Hundreds gathered on Sunday for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the new $4 million Sikh house of worship that will be the largest in the midwest once complete.
The Midwest Sikh Association’s new gurdwara at 101st and Lone Elm in Lenexa will replace the long-standing facility near 71st Street and Pflumm in Shawnee that has been the hub of the Sikh community across the metro area since the late 1980s.
In remarks to the audience — which included members of the Lenexa city council, Mayor Mike Boehm and Johnson County Commissioner Mike Brown — Midwest Sikh Association president Swinder Singh noted that the groundbreaking was especially auspicious given its occurrence on Vasakhi, a festival commemorating the formation of the Panth Khalsa, a special order of Sikhs formed in 1699 to defend religious freedoms.
Singh said that Sikhs were proud to “continue and uphold the precious traditions and the core values of the United States of America.”
“I take this opportunity to thank the United States of America and its citizens for accommodating our community in this beautiful country,” Singh said.
‘A momentous occasion’
Construction on the 26,000 square foot facility, which will be built on the 12 acres of land at northeast corner of the intersection, is expected to begin in July and to be completed in nine months.
Charanjit Hundal, a Shawnee resident and lifetime member of the association since its creation in the 1970s, said the new facility represents a huge step forward for the Sikh community not just in Johnson County, but across the metro. Sikhs flock to the Shawnee gurdwara for worship each week from pockets in Lee’s Summit and Platte County.
“It’s a momentous occasion for us,” Hundal said. “We’re looking forward to growing as a family and as a community. And providing for our children and our future generations a place that they can call home.”
The association initially filed plans for the new facility with the city of Lenexa last spring, but they were temporarily put on hold after some residents of the surrounding neighborhood and members of the city council expressed concerns with the design. But after meetings with the community, an amended plan got council approval in September.
In remarks Sunday, Boehm thanked the Sikh community for their investment in the city of Lenexa.
“We are pleased that you are growing your community of worship, and have chosen Lenexa as its new home,” he said. “We appreciate your efforts made during the process to reach out to your neighbors and help create an understanding of your faith and your religion.”
Boehm also thanked the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which opened the parking lot of its church across the intersection from the gurdwara site to attendees at the groundbreaking.
Brown spoke at the ceremony as well, saying that the presence of people from different backgrounds was one of the county’s great strengths.
“It is broadly recognized by your board of county commissioners, and the people who live next door to you and the cities next to you that…our diversity is one of the best things about Johnson County, Kansas,” Brown said.
Originated in the Punjab region of present day India in the 15th century, Sikhism has around 25 million followers worldwide.