said he was looking forward to the centennial.

"I think the city has to join in this celebration. [The gurdwara] is our only national historical monument and one of which we can be extremely proud."

The temple speaks to the perseverance of the early Sikh pioneers, he said.

"It was a huge undertaking to travel across the ocean, come out by train and find accommodation in a strange land with strange customs," he said.

"Early immigrants, especially those whose skin was a different colour [had much to endure], but today their descendents are a vibrant part of our community and economy and it's hard to image our city without them."

Kabul Singh Hundal, president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, said the yearlong celebration has been in the works for a year and a half.

In addition to the launch event, readers', writers' and film festivals are planned for the University of the Fraser Valley and a historical exhibit is being organized at the Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford.

The Khalsa Diwan Society will also hold a three-day prayer, ending with a festival on the temple grounds the last weekend of August.

Hundal said Stephen Harper has been invited to attend the August festivities and organizers want to apply for a commemorative stamp.

"We want the community at large to celebrate with us," said Hundal, who said the event helps people worldwide to learn more about the Sikh history and faith and how it contributes to society.

"The Sikh faith shows all people are equal and nobody is upper or lower," he said.

"Our teachings are for human beings, not just for Sikhs."

For more information on the upcoming year's celebrations visit www.ufv.ca/cics/centennial or phone the Khalsa Diwan Society at 604-850-7338.



Read more: http://www.abbotsfordtimes.com/Ahead+century/3971773/story.html#ixzz184I7yfeG
 

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