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A Chardi Kala Walk With Oak Creek Two Years After Hate Shootings

Oak Creek, WI Chardi Kala 6K  on August 2, 2014 marks two years in tribute to the victims of the hate crime shooting of August 5, 2012 at the Sikh Gurdwara. From left, Steve Scaffidi, Mayor of Oak Creek, Parliament Staff Molly Horan, Groundswell Movement Founder Valarie Kaur, and Arno Michaelis, Author of My Life After Hate and Serve2Unite Co-Founder

By Molly Horan

Parliament of the World’s Religions Staff

The brutalizing violence of hate crimes against at least three Sikh-Americans since the events of August 5, 2012 breaks my heart. And yet, every time the Sikh community speaks out, it shares with us all an unrelenting reminder that we cannot lose hope in the work to stop hate.

The Sikh community calls it Chardi Kala.

Say it with me: Chardi Kala! We can end the violence.  

Chardi Kala describes the state in which a person of the Sikh faith aspires to live, in an eternal optimism. Since August 5, 2012, it’s become a kind of rallying call to any and all who wish to practice relentless optimism in the work to stop violence.

I walked in Oak Creek, WI last weekend in solidarity with my Sikh neighbors at the second annual Chardi Kala 6k. The race is organized by Sikh young adults to build community and promote goodness out of something so deeply saddening: the death of six in the Oak Creek gurdwara two years ago in a shooting carried out by white supremacist Michael Wade Page.

To personally witness the spirit of humanity for which Oak Creek has become a model was important to me. It’s in this success – changing the headlines from hate to healing as we say, that I know this Chardi Kala works.

From my desk at the Parliament for nearly two years I’ve tracked how this Chardi Kala has impacted our country:

1)      In 2012, the Sikh Coalition led by a letter written by Rajdeep Singh and endorsed by hundreds of justice oriented groups (finally) wins a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Domestic Extremism. As a result, the FBI began tracking hate crimes committed against South Asian, Arab-American, Hindu-American and Sikh-American. In other words, the U.S. government shuns the word “other” and acknowledges this pervasive problem.

2)      Upworthy, the social sharing website responsible for millions of views of rich, humanity-saving content shares Valarie Kaur’s 9-minute film on the aftermath in Oak Creek on last year’s anniversary, and people remember. On Saturday, she told me being in Oak Creek was like being with family. As a visitor, I was treated the same from the moment I arrived; greeted with hugs, fed free curry (langar!), and departing one another again with hugs, until next time. That is hopeful, right?

3)      Amar Kaleka, son of the slain President of the Gurdwara begins a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives running on a platform exposing the broken system which created his father’s murderer showing everyone is human and everything can change.

4)      Pardeep Kaleka, son of the slain President of the Gurdwara begins a campaign to empower youth against violence in partnership with Arno Michaelis, a former hate activist-turned-author-turned-peacemaker. Serve-2-Unite brings young Wisconsin teens to learn mindfulness in Chicago and bring it back to the community where they live. That is hopeful, yes?

5)      Rahul Dubey, godson of the slain President of the Gurdwara, works tirelessly to advance interfaith community around the Milwaukee area and organizes a race, the Chardi Kala 6k, to ensure the community will always come together in a positive remembrance of that day.

6)      Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi walks hand in hand with the Sikh community and supports Interfaith activities with all of his authority, demonstrating how all towns in America can operate.

Despite the disproportionate horrors inflicted upon their community, Oak Creek seeks to intentionally live in a way that shows it denounces hate every day. They understand there that denouncing hate is not an annual event or an occasion but a daily affirmation.

Whether we call it Faiths Against Hate here at the Parliament, or Chardi Kala in the Gurdwara, or practicing the Golden Rule in each of its beautiful articulations across faith communities: the spirit of justice is within us if we expel anger from our hearts and see the humanity in others, even if today they may hate us.

And we walk together.

 

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.

 

My Neighbor’s Faith: Double-Edged Daggers

Valarie Kaur

Valarie Kaur

by Valarie Kaur
from Huffington Post

This essay is based on an excerpt from the author’s journal when she was sixteen years old.

Usually on Sunday mornings, my father’s outside on a tractor, my mother’s making aloo pronthas, my brother’s watching cartoons, and I’m sleeping in. Sometimes, my mother crams the whole family into Baba Ji’s room to sing shabads and recite Scripture together. But on this Sunday morning, my grandfather has asked me to come with him to the gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship some miles away. At sixteen years old, I dutifully follow.

I’m still rubbing the sleep from my eyes as I slip off my shoes. Wrapped in a long head scarf, I follow my grandfather inside. One step takes us from our small farming town in California’s Central Valley into an entire world transported from India.

