Dubai: The Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara in Dubai has served over 8 million free meals so far, it was announced on Sunday as the Sikh temple of worship celebrated 10 years of championing tolerance, harmony and charity in the UAE.
Built on land donated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Gurudwara had opened its gates to devotees in 2012. Welcoming people of all faiths, the Gurudwara offers free community meals (langar) to every visitor every day, holds multi-faith programmes and iftars (sunset meals in Ramadan), distributes food and other in-kind donations for blue-collar workers and conducts various other voluntary activities, including blood donation campaigns.
On Sunday, the Gurudwara held an interfaith event to mark its 10th anniversary and launched a campaign to distribute 5,000 flasks to workers and visitors, in collaboration with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Abu Dhabi.
Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Gurudwara, said the Sikh community in the UAE is honoured and indebted to Sheikh Mohammed for his generosity in allocating land for the noble cause of building a Sikh place of worship in Dubai.
“I’m very proud today as we are celebrating 50 years of the UAE, 10 years of the Gurdwara, and 75 years of Indian Independence… We feel very proud and happy that we are given the opportunity to serve humanity… and we are thankful to the UAE government for giving us the opportunity to live here peacefully,” he added.
He said the Sikhs from India, one of the oldest countries to embrace tolerance, are happy and fortunate to be in the UAE, one of the youngest countries promoting tolerance and which has the first-ever Ministry of Tolerance.
“We receive visitors from across the world and today, our Gurudwara stands as the most photographed in the world after the Golden Temple in India.”
The Interfaith Humanitarian Project is a joint initiative between the Gurudwara and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that was initiated and encouraged by Dr Robert Bateman, who had served as the president of the church, in 2015.
It is now undertaken every year in his memory by providing thousands of impoverished people with essential goods. Since 2015, the initiative has seen distribution of thousands of hygiene kits, blankets, dry rations, food packets, flasks etc.
Speaking about the camaraderie between the church and the Gurudwara, the current president of the church, President Scott Halverson, said: “It really doesn’t matter what our beliefs are. We still do great work together. It has been a great opportunity and every relationship that we’ve built helps facilitate and foster the UAE’s vision for increased tolerance, and bringing communities together regardless of where we come from, or other statuses.”
The main guests on the occasion, Consul General of India in Dubai, Dr Aman Puri; and Major General Ahmed Khalfan Al Mansouri of the International Institute for Tolerance, praised the community services and charity works of the Gurudwara, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Puri said: “The Gurudwara in Dubai is a place which is much more than a Sikh temple. It is a place which brings all communities together. One, of course, in the form of offering langar to everyone, but you can also come here and just contribute your selfless service in any capacity you wish to for supporting people in distress.”
He added: “And of course, in the last two years of this unprecedented crisis of COVID-19, the Dubai Gurudwara has done very significant contribution, along with other Indian associations and other associations, supporting not only Indian nationals, but residents of the UAE from over 200 nationalities who consider the UAE their second home.”
Contributions during COVID-19
During the pandemic, Kandhari said, the Gurudwara arranged chartered flights to repatriate more than 3,000 Indians stranded in the UAE.
The Gurudwara distributed 150 tonnes of raw food and 50,000 packets of cooked food to the needy and the blue-collared workers at the labour accommodations and quarantine centres across the UAE, said Kandhari.
“We distributed 30,000 iftar meals during Ramadan and thousands of hygiene kits, toiletries, anti-bacterial hand wash and sanitisers were also distributed to various labour accommodations, with awareness videos being circulated to the local communities.”
The Gurudwara hosted a three-day vaccination drive to vaccinate more than 5,000 residents and became “the only Sikh place of worship in the world to take up this community initiative”, he pointed out.
It sent liquid oxygen containers and 750 oxygen concentrators to various states of India and also donated an ambulance to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, he added.
Bubbles Kandhari, vice chairperson of Gurudwara, said the Gurudwara had also entered the Guinness Book of World Records for hosting most nationalities (101) having continental breakfast (in 2017) and for largest distribution of saplings (2,083) to students in the UAE in 2018.
She thanked the volunteers from various communities who support the community activities and voluntary services of the Gurudwara.
“We are all very thrilled because it is not just one or two parties’ efforts. It is the effort of the entire community, not just the Sikhs or other Indians. We are really appreciative of all their efforts and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them.”
She said the Gurudwara has also been hosting Women’s Day events where women from across the UAE get together to pray for the wellbeing of all mankind, cook and distribute food to serve humanity and carry out the entire work at the Gurudwara.