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‘US Has Much to Learn from Sikhs’: Harvard professor Diana Eck

“The dignity and generosity of the Sikh community in the wake of this violence remind us just how much we have to learn from these neighbors,” Eck added. Photo from


As the Sikh community in the US makes efforts to recover from the tragedy of the Gurudwara shooting, a Harvard professor has said Sikhs have emerged as a role model for Americans who can learn from the dignity and generosity the community.

“Most Americans still know little of the Sikh Americans whose history in the United States, dating to the early 20th century, is now firmly part of our common history.”

“While we catch up on our basic education, however, it is important to know that Sikhs share three distinctly and deeply American values — the importance of hard work, a commitment to human equality, and the practice of neighbourly hospitality,” Harvard University professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies Diana Eck said in an editorial in the Dallas Morning News.
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September 2nd, 2012 at 11:55 am

Sikh Solidarity Messages Delivered

from Groundswell

Within hours of news of the Sikh gurdwara (house of worship) massacre, Groundswell supporters across the U.S. and around the world voiced our support and prayers for the community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

On Sunday, August 12th, Groundswell Director Valarie Kaur hand-delivered 4,000 solidarity letters sent in by Groundswell supporters to the families and community in Wisconsin. During the first service at the Sikh gurdwara since the mass shooting, the children of the six Sikh men and women who were killed in the attack accepted the letters on the community’s behalf.

Watch the video at this link.


Reflecting on Oak Creek

No one is an enemy, no one is a stranger. We befriend all. We Believe in the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of mankind. We are one family. One becomes inferior or superior only by one’s deeds, and not by what caste, class, creed, or tribe one is born into.

All of the above are the core beliefs of Sikhism, but the Sikh American community which so proudly calls America home is hurting today. And in the midst of that pain, the outpouring of profound love and support the community has received from our fellow Americans following the shootings in Wisconsin is unbelievable.

Loss of any innocent life is sad, but when it happens at a house of worship where men, women, and children come together to celebrate their open, all inclusive faith by praying and offering gratitude to “One Universal Ultimate Supreme Being,” asking for the well-being of all humanity, then it has to be heart wrenching.

The shooting in the Oak Creek Wisconsin Sikh Gurudwara (place of worship) on August 5th that took so many lives was such an enigma and senseless act of violence that has shattered many innocent lives. No one expected it.  No one would have thought it possible that such a tragedy could occur on a peaceful summer Sunday, in a place where members of all faiths are welcome to share in the community and develop their bond with God and their neighbors. But it did not define America for Sikhs. Perhaps it can lead to better understanding of Sikhs for America.

Oak Creek Wisconsin police officers did a commendable job, and likely saved many more lives by confronting the attacker.

The entire country is baffled, and President Obama stated, “As we mourn this loss, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.”

There is no doubt the Sikh American community feels a great sense of unease resulting from this incident.  Feeling both that we are mistakenly associated with people of other faiths  and that neither we nor any other innocent people should be singled out for abuse or ridicule because of our faith. Such unease has been there, not only since the Iran Hostage Crisis of the late seventies, but also from the backlash of 9/11 when Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American wearing the traditional articles of faith of a beard and turban was shot and killed in Mesa Arizona on September 15, 2001, by a gunman who ignorantly declared, “I stand for America all the way.” The Sikh American community, and other similar minorities, have long lived under an unfair burden of vulnerability from baseless attacks and threats by individuals who cannot rationally justify their hatred.


Incidents directed at Sikh Americans may appear at first glance to be random and isolated, but when they are viewed collectively over a period of time, a troubling pattern emerges that requires enhanced actions by policymakers and law enforcement. It is crucial that the Department of Justice, through the FBI, collect and provide more detailed statistics on such incidents, so that local and federal law enforcement are better equipped to combat hate crimes.  It is also crucial that members of the Sikh American community, and other minority groups, continue reporting these incidents, pushing for prosecution, and working with law enforcement to be heard.

This time it was Sikhs who were targeted; tomorrow, it could be any other faith or ethnic community. The cognizable fear associated with such directed acts of domestic terrorism is very disturbing to Sikh Americans, as well as to an overwhelming majority of peace loving, caring, and charitable Americans.  We are solaced only by the outpouring of profound love and support the Sikh American community has received from our fellow Americans, and appreciate that we all stand together in times like this.

We hope that this tragedy will compel Americans to unite as a single community, working together to counter this culture of intolerance, bigotry, hatred, and senseless violence.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”  We must take a firm stand of supporting organizations that build bridges of understanding with one another rather than walls of separation and fear.

Maybe the civil war isn’t over yet. Maybe the attacker here was motivated by additional factors, such as the economy. We will never know the entire truth, but we must seek ways of resolving the ultimate root causes of frustration, anger, and hate that lead to violence. It may not happen overnight, but it needs to be done – and we can do it!