Inside, the congregation sits on the floor. On the right, a sea of men in turbans of black, saffron, blue and red cloth; on the left, women in silk and cotton, solid-colored, tie-dyed and embroidered chunnis of all different colors draped over long braids and jooras. Children sit next to their mothers and fidgeted. A little boy runs around islands of praying people before escorted out to the jungle gym. The elderly lean against the walls, eyes closed; while the younger folks listen to the prayers, the older ones seem to reside within the prayers.

The whole room revolves around the sacred space that holds the “living Guru”: the 1,400 pages of Sikh verse known as Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The sacred book sits on a table draped in fine silvery blue cloths folded back to reveal the sacred lines of Gurmuki script whose poetry is read, sung and contemplated. Hanging from the ceiling over the sacred book is a magnificent blue canopy embroidered with a single brilliant character in Punjabi script, the first mysterious and profound word of our holy text. Ek Onkar: God is One. As ever, its two linked circles dropped from a top line, the stem connected those shoots up and umbrellas over in a long elegant stroke.

As I wait in line to bow my head before the Book, my eyes fall on the swords and daggers displayed at its base. Sikhs wielded these kirpans to defend the faith for hundreds of years in India, and I grew up hearing epic tales of battle and torture and martyrdom: Guru Arjan Ji tortured in a red hot caldron, Guru Gobind Ji’s young sons bricked in alive, Baba Deep Singh holding his own severed head in hand as he fought in battle. These blood-soaked legends of Sikhs resisting the Moghul empire came down to us as stories of resilience and sacrifice — our ancestors died so that we might live. The kirpans represent an enduring commitment to fight injustice and stand tall for faith and community. But it’s hard for me to eye the sharp edge. Sikh girls aren’t taught to fight like that. I drop my dollar on the pile of donations, close my eyes, bow my head to the floor and whisper the only words I can summon: Ek Onkar.

I follow my grandfather and sit with him on the men’s side — my modest act of defiance in a culture that too often divides women from men despite the Scripture’s teachings on equality. We listen to the granthis, singers flown from India to sing shabads from the Scriptures accompanied by the tabla and harmonium; their voices — sad, meditative and beseeching — rise, dip and waver. As the voices soar, I close my eyes and move into deep reflection.

Click here to read the full article

Looking to the Future: A Post-9/11 Pledge

by Rabbi Or Rose
from Huffington Post

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approached I, like so many others, began to reflect on the events of that devastating day, and all that has transpired in our country and throughout the world since. I also began to think about the future and what life might look light 10 years from now. What kind of society will my young twins — now in preschool — live in as post-bar and bat mitzvah teens? As a rabbi and interfaith educator, I am particularly concerned about the role of religion in helping to create a more just and compassionate world.

Since the attacks on 9/11 and various events following it created serious challenges for inter-religious cooperation, I decided to reach out to colleagues from other faiths to see if we could formulate a shared vision statement. Thankfully, Rev. Bud Heckman of Religions for Peace USA and Valarie Kaur of Groundswell at Auburn Theological Seminary were working on similar projects, so we decided to draft what became the following pledge, with help from advisers at our respective organizations.

If any one of us had written this document alone it would certainly read differently than the current text, but our intention was to see what we could say together, knowing that we hold different beliefs and opinions, and that we also share key values in common. We are grateful to the dozens of religious leaders that have lent support to this effort by signing their names to this pledge. It gives us renewed hope that our religious communities can work together to create a better future.

If this statement speaks to you, we invite you to add your name to the list of signatories and to share the text with family, friends and community members. It is our prayer that this document — imperfect, to be sure — might be helpful to others in strengthening their commitment to religious pluralism, to justice, and to the healing of our broken and beautiful world.

Click here to read more

Out of the Shadows of 9/11

Auburn Seminary, Millennials, Moral Vision, and Movement-Building

by Valarie Kaur

“We need to have an ‘American spring’… nonviolent change where people from the grassroots get involved again.”  – Former Vice President Al Gore, August 2011

We’re hungry for a movement. Faith and moral communities around the globe are tired of politics that maintain the status quo. Here in the U.S., a rising generation is finding brave new ways to channel moral vision into action: we’re marching in the streets for immigration reform, holding the banner of marriage equality, pushing back on anti-Muslim rhetoric, and demanding an end to partisan politics.

But we’re not being heard. A small segment of the American population still holds the monopoly over ‘morality’ on the airwaves and in the halls of power.  As we near the end of the 9/11 decade, these voices continue to dominate public discourse and proclaim the language of faith for restrictive political agendas, stripping the dignity of immigrants, denigrating LGBT people, and fueling anti-Muslim ideologies.

The moment is ripe for people from across faith and moral communities to take action.  This ten-year anniversary of 9/11, our congregations and communities are holding vigils, walks, hearings, screenings, and community service projects that stand for compassion, renewal, and religious diversity in all 50 states.  What would happen if we connected the dots and saw ourselves as part of one movement?  What would happen if we announced ourselves as part of a groundswell of people across faiths and beliefs committed to heal and repair the world?

