The killings at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin are tragic and speak to a deeper illness in our society. It is an illness that we cannot address in one day or even one year.
But what we can do in one day is make a statement. We stand together. We can educate. We can reach out.
We are writing together because we were both touched by last Sunday’s events. Clearly, we are grief stricken for the victims of the shooter. And we are floored by fact that this confused and misguided murderer misdirected the anger resulting from stereotypes around cultures known to wear turbans.
This is so tragic and telling in so many ways. It is tragic that any person would kill civilians and worshipers of any religion. But it speaks volumes about our country and our culture that so many people do not understand who Sikhs are, let alone other groups at large. In this person’s haste to hate and destroy, he attacked anybody who even remotely resembled the target of his hatred.
This presents an inspiring opportunity for our communities to learn more about each other and in particular this powerful Ashram community embodying the maxim “All are One.”
We, the authors of this blog post have our own connections to this community. Harpal Kaur Khalsa is a Sikh member of the Guru Nanak Dwara Ashram here in Phoenix and has participated in the community as a teacher of kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan for the last 5 years. Ken Clark, a resident of downtown, is not a Sikh, but who has benefited from the kindness of the Ashram’s members.
What we share in common, too, –and what we want to share with you– is an understanding of the role of the Ashram in the Coronado Historic Neighborhood. We believe that the Ashram represents a largely untold story in central Phoenix.
The Ashram has been operating since 1972 and will soon expand its new Gurdwara to serve its growing congregation. There are only about 30 million Sikhs, worldwide and only a few hundred thousand in the United States. The congregation in Phoenix may only number in the low thousands. But their influence is felt strongly here.
The Ashram has been a stabilizing force in the neighborhood, even in those years that the Coronado Neighborhood saw its worst blight, crime and dilapidation. Members of the Ashram educate the children of Sikhs and non-Sikhs, alike, in the Kahlsa Montessori schools in Phoenix. They provide a place, not only for yoga classes, but for refuge and contemplation.
In this way, they are unique, but also no different from any Christian, Jewish or Muslim congregation in America. As such, we hope you will join us as we unite to make a statement about this community’s support for our neighbors. We hope to introduce you to this congregation if you have not yet met them. We hope to illuminate this unique group of people so that a tragedy like this will never happen again.
Please join us as we attend the AZ Sikh Candlelight Vigil at Cesar Chavez Plaza (201 W. Washington St.) on Thursday, August 9th at 7:30pm.
Harpal Kaur Khalsa Ken Clark