NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking on the occasion of the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, termed the Sikh guru and spiritual leader, as “one of the great leaders of faith that the world has ever known.”
“…we celebrate today ideas so powerful that we feel them as strongly today as when they were first put forward over half a millennium ago. This is what we honor. This is what we celebrate,” he said.
De Blasio acknowledged the work of some members of his staff and community who helped to support the efforts of the Sikh community to stay connected closely to the city government. He especially mentioned the Commissioner for Community Affairs Marco Carrión, his Counsel, Kapil Longani, Council Member Donavan Richards, Gurmit Singh, Regbir Singh Subhanpur, and Mohinder Singh.
“What we celebrate today is the continued belief that love can conquer hate, that we really are one people that we should be able to see past external difference and see the commonality of the human heart,” said de Blasio.
“Guru Nanak offered these ideas so powerfully 550 years ago, so powerfully offered hope and a vision of oneness, of a bond between people. The hope that he expressed, the faith that he expressed, we to this day in New York City strive to perfect. We believe in respecting each other, we believe in serving each other, we believe everyone in the community matters.”
De Blasio spoke about racist and hate attack against the Sikh community.
“Unfortunately we live in a nation today where these ideas are under attack, we live in a nation where people are being demonized because of who they are, because of their faith, because the ways they honor their faith. We have seen Sikhs attacked, we have seen hate crimes against this community not only here, but all over the country. I want to say it is never acceptable to attack a member of this community and it will never be tolerated.”
He added: “Too often in world history, when a community comes under attack, governments don’t respond, they ignore the crisis, they look the other way, and that only breeds more hatred. That gives permission to those filled with hate and intolerance, but here in New York City no attack on the Sikh community will go unanswered. There must be consequences for anyone who acts out of hatred towards this community which contributes so much to New York City and so much to the United States of America.”
De Blasio said that “we are fighting a larger battle to defend the ideas that have made this city great and to defend the ideas that Guru Nanak articulated over half a millennium ago. We need these values just as much today if not more. They’re not new. They are eternal. I finally want to say you can judge us by our actions, by the fact that we are now teaching the public school children of New York City to understand and honor the Sikh faith as part of our public school curriculum.”
De Blasio talked about how the city has reached out to the Sikh community, in various ways.
“We are honoring the community at events like this and at City Hall and Gracie Mansion. We have an office to prevent hate crimes that allies with the community and works shoulder to shoulder to stop tragedies before they happen….we have the finest police force in the world, committed to this community, committed to its protection, and that police force is greater than ever because now members of the Sikh community are serving proudly in the NYPD, they are honoring and maintaining their faith and they are protecting all of us, and our NYPD, our city, is better because they are now allowed to serve. Their talent, their ability finally contributed when before it was denied. Every time we step forward, we prove it can be done, we prove that it can go farther. To all those who said that members of the Sikh community could not or should not serve in the NYPD, we have proven them wrong, we have proven them backward, we have proven that we can create a better society.”
De Blasio ended his speech with a quote from Guru Nanak, “Accept all humans as your equals and let them be your only sect.”
He conclude his remarks by saying: “I could think of no more essential way of expressing the values of this great city and why we are great, and why we are a beacon to the world. The idea that all humans can see each other as equals and part of one great human family, that’s what we celebrate today and together we will build that human family stronger than ever.”
De Blasio also released a proclamation “on behalf of all 8.6 million New Yorkers, an act of unity and respect for the community.”
Unveiling it, he said the proclamation “talks about the meaning of the teachings of Guru Nanak and of his 550th birthday. But it ends with the part that shows the honor of this city from this community with these words, I, Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York do hereby proclaim, Sunday, November 17, 2019, in the City of New York as Guru Nanak Dev Ji day.”