By Inderjeet Singh
Jalandhar: First I would like to thank Pope Francis who gave me the chance to participate in the pre-synodal meeting 2018 in Rome. I am Inderjit Singh, 26, and I did my Bachelors of Commerce degree in 2012 from Trinity College, Jalandhar, Punjab. I feel proud to be part of the college as it is run by the Catholic diocese of Jalandhar and its faculty is highly educated, kind-hearted and helpful.
When I heard about Pre-synodal from Father Peter, director of Trinity College, and Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, Punjab, I was excited to be part of this meeting as the organizers wanted Sikh representation from Punjab. Finally, I feel lucky after the organizers called me from the Vatican informing that I was shortlisted and invited me to Rome for the synodal meeting from March 18 to 24.
I wish happy because there was a golden opportunity for me. One month ago, the Tribute newspaper published news (Feb 16, 2018) that Jalandhar youth got Vatican invitation to attend a youth event in Rome. In the same morning, lots of my college friends, relatives and others congratulated me for the good news. That was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I arrived one day late in Rome because of my delayed visa process. I could not meet Pope Francis personally, but presented the Sikh history books from 1469 to 2004 by Khuswant Singh to the organizer of the event and requested him to give them to the Pope on my behalf.
On 19 March, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri greeted the delegates and discussed Pope Francis’ visit to the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae, Rome was we interacted with him and young people took pictures with the Holy Father.
After that, all the delegates had interaction with the Pope. We were told to participate in the seasons with interest and we were explained about the goal of the pre-synod meeting and the work to be followed in small language groups. There were 300 people and were divided into 20 groups and each group had 15 people.
On day evening, on the way to Collosium di Roma, I met with a Sikh person who is a professional painter and from Amritsar. He felt happy when I told him about the pre-synodal meeting. He appreciated Pope Francis for this invited and gifted me one of the most beautiful paintings.
I believe that people in the world have a variety of lifestyles, customs, thoughts, philosophies, cultures, and beliefs. These are derived from the specific concepts of the individual or from group behavior or ideology.
I have experienced that people have similar problems and affections and some may be different from person to person, but when we meet new people these interactions and dailies will expand your experiences with and knowledge about individuals and their different cultures and backgrounds. This is what happened to me during those days in Rome.
In my group, all delegates were patient with others as we discussed the complex issues that affect young people, church, world, and society at large. We shared our insights based on our backgrounds in most respectful manner.
I shared about the langar (the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity) to the delegates of my group. Guru Nanak (1469-1538), the first Sikh Guru started the concept of ‘langar’ or community kitchen. Guru Amar Das, the third of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism, institutionalized the concept of sharing and giving. It is a process where Sikhs share their honest earnings to provide food for everyone-rich and poor, high and low, bringing all under the umbrella of equality. This is an important and integral part of a Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship). Then everybody appreciates the work for humanity.
On March 23, we visited the Catacomb of Callixtus, which is one of the Catacombs of Rome on the Appian Way, most notable for containing the Crypt of the Popes, which once contained the tombs of several popes from the 2nd to 4th centuries. There I came to know about the Station of the Cross. The 14 stations are commonly used as a mini-pilgrimage as individual moves from one station to another. At each station, an individual recalls and meditates on a specific event from Christ.
On March 24, we visited the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo (the natural, botanical and archaeological wonders of the Popes’ summer residence, since the 17th century), which is famous worldwide. The town is known for the beauty of the surrounding nature and its elegant old town center encircled by walls.
That evening, I got chance to meet with Sister Cristina Scuccia who won the 2014 Season of the Voice of Italy. She sang very well well and has a beautiful voice. Together we enjoyed the evening by dancing and had dinner.
On March 25, we celebrated the Palm Sunday, the grand Sunday before Easter, when Christians use palm crosses to mark the moment Jesus entered Jerusalem.
Pope Francis on Palm Sunday urged young people not to be silent and let their voices be heard, even in the face of corrupt or silent elders.
I think it was a good initiative taken by the Pope. When we meet people from different backgrounds and religions then we eliminate stereotype beliefs about community and person.
It was an unforgettable experience for me where people interact, share food, thoughts, and beliefs, take pictures, play and dance with each other. No one became stranger to anyone.
I wish for a world where people live together without hatred and become helpful to each other. So, together we make a better society for a better world.
Christian and Sikh community do lots of charity work in the field of education and welfare people. Together these two communities, along with others, can become role models for society.
I wish such international gathering of people from different religions would take place in future also.
(Inderjeet Singh from Jalandhar, Punjab represented the Sikh religion along with a Hindu youth from Vasai diocese in Maharashtra at the pre-synod youth meet in Rome last March. Singh works as a business manager at Jalandhar, Punjab in Alkem Labs Ltd.)