The Prime Minister praised the “immense contribution” of British Sikhs at Vaisakhi reception at Downing Street on Friday 19 April.
Speaking at the reception the Prime Minister David Cameron said:
You are all extremely welcome here tonight and there are three things that I wanted to say. “The first is a very warm welcome to Number 10 Downing Street; I’m delighted that this is the third Vaisakhi reception that I have been able to host here. And I particularly look forward to the one next year because it will be the 160th anniversary of the first Sikh arriving in the United Kingdom back in 1854. And, of course, the first Gurdwara was established here in London decades ago, so I’m looking forward to that anniversary and you are all hugely welcome.
And I wanted to welcome you particularly this year because I think the highlight of my year so far, in a job that takes me to meet some extraordinary people and to some extraordinary places, was the visit to Amritsar to see for myself the Golden Temple – really the spiritual home of your religion. And I have to say it was an incredibly moving and memorable experience.
I am delighted to hold this reception in 2013 where now, for the first time in a long time, I think that British Sikhs are also properly represented in Parliament. And I am very proud of the fact that we have British Sikhs who are there in their own right and making a fantastic contribution.
The second thing I wanted to say is that I think tonight is a night to celebrate the immense contribution that British Sikhs make to our country. We have another anniversary coming up which will be a huge reminder of that, and that is of course next year will be the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. And you can visit – and I’m sure many of you have visited – those cemeteries in France and in Belgium where lie many, many brave Sikhs who fought against Germany in that important struggle, and who fought for Britain and for our allies.
And when I look around the room it is obvious what an immense contribution British Sikhs make to our country; there are so many people in this room who are leaders in business, who are taking on what I say about making sure we win in the global race. And there are so many in this room that contribute today to our armed forces, and it is wonderful to have you here; and so many who contribute to all parts of Britain – in culture, in music, in the arts, in industry – and it is worth celebrating and recognising that. So, that is the second thing: to really celebrate the immense contribution that you make today and the even bigger contribution that you will make in the future.
The third thing I want to say – and I speak as a complete non-expert – is that tonight is obviously a night to celebrate the Sikh religion itself, and the three pillars of your faith. The pillar of the absolute belief in God and the importance of worshipping God: the spiritual side to your religion that I saw so beautifully at Amritsar. The second pillar is a respect for work and the importance of work and the dignity that work brings; and the third pillar being the importance of contributing to your community.
And those are really such vital pillars of our life here in the United Kingdom, and maybe they are part of the explanation of why your community is a model of how a community can integrate into a country, can make such an enormous contribution to that country, but can of course retain the importance of your separate identity at the same time.
So, a very warm welcome; a very big thank you for the contribution that you make to our country, a special recognition tonight of the importance of your faith and, above all, a very big thank you for all that you do for our country and for the warm welcome that I was given on that historic trip to Amritsar. I think it is important to go, to pay respects, to understand the birthplace and the heart of your religion.
So you are hugely welcome here. I am proud that it’s my third reception; I look forward to many more like this. You should think of Number 10 as one of your homes. Thank you very much.
The reception took place in the state rooms of 10 Downing Street where over 200 guests representing a broad section of the Sikh community in the UK joined the Prime Minister, government ministers and MPs to celebrate Vaisakhi with food, hymns, music and prayer.