Ecumenicals in Solidarity with Sikhs in Wake of Attack

(Photo Credit: Interfaith Center)Sikhs display photos of the victims from the Sikh temple shooting in Washington.

Over the past week, Ecumenical leaders emphasized prayers for the Sikh community, shared values and solidarity, and called for a national dialogue on gun control in the wake of a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

"As children of God, we mourn the tragedy of violence wherever it occurs, whether in a theater or a house of prayer," said Kathryn Lohre, President of the National Council of Churches on the day of the shooting.

"We pray for healing and wholeness for all effected … and stand in solidarity with our Sikh brothers and sisters in this frightening time," she added.

She said NCC members "appreciate that the Sikh faith is built upon a devotion to God, equality among all peoples, and a commitment to service – ideals that are consistent with our faith as Christians, and unequivocally compatible with the American ethic."

Possible reasons for the shooter's actions were the focus of a statement by the Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos of NCC's Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations division.

"While it is difficult to know what was in the mind of the attacker it would seem that it was the same mix of fear, ignorance, and bigotry that fuels all violence against individuals or communities of faith," Dr. Kireopoulos said.

"We can never stop acts of insanity," he said. "We can always do more to foster understanding and respect."

The NCC notes that Sikhs originated in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century, with 20 million living in India and 1.3 million living in the U.S. and Canada.

While men traditionally wear a turban, women may wear a turban or cover their heads with scarves. Sikh's believe in only one God who is the same for people of all religions.

'Dark' Impact, Need for Dialogue

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America-

"Violence has entered into our lives and world in too many places. The actions of individuals in recent weeks have brought a dark cloud over our nation and lives," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Hanson said that ELCA would enter into an active dialogue with Sikh and other religious leaders "in order to help those in our country and world to gain respect, love and understanding about one another."

Discrimination and Gun Control

Meanwhile, three top leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) said the denomination is offering prayers for the Sikh community and families affected by "this senseless and brutal shooting."

The leaders – including the denomination's moderator Neal Presa, stated clerk Gradye Parsons, and mission executive Linda Valentine
– noted that since 9/11 there have been more than 700 instances hate crimes, employment discrimination, profiling at the airport or school bullying have taken place.

"It is unacceptable that religious minorities continue to experience discrimination in our culture," they wrote. They cited PCUSA legislation stating that "violence against people based on their innate characteristics will not be tolerated."

The group called on the nation to engage in a national dialogue about gun violence in the wake of the recent massacre of patrons at a movie theater by a heavily armed gunman.

They noted the killer at the temple on Sunday was able to legally purchase a semiautomatic handgun with multiple ammunition magazines and also had a criminal record and affiliation with hate groups.

"It is time we address the grim and gut wrenching reality that more than 30,000 people are killed every year in the United States by gun violence: more than 30 people every day," they said.

The Presbyterian Church says it has called for legislation to control the sale and possession of firearms of all kinds sine the assassination of public leaders in the 1960s. It has passed various resolutions on gun violence, observing that in the U.S., 33 states allow individuals to purchase guns without a background check, accounting for 40 percent of all firearms transactions.

"In our grief let us also commit ourselves to actions that change the culture and policies that make these tragedies possible," they wrote.

Solidarity, Shared Values, Education

An interfaith organization, the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, said it offered "heartfelt concern for the sense of anguish and loss being experienced throughout the Sikh community worldwide."

The organization described the religion as engendering "the deep devotion, the ethical clarity, the sense of communal solidarity, and the unwavering belief that all human beings are equal in the sight of the divine. The origins of Sikhism had an interreligious dimension – in the founding mission of Guru Nanak – giving it a unique relevance and poignancy for the challenge of promoting harmony and understanding across diverse communities and traditions."

The Parliament said the news media's response in the first few hours of the attack was lacking.

He said that "speaks to the work that needs to be done by the interreligious movement in acquainting the wider public with the diversity of communities and traditions in their midst."

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