Dr. Raj Kumar, Founder and President of Gandhi International Institute for Peace, and ISKCON temple organized a candlelight ceremony for the victims of shooting in Wisconsin temple on August 5,2012. Six members of the Sikh community were killed and four wounded including Lt. Brian Murphy. Hawaii State Governor Neil Abercrombie, Senator Pohai Ryan from Waimanalo district, Tulsi Gabbard- nominee for Congresswoman, Interfaith leaders Sikh, Hindus and locals attended this event to offer their condolences.

Governor Neil Abercrombie presented a proclamation and offered his condolences for the victims and their families. He showed his gratitude towards Sikhism, its Masters and their teachings for humanity. He shared his personal experiences with Sikh people during his visits to South Africa and India in 1960.

Tulsi Gabbard also offered her condolences and emphasized the need to respect every religion practiced by people living in the same community. Senator Ryan encouraged people to share Love & Aloha with everyone and discouraged people to promote hatred and commit violence in our communities.

Lighting candles, spiritual chanting and offering flowers to God followed the speeches.

The shooting in the house of worship in Wisconsin was not only a hate crime against the Sikh community but it was a crime against all religions and humanity. Michael Page’s hatred towards Muslims was mistakenly vented out on Sikhs due to their close resemblance and similar attires worn by both of these groups. Both Muslim and Sikh men wear turban, and have a beard.

For this reason, a large number of the hate crimes and attacks took place against Sikhs in America after 9/11. Osama Bin Laden also wore a turban and had a beard. So people thought everyone with a beard and a turban is a Taliban, and hence linked with terrorists. Therefore, Sikhs and their children were teased, harassed, bullied and targeted by mobs in different cities in America.

To prevent such future incidents, we need to understand more about different religions and cultures coexisting in America, and learn to respect them.

Dr. Kumar condemns this senseless act of violence in America. After the tragic incident of Colorado and Wisconsin, Dr. Kumar has taken the initiatives to prevent violence in Honolulu, Hawaii. He collaborated with several other community leaders, mental health professionals and teachers, and called a special meeting with the lawmakers to make tough laws to prevent gun related violence in Hawaii.

He is raising awareness about Sikhism by giving lecture at Central Union Church and holding peace prayers in thirty Buddhist temples on all islands with the help of Bishop Eric Matsumoto of Honpa Hongwanji mission of Hawaii. Dr. Kumar believes that sharing love with everyone and seeing the presence of God in every human being is the best way to live in peace and harmony in the community.

The Sikh religion is the fifth largest religion in the world with over 20 million followers including Northern America and Hawaii. Sikhism is a monotheistic faith. Sikhs believe in one universal God common to all mankind, genderless, unbound by time and space, without fear and malice, kind and generous. Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak around 15th century in India. The ancient pilgrimage place is known as “Golden temple” and it is situated in the city of Amritsar, India. People from all over the world visit Golden Temple for pilgrimage. Sikhism is mainly practiced in India but followed by millions of believers all over the world. There are approximately 50 Sikhs residing in the Hawaii.

Like Christianity, Sikhism has its own set of Commandments known as “Tenets of Sikhism”. These are: (1) There is only one God. (2) All men and women are equal. (3) “Guru” (Master) is the messenger of God. (4) One should chant holy name at all times to remember God. (5) Act righteously and serve others selflessly. (6) Practice humility to transcend our ego. (7) Practice self-sufficiency. (8) Protect weak and less fortunate members of society. (9) Respect all human beings and sentient creatures. (10) Respect all religions.

Dr. Kumar believes that all men and women are equal and no society or religion is superior to another. God does not belong to one society, religion or nation. God is universal and everywhere and resides in the hearts of all human beings. It is time to forgive the oppressors of hate crimes and teach our children to accept those who are different and plant the seeds of love, respect, gratitude, compassion, kindness, humility, peace, and nonviolence. Then only we can create a safer world to live in.

Dr. Kumar believes that truth is one and there are many paths to reach this goal. For more information, you can email him at rkumarhi@yahoo.com.

About the author: Dr. Raj Kumar is the Founder and President of Gandhi International Institute for Peace.