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November 24, 1999
Empowering Youth In Guru Nanak's Name
A P Kamath
Daljeet Dhillon can think of hundreds of ways to pay tribute to his faith and the idealism the Sikh religion espouses.
He thinks he made the right decision when he started Sahara a few years ago to nudge Sikh youth in Toronto towards a meaningful life.
The 29-year-old counselor feels there ought to be many organizations like Sahara in cities such as Vancouver since, according to him, many young people there are lured into the fast lane and lose sight of righteous conduct, virtues and the essentials of the Sikh religion.
"A lot of youth, because there is no support for them, are turning to gangs -- Punjabi gangs -- to drugs, to alcohol, even suicide,'' Dhillon told reporters amidst big celebrations in Toronto of Guru Nanak's birth anniversary.
As many Sikhs said the birth anniversary this year was special since they celebrated it for the last time this century. It was also a time for reflection, and to take more steps to help their children follow the Sikh religion into the next millennium.
Dhillon is reminded of Sikh gangs in British Columbia. Many young Sikhs, angry at the real and imagined social injustice and racial bias in the province, have joined gangs that also carry out the sale of illegal drugs.
To many of these young men, Bindy Johal, the 20-plus self-confessed drug dealer, is a hero.
Johal was gunned down in a busy social club in Vancouver about 12 months ago, and no one has been arrested for his murder. At least 8 Indo-Canadians have either been killed or badly hurt in drug-related crimes in the last three years. Many of them were Johal's associates.
Dhillon also believes that the cultural gap is particularly hard on girls.
'Issues of gender inequality -- girls not having the same rights of a male sibling, not being able to date, arranged marriages -- that is still a huge issue. These are common. In our community there is a lot of pressure to get the daughters married,' he told the Toronto Star.
'Parents feel it is a burden, their responsibility,' he said.
The Sikh religion clearly offers greatest respect for women, and yet, in reality, some women feel they not given the respect and importance they deserve.
Some Sikh girls, he said, have committed suicide because their parents tried to arrange marriages for them. Several other Sikhs articulated similar thoughts.
Sewa Singh Sandhu, who serves on the board of the Malton Khalsa Community School in Mississauga, where over 200 students up to Grade 7 learn about Sikh religion and traditions, is asking the community to spend money on educating the second and third generations about Sikh religion and spirituality.
Over $ 20 million is being spent to build a gurdwara in Toronto. Sandhu and Dhillon would love to see a tiny fraction of that money spent for youth services.
"If we want our kids to be Sikhs, we have to show that first we are Sikhs, and then teach them what we know," Sandhu says.
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