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Charleston – Standing Together in Solidarity

By Satpal Singh


Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina – Photo: Wikipedia

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina – Photo: Wikipedia

In the wake of the shooting at Charleston, South Carolina, a question resurfaces in my mind. It is the same question that unfortunately arises time and again, whether it is the shooting at a Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the shooting at a synagogue in West Jerusalem, or the attack on a mosque in Kuwait City.

If Mr. Dylann Roof were in surgery, and the only blood available to save his life came from Rev. Clementa Pinckney or another member of his church – the blood that Mr. Roof has shed with deliberate planning – would he accept the blood or choose instead to die on the altar of his hate.

One message that most faiths teach us is that we are all children of the same compassionate and all-loving Divine. Then why do we choose to shed blood simply because it comes tagged with a certain label? On a surgeon’s table, we do not ask for ‘white blood’ or ‘African American blood,’ ‘high-caste blood’ or ‘low-caste blood,’ or blood from a specific religion, and refuse to be saved if that is not available. This fortunate precept is one of the many manifestations of a fundamental fact: despite our diversity, which needs to be celebrated rather than despised, we have all been created as part of the same, one, humanity.

When the same Divine light dwells in all of us, attack on one is an attack on us all. When the Oak Creek tragedy occurred, the entire nation, and the entire world, stood by the Sikhs. Within hours, Sikh organizations received messages of support and solidarity from hundreds of religious, political and social organizations from all around the world. Today we all stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. While it is not possible to take away the profound grief and the everlasting void that you face, your grief is our grief. Your tragedy is our tragedy. Your pain is our pain. And your determination to bring back sanity and harmony to humanity is our determination towards the same goal.

Your message of forgiveness and love, even for those who have brought such profound grief to you, is a message divine. We pray for the peace of those who have left us, and for their families. We pray for the peace of mind of the perpetrator of such a hateful act, and for the peace of mind for all those who suffer from hate and prejudice against fellow human beings.

At the same time, we refuse to succumb to the tactics of the terrorists and the supremacists alike, who either hope to provoke a reaction in kind and start a vicious cycle of back and forth violence, or even fancy initiating a racial war, as Mr. Roof intended to. We must strengthen our efforts to combat the hatred and the fear evoked by such actions. We all must stand together to fight against such injustice to our African American brothers and sisters as they have been subjected to for centuries, and are being subjected to even today.

The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Oak Creek, Wisconsin – Photo:  sikhtempleofwisconsin.com

The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Oak Creek, Wisconsin – Photo: sikhtempleofwisconsin.com

It is time for all of us to reinvigorate our efforts to banish hatred from our society and to bring harmony among all the sections of our society, irrespective of the divisions that have been created among us. Let this act of hatred in Charleston strengthen our resolve to spread the message of love and harmony that all our faiths profess. While all sections of our society – politicians, educators, and social leaders – need to play a role in this, religious leaders need to play a special role. We must recommit ourselves to emphasizing what our scriptures tell us about an infinitely compassionate and all-loving God.

If we take off the lenses of hate, it becomes clear that the language of harmony is Oneness that permeates all of us. That is the fundamental premise, a ‘self-evident truth,’ on which all men and women have been created. We must all remind ourselves, and our congregations, that blood has no religion. It has no race, no caste, no nationality and no political ideology. And it has no skin color.