Sikh Calls for Peace Reminiscent of Amish Shooting Response

Sikh Calls for Peace Reminiscent of Amish Shooting Response August 7, 2012

I, like most people, was deeply troubled by news of another mass shooting, this time at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee. This, on the heels of the tragic massacre in Aurora, Colorado, seemed all the more savage to me, given that it took place in a house of worship.

Maybe it’s just because my wife and I work in a church and are aware of such vulnerabilities every day, but my first reaction is defensiveness. I want to raise my guard, double check the locks and do whatever I can to ensure our safety. It’s the response that makes the most sense, after all.

Or is it?

As pained as I was by the violence, I was equally heartened and positively struck by the response of those at the temple. Below is an excerpt from the transcript of a piece that ran on National Public Radio about the aftermath. NPR reporter Erin Toner speaks with Kanwardeep Kaleka, a worshipper at the temple and grandson of the slain temple president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, as well as Dr. Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, a temple trustee.

KALEKA: We rarely even lock our doors at the temple. We leave it open to the community pretty much all day, all night. And for someone to come in and do this, it just, you know, do we change the policy of it? I mean, this is a fundamental principle of our faith, is to allow people of all kinds, no matter who they are, into god’s home.

TONER: Dr. Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal is a trustee at the temple, who’s also related to the president who was killed. Dhaliwal says the congregation remains in a state of shock.

DR. KULWANT SINGH DHALIWAL : Gradually, we have to take care of the bodies, according to Sikh rites, and then gradually counseling, helping family members, each other, we’ll try to sort of cope with it.

TONER: Kulwant’s wife is Dr. Amrit Dhaliwal, who was on her way to the temple when the shooting occurred around 10:30 in the morning. She says, thankfully, most members of the congregation had not yet arrived. And she says she’s still grappling with the fact that someone would target a religion that preaches peace and tolerance.

DR. AMRIT DHALIWAL: We believe that God is – all human beings are equal in this universe. So, I don’t know why this thing happened here.

TONER: Members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin say they can’t imagine installing metal detectors or checking for guns before people walk through the door.

Their response reminded me of the Amish community’s reaction after a similar slaying at an Amish school in Lancaster County. The following is from a CBS story after the killing of several children in the school:

In just about any other community, a deadly school shooting would have brought demands from civic leaders for tighter gun laws and better security, and the victims’ loved ones would have lashed out at the gunman’s family or threatened to sue.

But that’s not the Amish way.

As they struggle with the slayings of five of their children in a one-room schoolhouse, the Amish in this Lancaster County village are turning the other cheek, urging forgiveness of the killer and quietly accepting what comes their way as God’s will.

“They know their children are going to heaven. They know their children are innocent … and they know that they will join them in death,” said Gertrude Huntington, a Michigan researcher and expert on children in Amish society.

“The hurt is very great,” Huntington said. “But they don’t balance the hurt with hate.”

Both are remarkably abnormal responses to being so brutally attacked, particularly by the world’s common standards. Justice is about the perpetrator getting what they deserve and about ensuring such atrocities don’t happen again.

But no amount of retribution would bring their loved ones back. And no heightened level of security ever could ensure with total certainty that they would be safe in the future.

No one would fault them for wanting vengeance or for defending themselves, but in taking the approaches both have to the violence, both communities have demonstrated a strength and faith that far exceeds that of any security system or jail cell. At its heart, both the Sikh and Amish message is that of the indomitable human spirit, guided and inspired by faiths that practices peace, particularly when it is met with quite the opposite.

I doubt I will remember the names of the killers in either incident in coming years, but I’d like to think that I’ll never let go of the feelings of hope and courage that I gain from the witness of these two remarkable communities of faith.

God, be with them.

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  • Heidi Bright Parales, MDiv

    Excellent commentary.

  • I am also reminded of  _Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear_ by Scott Bader-Saye and his account of the response of the Taizé community after the death of Brother Roger.

  • Robert Burke

    Imagine going to a church or temple and you sit down with everybody else.

    You notice to your left is Marcus Luttrell (former US Navy Seal) and he carries a concealed Baretta 9 mm.  To your right is Clint Eastwood, and he carries a concealed .44 mag S & W.

    Then, a madman comes in (like in 1770, the “run amok” experience James Cook ran into in Malaysia that has historically AWAYS happened to young, frustrated men… they go crazy and kill innocent people, until the innocent people do something about being killed in confined spaces (i.e. Russia Moscow Theater Siege, churches in Nigeria, etc.) and this young man starts shooting people.

    To your left you hear a noise.  To your right you hear a noise.  Problem solved.

    Any questions, refer to writers of the future, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and such:  An armed society is a polite society.  A backwards, socialist society disarms itself.

    Oh yes, what if you, Marcus or Luttrell either didn’t carry concealed that day, or your guns didn’t work or shoot straight.  Tough break, kiddo… but it is the tough break of life, not of an oppressive government denying Natural Right to protect self in public, nor the oppressive do-gooders who also deny Natural Right to protect self in public.

    Since 1770, modern man has noted that young men can and do go crazy on innocent people in confined spaces.  Modern man has a solution, see Luttrell or Clint above for answer.

    • Nenya

      Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

    • damanoid

      Strangely enough,countries with gun control don’t have anywhere near the number of massacres that the United States has. Strangely enough, despite all those guns, ex-Navy Seals and Clint Eastwood are never there to save innocents. In fact, neither Marcus Luttrell or Clint Eastwood have ever saved anyone from a gunman in America by shooting them down.
      Any questions, refer to writers of the future, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and such: all fictional societies, kiddo. An armed society is not a polite society, you stupid coward. The fact is that you and other cowards are too afraid to live without guns to protect yourselves from red Indians and Klingons. The fact is that you cowards are much more likely to kill innocents than criminals. The fact is that you won’t ever save anyone from a crazy serial killer, but you stand a good chance of becoming a crazy serial killer. You are the backwards ones, still afraid of Indians and slave uprisings.
      Right now, you and other cowards have more political support than other Americans, but that won’t always be the case. Sadly, you will force many more innocents to die at the hands of your gun-toting brethren. Eventually though, I have faith that America will join civilized nations with gun control. Your guns will be taken away, you will dribble and weep for awhile while everyone laughs, and– strangely enough– nothing much will change except that people like you won’t be able to kill dozens of innocents when you go crazy.

      • Emerson Yael

        Not to mention these Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood types tend to end up causing more harm than good: the few times those kind of situations happen, innocent people end up getting caught in the crossfire because the sad fact is that bullets keep going until something stops them and they don’t have the brains to think, before embedding in someone’s gut, “Hmm…this person is clearly innocent. Leave them alone and go for the gun-toting maniac.” Besides think of it from a police perspective: how are they supposed to know which gunman is the good guy in that situation? Again, the sad fact of the matter is, like so many commentators have said, it’s the guns. Britain and Canada watch the same violent TV shows and they also have a long bloody history of subjagating others at the barrel of a gun, yet their rate of citizens murdered by guns is considerably lower than ours.

  • Such a non-violent reaction can only be will working with grace!  Thank you so much for sharing this.