Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Langar: We are Equals as We Sit Down to Share a Meal

The large room at the Salt Palace Convention Center had no chairs, and 7,000 visitors from all faiths were asked to remove their shoes, cover their heads and wash their hands before taking a seat on a carpet to share a common hot meal of rice, lentils, potato curry, vegetable curry, bread, and pudding. The langar was prepared courtesy of members of the local Sikh communities who attended the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City in October 2015.

Photo courtesy of Mary Steele
Fast forward a year later to Albuquerque. There were more than 150 people from Christian, Muslim, Baha'i, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Native American traditions, as well as members of the Center for Spiritual Living, sitting at round tables in the big gathering room at First Unitarian Church to share a langar prepared by the Albuquerque Sikh Gudwara.

We were all gathered here to commemorate World Food Day, celebrate our common mandate to feed the hungry, and to renew our commitment to address some of the issues related to global hunger: economic injustice, refugees and immigration, and climate change.

Langar means common kitchen in temples where food is served to all visitors without distinction of background for free. While the act of sharing nourishment is important in the langar, hospitality is more important. As opposed to a soup kitchen where one group serves another, the langar ensures participants sit down to a meal as equals, Kulwant Kaur, a local leader of the Albuquerque Sikh Gudwara, told me in a conversation.

As the langar served as an important unifying act for 7,000 people in Salt Lake City in 2015,  the langar at the World Food Day interfaith service in 2016 helped bring  the faith community in Albuquerque together. 

The langar is just one of the ways in which the Sikh community enhanced our World Food Day commemoration. During the service in the sanctuary, Shawn Singh Sidhu and a group of Sikh faithful chanted a traditional hymn. Here are the words in English: Night and day, dawn and dusk, I sing to You,..All beings, all creation celebrate and meditate on Your Name...You are the Giver of bounties; we eat what You give us in the company of your devotees we wash away our sins...Your minion Nanak is a sacrifice, a sacrifice unto You.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for organizing and bringing together all communities for not only feeding the hungry but also creating a better understanding of each other to bring, peace and love.