Responding to Hate with Solidarity

The headline read “Shooting at a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA."

Saturday October 27th, 2018 was a seemingly normal Saturday in my world. I woke up, got ready, folded and tied my dastaar and walked out of the door of my home to an Interfaith Langar event scheduled in Denver to feed people from all walks of life. The event itself was very successful and I am grateful for the impact it had on those who attended and the love that was spread between all people from all walks of life.

After the event was over, I took a minute to check my news feed just to get caught up on the happenings of the world. The headline read something along the lines of “Shooting at a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. 11 killed and several more injured.”

I could not believe what I was reading.

My mind immediately jumped back six years ago when I learned about the Oak Creek Shooting from my dad. I remember the feelings that went through my mind and the amount of pain I felt from just hearing that such an act of hate could happen in the Sikh community. In that moment, I could not imagine what my Jewish brothers and sisters were feeling at the time when this news came out, let alone if they were impacted by such a heinous crime. I was filled with deep sorrow, empathy, and rage all at once which lasted for days.

Friday November 2nd, 2018. I am in a jam-packed synagogue (B’nai Havurah) attending a memorial service for the eleven innocent souls who left this Earth a week ago. When I say the room was jam-packed, I could feel the heat radiating from the bodies of the people around me. The gentleman next to me was crying as each faith leader came up to speak at the podium. I was standing towards the back and the women I was standing next to and I were holding each other together in solidarity, swaying as we sang Jewish hymns together in unity.

My father had been invited to speak at this memorial service on behalf of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and the Sikh Community in Colorado. I will never forget him having to repeat the same words as he did six years ago, “No American wakes up and expects, nor deserves, to be shot or killed at our home of worship.  Our house of worship is a place we go to commune with the Divine, to pray with our community, to serve those in need and to find our spiritual path forward.  It is a place of safety.” Hearing these words again six years later sent chills down my spine and tears welling up in my eyes. My younger sister was standing in the back row, crying. She later told me that she made eye contact with my dad and they both began to cry. One of the final things my father said in his speech was (I paraphrase) “Oftentimes, people leave these vigils or memorials uplifted but do not take any action... It is the youth who will become the leaders. To those of you young folks in the room, it is time for you to step up and lead the way for us.

From how my father ended his speech, here are a few things I am taking away and sharing with you.

It is our time to rise up together as youth, irrespective of where we stand as Sikhs in our practice. As youth, we hold the power to change the mechanics of the Panth from the inside into something better than what it is right now. Looking outside of the Panth, we can impact the lives of so many people if we unite together and work towards a common goal.

If we work together as youth, we can accomplish the unimaginable. In fact, when we do work together as Sikhs, we accomplish so much. If you do not believe me, take a moment to look up movements such as the United Sikh Movement or the Iowa Sikh Turbanators. The Iowa Sikh Turbanators is a prime example where youth in Iowa came together along with Sikhs of all ages to pack meals and educate their fellow Iowans about who Sikhs are. This organization is youth-led, youth-driven, and youth-inspired, meaning that when youth come together and empower each other, we can do anything to create change at any level.

Change can happen on a smaller scale. Whether it is reaching out to a person who is suffering, holding the door open for someone, or performing an act of kindness, small acts of change can be created on the individual level which can have a positive ripple-like impact on the lives of people around us. Creating change can happen by just one act of goodness that starts a movement to fight against the injustices in our world.

In the words of my cello teacher, “less talk, more playing” Let’s go and act united together!

Bhul Chuk Maaf Karo Ji

~Maigh Kaur Jammu

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