Mennonites, Sikhs Work Together on Garden Project Planting Seeds of Harmony

Winnipeg Free Press, May 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

Mennonites, Sikhs Work Together on Garden Project Planting Seeds of Harmony


As gardens go, it's not that big. But some Mennonites and Sikhs in North Kildonan hope it will blossom into something much larger.

The garden, located on the Northeast Pioneers Greenway near the corner of McLeod and Gateway, is the work of two neighbours -- River East Mennonite Brethren Church and the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara.

Created through the City of Winnipeg's Adopt-a-Park program, one goal of the garden is to help beautify the Greenway, a popular pathway for area residents who walk, jog and cycle along the trail. When finished, it will feature an array of native Manitoba flowers, grasses and shrubs.

But the other, and perhaps more important, goal, says Sara Jane Schmidt, is to give the two faith groups a chance to build new friendships.

"Through the garden, we want to get to know each other better and foster understanding between our two groups," says Schmidt, one of the pastors at River East and a co-organizer of the garden project. "So much conflict in the world is the result of fear of the unknown -- of people not knowing each other."

For Gurpreet Brar, a member of Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara and co-organizer of the project, the garden is a "great community initiative. We hope this partnership between the two faith communities will grow into a special friendship, and inspire other groups to collaborate on areas of mutual interest and concern."

Last August, more than 100 people from the two groups joined together for the official sod-breaking for the garden. Following the ceremony, which featured blessings and prayers from leaders from River East and the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, the crowd celebrated with a meal of traditional Mennonite and Indian foods -- such as platz and samosas.

But it didn't stop there -- members from River East have gone to the Gurdwara for a service and a meal. In June, a member of the Gurdwara is going to River East to talk about the Sikh faith.

On June 3, the two groups will gather together once again, this time to plant additional flowers and plants in the garden. The planting, which takes place at noon, will be followed by lunch at the Gurdwara.

"Since the beginning of our inter-faith collaboration, we have worked together hand-in-hand," says Brar, adding the project has been an opportunity to "explore values we share while respecting differences."

And there are some differences between the two groups. For starters, Sikhism, with 26 million members, is the fourth-largest religion in the world, while Mennonites are a tiny part of Christianity, with only about 1.6 million members worldwide.

Sikhs originated in India, while Mennonites came from Europe. Sikhs use Punjabi in their worship services, while English is used at almost all Mennonite churches in Canada. …

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