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Musings from a Festival on a Roman Street

From our Executive Vice President and CEO, Joyce Dubensky: I arrived in Rome today (April 18) for the Ara Pacis Initiative for Dignity, Forgiveness and Reconciliation – or, as I see it, for peace in a holistic sense of the vision.  The sessions start tomorrow, so I had time to take a walk before falling into a deep sleep.   

Just a few streets from my hotel there was a parade.  I went to watch and immediately realized that it was a community of Sikhs, dressed in a range of clothes from traditional (in deep purples with gorgeous golden orange/yellow sashes and turbans) to western dress with a turban to western dress with a white kerchief tied over the head in respect. 
There was a float, a group of traditionally dressed men wielding swords – kirpans that symbolize a baptized Sikh’s duty to protect the defenseless.  The women were in varied dress with the children, too, often appearing to be in traditional Indian attire.
That’s when I decided to practice a tenet of Tanenbaum’s pedagogy – respectful curiosity.  I looked for someone who was talking, not fully engaged, but present and went up to two young men.  “English?” “No.”  “Spanish?” “No.”  They asked me if I spoke German. “No.”  We looked at each other apologetically and then one grabbed another man.  “English?”  He shook his head no but indicated that I should wait. 
In about five minutes, he proudly brought back a man who spoke English.  I told him that I hoped to learn the reason for the celebration. His English was still limited but he made it clear.  The celebration was for the “birthday.”  I let him know that I was honored to be present and his smile was a joy to see.  My interest clearly sounded a chord with my new friends.

When I returned to the hotel, I looked up the Sikh holiday calendar.  April 18, 2010 celebrates the birthdays of Guru Angad Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur, two of the ten Gurus who were the originators of Sikhism.