Empowering Sikh Youth: Uniting Voices Across Borders

by Antariksh Singh

The spirit of Sikhism burned brightly as the three-day annual International Sikh Youth Symposium unfolded under the banner of the Sikh Youth Alliance of North America (SYANA) in the picturesque city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Hosted at the esteemed Gurdwara Sahib Charlotte, this symposium brought together a vibrant assembly of 60 enthusiastic participants hailing from both the United States and Canada.

A Tradition of Growth and Empowerment

With roots tracing back to the year 2000, the International Sikh Youth Symposium has grown into a cherished tradition. Spearheaded by Kuldeep Singh, the national convener of the Symposium and SYANA, this event stands as a beacon of growth for Sikh youth across North America. The symposium’s core objective revolves around nurturing the communication skills of young Sikhs, enhancing their prowess in public speaking, oral articulation, and written expression. Beyond honing these invaluable skills, the symposium kindles a deep exploration of Sikh history and philosophy, fostering a connection with the essence of the Sikh faith.

From Local Engagement to Global Impact

Kuldeep Singh expounded on the symposium’s structure, revealing that it serves as a platform for individuals aged 6 to 22 to exhibit their eloquence and insight. The event unfolds across three progressive tiers: local, regional, and international. The journey begins at the grassroots level, with local competitions held in cities scattered across North America. The mantle then passes to the state level, where 13 regions spanning the United States and Canada engage in friendly yet competitive discourse. The apex of this journey is the international stage, gracing the month of August each year.

Nurturing Tomorrow’s Orators

The participants, divided into five distinct age groups, are presented with dedicated reading materials. An immersive learning experience awaits, as they delve into the texts and respond to three intricate questions. These responses provide the bedrock for their eloquent speeches, each lasting between 6 to 7 minutes. While the first four groups prepare individual speeches, the fifth group engages in spirited debates centering on an annual theme.

Enlightenment and Exchange of Ideas

During the inaugural day, groups 1 to 3 graced the stage, delivering thought-provoking speeches before a captivated audience and a panel of discerning judges. The speeches hinged on questions emanating from each group’s designated readings: “Basic knowledge of Sikhism,” “Sikh Sakhis for the Youth,” and “The Turban.” The following day saw group 4 take the stage, presenting their insights drawn from the book “Guru Granth Sahib – A Supreme Treasure.”

Debating the Path Forward

The event reached its crescendo as group 5, consisting of individuals aged 16 to 22, engaged in a passionate debate. Guided by the theme “Sikh Way of Life / Sikh Rehat Maryada and Gurbani,” these young luminaries invested nearly three hours in presenting opening statements, answering queries, articulating responses, and offering closing arguments. Expertly moderated by Dr. Satpal Singh from Buffalo, New York, the debate became a platform for profound discussions.

Commending Achievement

A celebratory banquet, held at the Discovery Place Science Museum auditorium in downtown Charlotte, felicitated the regional champions. The audience was treated to the enlightening play “Sparrow and the Pippal,” brought to life by Sikh youth from Charlotte, based on the captivating story books penned by Gurmeet Kaur. Noted Gursikh traveler and motivational speaker Nishan Singh from Australia lauded the event, extending his commendations to all participants and organizers.

A Resounding Culmination

The symposium’s crescendo arrived during the Kirtan Darbar at Gurdwara Sahib on the final day. Kesar Singh from Mississauga, Pahul Kaur from New Jersey, Tejas Singh from Texas, Jasleen Kaur from Texas, and Amanat Kaur from Seattle (joint winners, group 4), alongside Sehaj Singh from Hamilton, Canada, emerged as triumphant frontrunners across groups 1-5. In recognition of their contribution, all attendees were awarded distinguished speaker plaques.

The 2023 International Sikh Youth Symposium transcended borders, igniting the flames of knowledge, expression, and unity among Sikh youth. As the echoes of discourse reverberated, the foundations of faith and identity were fortified, standing as a testament to the resilience and vision of the Sikh community.

Antariksh Singh

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