Thought for the Day - Lord Singh

The news that in a desperate attempt to end, or ease the crisis in the Eurozone bankers have agreed to write off half the Greek debt, comes as a welcome sign of hope in a story of doom and gloom. The move is not so much motivated by altruism, but by a wider understanding that in our interdependent world our fortunes are linked to those of others. Here self interest, and the religious imperative of looking to the needs of others, are not so far apart. It was greed and self interest that led to the global financial crisis. It’s responsible living that can get us out of it.

I was reminded of the dangers of neglecting a wider view, by a suggestion that as the first turbaned Sikh in the Lords I should focus on Sikh issues and concerns. To my mind simply looking to one’s own community, goes against the very teachings of the Gurus who went out of their way to look to, and work for the greater good of all, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

This looking to the greater good, is the theme of the festival of Bandi Chor which Sikhs celebrate this week. It concerns a time when the Mughal Emperor Jahngir’s persecution of other faiths had made him deeply unpopular, particularly the incarceration of the 6th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Hargobind . The Emperor, in an effort to boost his popularity decided to make a gesture of goodwill to coincide with the Hindu festival of Diwali. He ordered the release of the popular Guru.

The Guru however, refused to leave, unless 52 other political prisoners were released at the same time. The Emperor offered a compromise: anyone who could hold onto the Gurus cloak as he went through the narrow exit from the fort, could also leave. In the event, the Guru’s followers made him a cloak with 52 tassels of varying lengths enabling each prisoner to hold onto one of the tassels on their way to freedom.

Today we are fortunate in living in free society, but there is always a danger of some, ,on the back of real financial hardship for many, seeing it as a free for all society, as we saw in this summer’s riots. Concern for our neighbour as shown in the story of Bandi Chor can help ameliorate genuine hardship and add stability and cohesion to society, often at little real cost.

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