Yuba-Sutter Sikhs in Washington DC to honor guru
Yuba-Sutter Sikh leaders are throwing a celebration today, but it's not happening in their backyard — it's happening in President Barack Obama's.
Eight to 10 Yuba City residents flew to Washington, DC, on Wednesday to join about 160 Sikh followers for the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Sikhs from around the country gathered to watch the lighting of the White House Christmas tree on Thursday night — an event attended by Obama — and honor the guru's birthday at a White House celebration scheduled at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.
Local Sikh community leader Dr. Jasbir Kang, who was invited but not able to attend, said the ceremony is a strong example of unification in America.
"It shows the greatness of America celebrating all faiths," he said. "It's about being recognized by the highest authority in America."
The guru stood for interfaith, understanding and working together, which are all American values, Kang said. His teachings, now more than 500 years old, centered around equality and respect. He also preached often about the value of making an honest living and sharing.
"The celebration is meant as a recognition of Sikhs being respected and accepted in America," he said, "and that gives us a sense of pride."
The group of locals attending the event include Harjeet Singh, Apar Ghuman, Amarpreet Everest, Jasdeep Kang, Karm Bains, Jaskaran Johal, Daman Bhangu and Bhupinder Kooner. Also invited but not able to attend were Yuba City Mayor John Buckland and City Council members Tej Maan and Kash Gill.
Johal, a farmer who spends most of his weekends feeding Yuba City's homeless, said the guru's birth anniversary is one of the biggest events in the Sikh religion, and that the celebration is a big step forward for the community.
For Johal, the invitation was one he couldn't pass up.
"I bought my tickets in the next 10 minutes," he said.
Johal said the group will have a chance to meet in the White House's Eisenhower conference room today, where he and other Sikhs will discuss the philosophies of Guru Nanak.
Buckland said the government's recognition of Sikh achievements is long overdue.
"The involvement of the Sikh community and their culture is a part of what Yuba and Sutter are," Buckland said.
Buckland couldn't make it to DC because of prior commitments, but said he hopes to make the trip in the future.