To our friends across North America,
As members of the Sikh Community, we have been devastated about the news regarding the killings at the Gurdwara in Wisconsin.
Growing up, the Gurdwara was where we met with our community, celebrated births and marriages, learned about our faith, and developed a deeper relationship with the Creator of all. To see this place of worship and community become the site of an act of hatred is jarring, to say the least.
As proud Sikh-Canadians, many of whom have spent significant time in the US, we share the sadness of our fellow North Americans. This is not a tragedy for just the Sikh Community – this is a tragedy for anyone who believes in the ideals of freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and as the Americans say, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
The victims are almost all Americans – the fact that the Indian embassy was contacted immediately (even before it was known whether any victims were actually Indian citizens) is still sad, in that it showcases that irrespective of how long we have lived here, because we “look different,” even well-meaning people see us as others.
About 3 years ago, we started an organization called Sikhs Serving Canada, a group of first-, second-, and third-generation Sikh Canadians who wanted to give back to this great country that has given us so much. In that time, we have volunteered at soup kitchens, planted trees in public parks, and most importantly, established a food bank for our fellow Canadians who are in need.
The key point here is that there are numerous organizations like Sikhs Serving Canada across Canada and the US, where Sikhs do what we can to help our neighbours – whether it is to provide a hot meal to anyone who needs it, to helping out during times of crisis like Hurricane Katrina. We learned the concept of seva – selfless service – at Gurdwaras much like the one that was attacked in Wisconsin.
The media has continuously mentioned how this was a case of “mistaken identity” – how the gunman was likely targeting Muslims due to 9/11, and didn’t realize the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim. Sadly, while Sikhs have been targets of violence for this very reason since that tragic day almost 11 years ago, the media is missing the point – if the gunman had attacked a Mosque instead, it would have been equally as tragic. Racism is racism, and terrorism is terrorism – attacking innocent people is wrong.
It is sad that at a time when the world can celebrate the heights of human achievement – the speed of Usain Bolt, the accomplishments of Oscar Pistorius, the wonder that is the Mars Curiosity – we also must recognize the depths of human depravity.
At Sikhs Serving Canada, our aim is to positively impact our local community by acting on the basic Sikh tenets of sarbat da bhalla (the well-being of all) and seva (selfless service). We will continue to do so, and will redouble our efforts, because just like the recent shootings in Aurora, this is a tragedy that impacts us all.
To help the victims of the shootings and their families, you can donate here.
Gurmeet Singh Ahluwalia
On behalf of Sikhs Serving Canada