Speech from the 2017 annual Vaisakhi celebrations in the Speaker's State Rooms in Parliament on 18/04/2017.
"I want to begin by thanking the pupils from the British Sikh School in Wolverhampton for such a wonderful beginning to this Parliamentary Vaisakhi celebration.
I am very proud to represent a constituency with a very large Sikh community – part of a wider a community which has not only contributed a great deal to the city of Wolverhampton but to our country too.
I believe that public representatives should learn from our constituents. And it has been a great pleasure to learn about Sikhi. I have always been humbled by the warm welcome given to everyone who attends the Gurdwara. I have learned about the tradition of Langar – voluntary labour and feeding the sangat as part of the experience of worship. I have learned about values, about equality, about seva about commitment to faith and to the community.
I would like to give all of you the warmest of welcomes to this, the Parliamentary celebration of the great festival of Vaisakhi. I have been the host of these celebrations in parliament for a number of years. And I would like to thank Mr Speaker for allowing us to host this occasion here in the wonderful setting of the Speaker’s state rooms.
It is very important to me that here, in the heart of our democracy, we have the opportunity to mark occasions which mean a great deal to the different communities here in the UK.
And it is important to remember, especially in the wake of the recent terrible terrorist attack on parliament in which a brave policemen and a number of innocent civilians lost their lives that this is a public building, open to all
Now you will have heard that we had some surprise news today. There is going to be a general election on the 8th of June. It has certainly caused a lot of urgent meetings and discussions and it might affect the attendance from some MPs here tonight. But I am very clear that my place was not in the many huddles taking place around parliament but here, with you, as I promised to be, to celebrate Vaisakhi.
And in parliament MPs work across party lines through the APPG on UK Sikhs to highlight issues of importance to the community, be that the campaign for a memorial to celebrate Sikh sacrifice in two world wars, issues around the census, human rights issues and anything that is of specific concern to Sikhs in the UK.
Of course, as you know, Vaisakhi is an ancient festival, celebrated for hundreds of years. But for Sikhs it marks the foundation of the Khalsa, a commitment of faith so strong that people were willing to lay down their lives in front of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
And today, the commemoration of Vaisakhi is seen in towns and cities throughout the country as Nagar Kirtan processions make their way through the streets. These Nagar Kirtan processions and the Vaisakhi melas attract thousands of people.
For Sikhs they are a demonstration of faith.
For the cities in which they take place they are a firm part of the cultural and religious calendar and show how successfully Britain has become a multi faith society.
Tonight, you will hear from many speakers who know a great deal more than me about Sikhi, Vaisakhi and what this occasion means. But I am delighted to be your host and to welcome you all and to wish you all a very happy Vaisakhi."