Perspective from an atheist

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I’m not a religious person. I’m a baptized Lutheran, as most Finnish  people are, but by no means an actively participating one. I take part  in Christmas and Easter… well, sort of. I give gifts and eat chocolate. But the other day I participated in another religion that I  never would have dreamed of participating in: Sikhism. As the fifth  largest religion in the world it genuinely surprises me that I knew  nothing about it, that is, until I attended a Sikhi Awareness Week  event.

When I walked into the SLC, there were vibrant swaths of coloured  fabric on every surface of the multi-purpose room. I went with a  friend and we were told to have a seat, and pick a colour. Naturally,  I picked my favourite colour, blue. Then we had our turbans tied.  Metre upon metre of fabric was stylishly tied around my head, and the  end result was fabulous. Not my usual go-to outfit, but it was an  interesting experience. My friend had a different style than I did and  I was told that turban tying was an individual expression, and  everyone did it his or her own way.

As I wandered around the room, I spoke with people who practised  Sikhism. I learned that Sikhs believe everyone is equal regardless of  gender, religion, race, nationality, or sexual orientation. It was  emphasized to me many times that Sikhism is a religion for everyone. Historically, turbans (or dastaars) were worn by kings as crowns, and  they were adopted for use in Sikhism to show humility. Everyone wears  a bracelet called a kara at all times as a reminder that their God has  no beginning or end. Note that karas are made of steel, not gold,  emphasizing again the accessibility of Sikhism to everyone.  A young woman I spoke with was kind and informative and answered all  my questions ranging from “do you wear a turban while you sleep?” to  “are you allowed to wear your sword on a plane?” She answered these  questions with good humour and a smile (yes, a lighter turban, and no,  it gets checked into luggage). I think one of the things that  impressed me most about the young people running this event was the  fact that nobody was trying to push their religion on me — all they  wanted to do was share it and raise awareness.

From this experience I learned so much about Sikhism that I never  knew and it really opened my mind. It was an incredible learning  experience at university that had nothing to do with the classroom.  Thank you to the UWaterloo Sikh Students Association for hosting this  event, and I look forward to attending next year.

Emma Koivu

2B Honours Science