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LONDON (RNS) — Last fall, Sikhs around the world marked the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. Some did it with religious pilgrimages and processions. Others celebrated with brilliant fireworks displays, art exhibits and global tree planting campaigns.
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But in Southall — the West London suburb dubbed “Chota Punjab,” or Little Punjab — Sikh leaders at the largest gurdwara outside of India chose to memorialize the occasion in a different way.
“We decided to do something different in the U.K., something that would leave an everlasting legacy,” said Harmeet Gill, a trustee at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall gurdwara. “Not just the usual fireworks.”
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So on Nov. 12, Guru Nanak’s day of birth, the gurdwara launched Project 550, a campaign to register at least 550 Sikh organ donors before the end of 2020. With just two weekends of campaigning, they exceeded their target, leaving organizers stunned.
The campaign also received a stamp of approval from Giani Harpreet Singh, who heads the Akal Takhat supreme seat in Punjab and is considered the spokesman for Sikhs around the world, when he visited Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall in January.
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“Guru Nanak Dev Ji and other Sikh gurus devoted their lives to humanity, and some sacrificed their lives for the welfare of others,” said Dhanwant Kaur of the Sikh Welfare and Research Trust, who worked with the gurdwara on the project. “Sikhi teaches the importance of giving and putting others before oneself.”
The campaign is one of a handful of recent initiatives to challenge the taboo around organ donation among Sikh and other South Asian communities in the U.K. That means educating community members about how organ donation aligns with Sikhism’s ethos of seva, or selfless service, demystifying the donation process, and encouraging families to discuss donation at home.
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