As a Sikh-American, I am heartbroken.
I was brought up in a faith that preaches equality, and that a bit of God is within all of us; and so I believe that people are inherently good since God, who is all-loving, is good.
The Sikh faith instills a sense of perpetual optimism (Chardi Kalaa), and our traditions teach us to always make the best of a tough situation. We are to live within society and to serve our fellow human beings (the act of "seva").
But the tragedy in Wisconsin is testing me.
We as a community have witnessed persistent acts of profiling and discrimination in the past. There have been acts of vandalism, and the first known killing intended to be retaliatory after 9/11 was that of a Sikh-American man in Arizona.
And now this.
Worshippers who had gathered last Sunday to celebrate a child's birthday gunned down in their own sanctuary. The pastor leading the prayers struck down. A policeman helping one of the victims shot multiple times.
I am concerned that the love and optimism that shapes the way we Sikhs interact with society will dissipate, and I'm concerned that becoming cynical and negative might lead us down a destructive path.* * * * *
This is a country whose foundations were laid by intellectual giants such as Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and George Mason, a land that wrote the oldest constitution that is still in use, a land that extols freedom, equality, service and freedom of worship (exactly as the Sikhs do) -- and yet we can still have individuals who harbor such hate.
I know that this is not typical, but the sadness and anguish in me is palpable.
We Sikhs have overcome many challenges in this country and have succeeded and prospered. Sikhs in this country are entrepreneurs, scientists, doctors, engineers, taxi drivers and members of our armed forces. The drive to succeed and contribute to society is a hallmark of our community, and I hope that with the help of our friends and colleagues, we shall overcome this.
We know there have been other similar crimes of this sort -- at Columbine, in Oklahoma City and, just a few weeks ago, in Aurora. We know that the authorities were prompt and efficient in their response, and we thank our leaders for their expressions of support.
I am grateful also to all my fellow Americans who have called me to sympathize and commiserate. I shall remember that this land has given us much and it needs our help to make it even better.
So, even as I grieve for my fellow Sikhs who were gunned down, I shall refuse to accept that that all humans are hateful because of the actions of one person. My wish is to live with the same freedoms as everyone else, and that includes the freedom from fear.
I shall remember the edicts of our Gurus who said that "All mankind is of one race" and that "He has infused into every heart His own light."
They taught us to love all fellow beings and to accept His will.
I shall remember.