“I was going to try to explain the difference between Sikh and Muslim, but then decided that you don’t need to know the difference. You just need to know that you don’t shoot either of them.”
If the early commentators are right – and I suspect they are – the Sikhs were the innocent victims of anti-Muslim hatred. As one shocked witness said, “they see our turbans, and they hate us.”
But would it really have been different, more justifiable, if it really had been murders in a mosque? Wouldn’t Muslims be, equally, the innocent victims of anti-Muslim hatred?
The reality is that we, as a society, are not comfortable with diversity. We worry about people who wear turbans and people who eat ‘strange things’ and people whose language isn’t the one we speak.
This discomfort is increased every time there is a news story about a crime and the suspect looks like “one of those people.” Add to that the hate groups – folks whose websites, speeches and posters keep their followers in a constant state of battle-readiness – it should not surprise us when the pressure cooker explodes.
Most of us recognize the potential for further tragedy, and want to do something. Can we just grab hands and sing Kumbaya? Maybe dig out that old tie-dye T-shirt with the great peace sign? Pray more? Read more? Worry more?
Unfortunately, creating peace requires work – sometimes hard work – and sacrifice. It requires supporting others who are actively involved in interfaith outreach. It depends on each of us taking risks to defend others. Intolerance will live in our community as long as we allow it.
There are opportunities to get involved though many local churches and organizations. The Interfaith Council of Central Florida is a good place to start. Consider joining them for an evening of solidarity 7:00 pm Thursday, August 16 at Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) 2527 West SR 426 (Aloma Ave) Oviedo, FL 32765. People from Central Florida’s many faith traditions plan to come together with the Sikh community in this time of national sorrow.
It’s been 250 years since Edmund Burke warned that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” It has been 65 years since the end of Hitler’s reign, and we began to say “never again”. We owe the world, and future generations, our efforts to challenge intolerance and discrimination wherever and whenever we find it. Peace begins with each of us, but only when we accept the challenge.