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Sikhs embraced by Hawke's Bay community

By Anna Ferrick

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Baljit Singh, secretary of the Hastings Sikh Temple, says in the 25 years he has been in Hawke's Bay he has not experienced any racism towards him or any members of the wider Indian community.

He said the people of Hawke's Bay have always been "very accepting" of a variety of races, cultures and religions.

"Everyone seems very happy here, I've never had any problems, everyone in the Indian culture is very happy here. I've been here since 1989 and I've never seen any examples of racism."

Mr Singh said he found it easy to integrate into the wider community when he arrived.

"Everyone in our community is very positive, not negative. We try to mix with everyone in the community, in the workplace, at home, our neighbours. When we have big events we invite the whole community, all New Zealanders, we are happy to celebrate with everyone.

"The response we get is always positive, people enjoy it."

He said he had had only positive experiences with other cultures in Hawke's Bay, many of whom have become involved closely with the Indian community and the Sikh temple.

"When that family had an accident last month and went to the hospital we had everyone wanting to help. Everyone was very good to us and wanted to help us.

"A large number of people from outside the Indian community, from the church, from different community groups, people gave us letters and phone calls."

A Sikh family of eight, the Singhs, were hospitalised after their van rolled down a steep cliff on the Napier-Taupo Rd early on January 2.

Mr Singh said the positive spirit of the Indian and Sikh communities was evident in the days following the accident, when hundreds rallied around to pray for the family.

He said it is this spirit that has helped many Indian and Sikh families to settle.

"We are very positive people, in the whole time I've been here I've never seen any examples of racism or heard of anything happening." Mr Singh has been involved with the Sikh temple since it was built in 1999. "At that time there were not very many Indian families involved with the Sikh temple, maybe 20 or 22," he said. "Now there is a big number. Probably 200 plus Indian families who are actively involved with the temple."

He said many Indian families relocate to Hawke's Bay because of good job prospects.

"Lots of Punjabi people in particular are attracted by similar jobs that are available here, specifically jobs in the trades, like plumbers, agriculture jobs and dairy farming."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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