In Remembrance: A Message to Our Sikh Family Five Years After Oak Creek

August 5th --

Today marks the five year anniversary of a massacre that shocked America and reminded us all of the power of hate. Five years since the Oak Creek shooting in which a white supremacist entered a Sikh gurdwara and shot at people of faith congregated in a sacred space.

Six people were killed, four wounded, and then the gunman, who killed himself.

It was a tragedy that— to this day— shocks us to our core. But to many of our siblings across the world, the power of hate and its ability to drive people to incredible cruelty is an everyday reality. To many of us, August 5th is a sad reminder of a tragedy that befell Oak Creek, Wisconsin. To a large number of our global Sikh family, it was a reminder that hate crimes and hate speech are a reality for all of those who are seen as “other”.

Since that tragic day, our Sikh sisters and brothers have embodied for their neighbors what it means to live in Chardhi Kala, the Sikh teaching of living in eternal optimism in the face of hardship. While we remembered those who were lost, Sikhs have rallied even more among their communities and with their neighbors to develop prophetic dialogue in America about hate and its threats to the Sikh community and others.

One of the outcomes of the tragedy started in the hearts of some most intimately touched by this violence. 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions honoree Pardeep Kaleka, son of the gurdwara President murdered that day, started the organization Serve2Unite in partnership with the former white supremacist Arno Michaelis. Their champions are now the youth they work with who engage in practices and experiences that defy the power of hate, overcomes community violence through teach-ins, service opportunities, and activities expressing the arts and mindfulness.

Today, the 5th annual Chardi Kala 6k Walk is drawing hundreds together to the Oak Creek community to honor the lost, recognize and award young people with scholarships and celebrating the beautiful ability humanity has learned to come together.

On this August 5th, the Parliament encourages each and everyone one of you to remember those who were lost- to learn their stories and to tell others about them. But also to join us in honoring each and everyone one of you who day to day continue to live in defiance of hate and persecution, inequality, and injustice.

Let today serve as a reminder that, in the wise words spoken to the Parliament by Sikh sister Valarie Kaur,

“Forgiveness is not forgetting, forgiveness is freedom from hate.”

 

To all of our Sikh family, neighbors in Oak Creek, and across the world, thank you for reminding us the importance of perseverance in the face of hardship, the promise of forgiveness in the face of hate, and the power of love in the face of tragedy.

 

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