We could form the beginning of a new multifaith movement for justice.

I’m part of a multifaith coalition, based out of Auburn Seminary in New York City but extending across the country, working to inspire a groundswell of community this ten-year anniversary of 9/11.  We’re chronicling, connecting, and resourcing events across the U.S. that bring people together in healing and hope.  We’re inviting people to sponsor Ribbons of Hope to New York City, which we will weave into a diverse tapestry that represents the groundswell.  And we are mobilizing a multifaith network to surge into national and local media to eclipse anti-Muslim rhetoric and ideologies – now and through the 2012 election.

We believe that the end of the 9/11 decade marks the rise of a new generation ready for meaningful change. The Millennial generation, young people born roughly in the 1980s and 1990s, belong to the most open and diverse generation the country has seen. We form real and virtual communities that transcend old divides: right and left, black and white, religious and secular At the same time, we have come of age in the shadow of major crises: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the threat of climate change, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a punishing economic recession. Many of us mobilized to elect President Barack Obama but widespread disillusionment with the political process has since set in.  We want a movement that’s not about a political identity, particular tradition, but a shared moral vision for a better world.

We don’t need to wait for this moral center to emerge.  Thousands of faith and moral communities across the U.S. are already working from a sense of moral calling that has nothing to do with politics – alleviating poverty, protecting immigrants, and facilitating multifaith cooperation this 9/11 anniversary for example.  They’re just working alone.  The light of social justice flickers in brave corners but fizzles in isolation.  To achieve meaningful change in a networked society, we must shine that light in a bold constellation.

With the rise of a new generation, innovations in online organizing, and widespread hunger to respond to social challenges as interconnected, we can build a movement of faith and moral communities networked for change in the run-up to the 2012 election.  Together, we offer a brand new voice in the political system – faith and moral communities willing to transcend old divides, organize around shared moral imperatives, and take action on urgent social causes.  America needs this voice, now more than ever, to come from outside Washington, rather than from within it.  We just need to proclaim our voice as one, starting now. Join the groundswell.

Valarie Kaurdirector of Groundswell, is an award-winning filmmaker (Divided We Fall, 2008), Harvard-trained theologian, and social justice advocate.  She studies at Yale Law School, where she teaches visual advocacy as director of the Yale Visual Law Project.  Housed at Auburn SeminaryGroundswell is a new multifaith social action network that generates the moral force around urgent social causes.

Want to learn more?  Auburn Seminary will host a special teach-in “Out of the Shadows of 9/11: Millennials, Moral Vision, and the Global Groundswell” with thought leaders, including Valarie Kaur, on September 6th at 7pm in New York City.  Click here to RSVP or to watch live streaming.

Join the groundswell.  Send a Ribbon of Hope to Ground Zero on 9/11/11.

 

The Alchemy of Our Spiritual Leadership: Women Redefining Power

Women of Spirit and Faith are invited to gather in San Francisco April 28- May 1, 2011 for The Alchemy of Our Spiritual Leadership: Women Redefining Power. Imagine the energy of 300 women ready for inspiration, deep wisdom and potent co-creation. Keynote speakers Sister Joan Chittister, Valarie Kaur and Naomi Tutu. Stimulating Leadership Conversations, practical workshops, creative Open Space offerings and more. Information and registration available at www.womenofspiritandfaith.org.

Alchemy Highlights

  • Inspiring Keynote wisdom from Sister Joan Chittister, Valarie Kaur and Naomi Tutu
  • Stimulating Leadership Conversations featuring the wisdom and experience of a dozen diverse women leaders
  • Informative workshops with a focus on building practical skills and new models for collaborative leadership
  • Many opportunities for circle dialogue and structured conversation
  • Optional activities such as Open Space Offerings, Morning Meditations, Yoga, Movement, Labyrinth Walks and more
  • The Alchemy Marketplace where you can shop for books, jewelry, art and music
  • A Beautiful Meditation and Prayer Room for silence and reflection
  • Art, music, poetry, laughter and lots of right-brain fun and stimulation

Click here for more information

Interfaith film of the month: Divided We Fall

Divided We Fall follows the journey of 20-year-old college student Valarie Kaur as she documents hate violence against Sikhs and Muslims in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 and examines the larger question of “who counts” as American.  On a two-year international tour, the film has won more than a dozen awards and reached 150 campuses and communities in 90 cities across the United States.

The trailer below provides a sneak-peek behind the scenes into the creation of the award-winning documentary film Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath.  In September 2008, thousands of people in more than 80 cities across the U.S. took part in the Divided We Fall Campaign – a people-fueled national movement to create deep community dialogue about racism, religion, and healing in the aftermath of Sept. 11th. The discussion continues today.

Filmaker Valarie Kaur was a featured presenter at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne.