Dan Shafer

Reflections on the Sikh Temple tragedy

The unspeakable acts of hatred and violence that occurred last Sunday have been difficult to process, but beacons of hope have emerged from this dark hour.

By - Aug 10th, 2012 04:00 am

Photo from the vigil at Cathedral Square Park, August 5. (Photo: Lacy Landre)

The shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek was tragic in every sense of the word. The unspeakable acts of hatred and violence that occurred last Sunday morning have been difficult to process, but beacons of hope have emerged from this dark hour.

The compassion, peacefulness, resolve and forgiveness demonstrated by the members of the Sikh community have been beyond remarkable. The inspiring commitment to peace, love, acceptance and understanding shown this week should not soon be forgotten.

Examples of this spirit rise especially from two posts on the Facebook page, R.I.P Gurdwara Oak Creek Wisconsin Shootings Victims. The first, a message written to deceased mass murderer and white supremacist Wade Michael Page, includes this quote: “Your hate and bigotry is water for the seeds of our perseverance. We don’t just pray for the betterment of all; we are willing to back it up with action. You wanted to break us, to make us fear, to make us question our identities, my friend you have only done the opposite.”

photo: from Overpass Light Brigade

Also on the page is a quote from Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards, from Tuesday night’s vigil in Oak Creek. Chief Edwards uttered them while standing in front of a sign spelling out “practice peace”:

“In 28 years of law enforcement, I have seen a lot of hate. I have seen a lot of revenge. I’ve seen a lot of anger. What I saw, particularly from the Sikh community this week, was compassion, concern, support. What I didn’t see was hate. I did not see revenge. I didn’t see any of that. And in law enforcement that’s unusual to not see that reaction to something like this. I want you all to understand how unique that is.”

Heroes, too, have emerged from this tragedy. The actions taken by Bhai Satwant Singh Kaleka, a longtime leader of Wisconsin’s Sikh community and Oak Creek Lieutenant Brian Murphy were truly heroic. On Thursday, Lt. Murphy’s condition was upgraded to satisfactory. Edwards said Murphy is making amazing progress in his recovery. Bhai Satwant Singh Kaleka “died defending the temple he built.” The image below is from the Wisconsin Sikh Temple Cop Brian Murphy Thank you Page.

Also inspiring is the support extended not only from people in southeastern Wisconsin, but worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated at these websites: wearesikhs.com, which has collected nearly $200,000, and indiegogo.com/milwaukee-sikh, which surpassed its goal of $25,000, and has now collected more than $125,000. You can click on the links above to find out more on how to donate.

The disgusting nature of the profoundly misguided individual who brought on this tragedy reminds us that nothing good ever comes from hate. The Sikh community responded to hate with grace and perseverance and in doing so taught a moral lesson for us all.

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