Acting on hate is on the rise. But how can law enforcement protect every shopping mall, every school, every movie theater, and every place of worship at all times? They need our help, as a community.

Education alone can dispel ignorance. The mediating forces of faith and interfaith must become stronger through mutual, open dialogues about ways to establish peaceful and productive relationships of co-existence among diverse groups.

We all need to educate ourselves about the people who live here and make up our nation, starting with the Native Americans. How can we learn about people’s faith and culture? And how can they learn about us? That is a significant step in promoting a sense of camaraderie and reduced fear of the unknown; about someone who is unfamiliar, looks different, or has an accent.

We are proud of our men and women in uniform because of their gallant service to our nation. Soldiers are our defenders and protectors, but when a former Soldier – one who fought for the same freedoms we as a Sikh American community also fight for – massacres his own innocent, unarmed countrymen, there is something seriously wrong. Such issues must be dealt with – they must be addressed and fixed.

Let us work together in solidarity to ensure that love prevails over hatred, and such tragedies never happen again.

We must stand up for each other, no community should be made to feel isolated and vulnerable in a society that values diversity and was founded by immigrants.

Haven’t we always been global and importing and exporting our products and knowledge overseas? Haven’t we received goods and knowledge from other countries and people of all faiths?  We are a global society, and all interdependent on each other.  May we learn sooner rather than later that we are all one… and each other’s keeper.

Rajinder Singh Mago

Trustee Emeritus, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions

Member,  Sikh Religious Society (Palatine, IL, USA)

Co-Founder Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago

Experiencing the Hospitality of Sikhs

At the 2004 Parliament in Barcelona, Sikhs served food to all who were hungry, a service called langar. Photo by Rowan Fairgrove.

by Rev. Susan Baller-Shepard
from Huffington Post

Twenty-five years ago, I worked in Walsall, England, in the West Midlands, near Birmingham. Birmingham is a city known for many things, including having the largest Sikh gudwara outside of India.

In Walsall, in Caldmore (called “Karma”), I worked with countless Sikh families and experienced incredible hospitality from all of them. I was moved by the family cohesiveness and equality expressed within the Sikh families with whom I worked. I had never known any Sikh families before I met those in Walsall.

In 2004, while attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona, Spain, the Sikh community at the Parliament hosted langar for thousands of us daily. We would enter a tent at lunch time, remove our shoes, put a covering on our heads and sit down with thousands of others to have a vegetarian meal. As a Presbyterian minister, I was struck by this hospitality to strangers. The Christian tradition speaks a great deal about hospitality, because Jesus was all about it: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

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Social Justice as a Unifying Issue for Dharmic Communities

Joshua Stanton, Co-Founder, Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, State of Formation

by Joshua Stanton
from the Huffington Post

Religious communities are never the same once they reach America. In my view, they often become even more remarkable.

As a third-generation American Jew, it is at times even challenging for me to think of Judaism apart from the American experience. In spite of hardships early on for our community, the search for common threads between the disparate Jewish groups that came in droves to America two (and more) generations ago forced us to reexamine and hone our religious beliefs. What actually bound us together?…

As has become quite evident in the past several years, another set of religious groups, bolstered by recent waves of immigrants to America, is also looking to social justice as a possible unifying trope. Launched by Anju Bhargava, Hindu-American visionary and founder of Hindu American Seva Charities, this effort seeks to increase long-term collaboration between Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities through religiously inspired volunteerism, charity and social services.

Together, these groups — several of which are comprised primarily of immigrants from South and East Asia — represent what may be described as Dharmic religious communities and a new coalition in the American religious landscape. They are seeking a unique American identity and niche for their adherents. Like other religious communities that have flourished during and after waves of immigration, they appear poised to make essential contributions to American society.

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Immigrants Remaking Canada’s Religious Face in Surprising Ways

Image from Lalani & Associates

by Douglas Todd
from the Vancouver Sun

Canada is welcoming more than the global average of immigrants who are Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and non-religious.

The country, however, is taking in less than the global average of immigrants who are Muslim, Hindu and Jewish.

Those are some of the surprising findings of a sweeping global survey on immigration and religion conducted by the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled Faith on the Move, provides an enormous amount of data on the religious loyalties of the world’s 214-million immigrants, a group larger than the population of Brazil.

Canada, which has 7.2 million permanent residents who were not born in the country, is the fifth most popular destination for the world’s immigrants. This country of 34 million accepts twice as many immigrants per capita as the U.S.

The Pew Forum report, which describes migration patterns in every country of the world, makes clear that immigration is changing the religious face of Canada in unexpected ways.

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