The founder of Sikhi (also known as Sikhism) was hundreds of years ahead of his time.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Guru Nanak traveled widely, preaching about the unity of humankind and the value of selfless service to others, social justice, honest conduct, and equality.
He has contributed 974 hymns to the Guru Granth Sahib, which encapsulates the holy scriptures of the faith.
On May 17, the first educational postsecondary school was launched in Canada focusing on Sikh philosophy, history, literature, culture, and devotional music. And it’s named after Sikhi’s first Guru.
It came as a result of the Private Training Institution Branch of British Columbia approving the Guru Nanak Institute of Global Studies as a nonprofit educational and research institute.
The faculty includes experts from Canadian postsecondary institutions as well as educators and researchers in the US, UK, and India.
It’s beginning by offering online courses, which can be viewed here.
The Guru Nanak Institute of Global Studies welcomes students from all communities, regardless of their background or religious beliefs. It’s offering scholarships and bursaries to deserving students, including those with a record of community involvement and sports activities, and promises an “incredibly accessible pricing model compared to similar private institutes.”
“We are committed to promoting our values of service to humanity, cross-cultural understanding, the lifelong pursuit of learning, critical thinking, and diversity in all its forms,” board chair Gian Singh Sandhu said in a news release.
“We will ensure equal and open access to all prospective students by alleviating funding and other financial barriers,” he continued. “We firmly believe that no student should be denied education due to a lack of financial means and to support this philosophy we have a very liberal scholarship and bursary policy.”
Sandhu is an Order of BC recipient, author, management consultant, and was founding president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.
Student Paramvir Singh appreciates the institute’s emphasis on sharing the ethos of Sikhi rather than focusing on any one religious bias.
“This is incredibly meaningful for me, as I want to study the faith from an academic standpoint,” Singh declared in the news release. “I also really appreciate that they will be discussing issues facing the diaspora, instead of limiting the discussion to the home country of Sikhism.”
The institute offers a Sikh Studies diploma, which enables students to gain an understanding of Sikh ethos and how it connects to social justice.
Students must complete a minimum of five of the seven courses to graduate. The courses are:
* Introduction to Sikhi (Sikh 101)
* Theories of Religion and Critical Religion (RELG 101)
* Introduction to Punjabi (Punj 101)
* Punjabi Reading and Writing (Punj 201)
* Intermediate Punjabi (Punj 202)
* Punjabi Advanced (Punj 301)
* Sikh Ethos and Social Justice in Canada (SESJ 301)
Students in SESJ 301 will look at issues such as colonialism, Indigenous land dispossession, immigration, national belonging, and security and surveillance through the lens of the Sikh ethos, which embraces equality for everyone.
In addition, this course will examine anti-Black racism and Black Lives Matter, labor and race, gender differentials and sexual identity, multiculturalism, religious accommodations, caste inequalities, and building community across differences.
Many Canadians are unaware that the World Sikh Organization supported same-sex marriage back at a time when many other religious organizations opposed this in Canada. It’s another manifestation of how many Canadian Sikhs support and embrace equality and are willing to stand up for persecuted minorities.
The Guru Nanak Institute for Global Studies also offers a Punjabi Studies certificate. Students must complete a minimum of three of the four courses in the program.
In addition, there’s a Gurmat Music diploma, which can be pursued on a part-time basis in a two-year program. Students must take a minimum of five of the six courses.
It’s the first music diploma of its kind in Canada, helping to prepare students for a career path in Shabd Keertan (spiritual hymn singing). There are opportunities to learn about vocals as well as stringed instruments and percussion, including tabla and jodi.
Former deputy education minister David Byng is among those who’ve expressed support for the Guru Nanak Institute of Global Studies.
“As our province becomes a more diverse and inclusive society, GNI will be a tremendous resource to both local and global learners and is a fantastic addition to the post-secondary landscape,” Byng said in the news release.