A demonstration of Community Spirit in abundance was displayed as Birmingham 2022 stages the 16th official Queen’s Baton Relay – an epic journey across the Commonwealth’s 72 nations and territories, travelling 4,000 kilometres via land, air and sea over a period of 294 days before reaching Handsworth, in Birmingham.
Hundreds of members of Handsworth’s and Birmingham’s diverse communities, faith leaders and dignitaries joined together on 28th July 2022 to welcome the Queens Baton Relay (QBR) as it travelled through Soho Road, stopping first at Handsworth Library and then proceeding to the Nishkam Organisations on Soho Road, one of the final landmarks before reaching Alexandra Stadium for the Opening Ceremony for the Commonwealth Games.
Many local community organisations came together to welcome the Baton Relay and created a wonderful family day with many activities for children and adults, these included Legacy West Midlands, New Begin Trust, Children’s Trust, Humanify and many more to shine a light on the amazing communities of Handsworth.
Members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, local faith representatives, Councillors, dignitaries and the community recited a powerful prayer led by Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, Chairman & Spiritual Leader of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, and Patron of the Nishkam Civic Association.
The prayer epitomised all the Commonwealth Games, QBR and the gathering was all about; peacebuilding, community spirit, unity, empowering and uplifting, camaraderie, gratitude, collaboration and mutual respect.
On behalf of the communities of this beautiful, super-diverse city of Birmingham
We welcome and pray for all the athletes, organisers and visitors.
We pray for peace and wellbeing for all here in this city, Her Majesty the Queen and all those in the commonwealth countries and the entire globe.
We commit ourselves, in a spirit of friendship and co-operation,
To work together alongside all who share our values and ideals,
To help bring about a better world now and for generations to come.
As we celebrate the commonwealth games, let us give thanks to God Almighty for the wellbeing of all nationally and globally.
The collective multifaith prayer brought a sense of serenity and purpose to the festivities and offered a moment of reflection and blessings for the QBR before it made its way onward, ultimately to the Alexander Stadium.
Bhai Sahib, Mohinder Singh OBE KSG said, “This is an auspicious occasion, we are pleased Prof Geoff Thompson [Deputy Chair for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham] was able to join us. We were honoured that Prof Thompson, requested a prayer and a sacred blessing be done right here at the Gurudwara. Distinguished colleagues from the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group and other local faiths representing the super-diverse city joined us to pray for all involved in the Commonwealth games and beyond – a truly spiritually uplifting and blessed occasion”
“A positive, long term and inspiring legacy of the games is crucial. The dignity of difference must be celebrated, and it is a folly to ignore and neglect any person or part of Creation. We see the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged continue, we need to stop this. We must accept that economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity. This can only be fought by acknowledging and upholding our responsibilities”
The stage was dressed in a monumental Archway. As part of the Queen’s 70th Jubilee celebrations in 2022, The Nishkam Group along with local stakeholders proposed to design and install a landmark archway highlighting the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution (c1740) and the development of the railway networks nationally and internationally (c1830 by George Stephenson).
This archway will provide a gateway to Soho House, and to Handsworth. Through the archway, the values of curiosity, knowledge, innovation, imagination, creativity, and being hopeful and visionary will be encouraged and promoted.
This new landmark archway will stand over Soho Hill where the famous Soho Road and Handsworth begin and will be positioned adjacent to Soho House – Matthew Boulton’s former residence and the epicentre of the industrial revolution. It is hoped that this new project will bring to the for Birmingham’s industrial history and its legacy of the Civic Gospel as well as mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games.
Prof Geoff Thompson on the day during an interview said, “The games are for everyone and Birmingham’s strength is its diversity, the communities and the location and sometimes I think it is not appreciated. Handsworth is known the world over – wherever I’ve travelled in the world, when in Soweto and I say Handsworth, they recognise and relate to Handsworth because of the diversity but also the life chances and struggles that exist every single day.
So, for me the games truly came alive by the baton coming here. Having organisations like Nishkam bringing in, from a subculture standpoint, the diversity of the community spirit, I’ve witnessed, but above all to bring the multifaith interfaith spirituality; now I believe gives the games the perfect, perfect starting point by which to see 11 days of sporting festival, leave a legacy opportunity for all.
The world attention is on Birmingham and we feel very proud to be part of it 1.2 / 1.3 billion citizens will be watching the Opening Ceremony and then the eyes of the world will be on Birmingham. Birmingham is ‘the world in one city’ and ‘the Commonwealth is visiting the Commonwealth of Birmingham’.
My only other message will be to the streets. Young people ultimately have to have hope and opportunity whatever their identity, background, whatever they feel they are not getting by way of an opportunity to realise their potential, these games are, and I will be committed in ensuring, that they get a chance to realise all that the games has pledged to provide. We have a Youth Charter that came to Manchester in 2002, to Glasgow 2014, to London 2012 to Birmingham 2022 – be patient, it will be provided.”
Everyone was invited to the Nishkam Heritage Centre to view an amazing exhibition which was created to mark The Queens Jubilee, the Industrial Heritage of Handsworth and map the Journey of Nishkam organisations in Handsworth and globally. The Exhibition was framed as a “Values Revolution” emphasising how essential values and virtues were to human development leading to of cohesive and sustainable communities.
Visitors and dignitaries enjoyed the refreshments that were prepared and served by selfless volunteers and benefitted from the range of activities for children and adults along with the numerous community support organisations who shared important information about the support services they offer for communities.