The interfaith gathering at the Shiloh Baptist Church
American Sikh Council (ASC) representative and board member S.Sutinder Singh was invited to participate in major interfaith event held at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, NJ on Tuesday February 4, 2020.
There were over 50 important faith leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Buddhist and Sikh faith traditions who attended the event.
Each representative faith leader spoke about some of the issues that their communities have to deal with on a regular basis – from verbal bullying to outright murder.
The keynote speaker was Attorney General Gurbir Singh (Grewal) of New Jersey who is a practicing Sikh. AG Grewal spoke about the hateful rhetoric in our country and what steps he and others in his office are taking to ratchet down the hate mongering. He went on to talk about reaching out to others and doing more to break barriers among faith communities.
S.Sutinder Singh pointed out the long history of bias against the Sikhs who have lived here for well over a century. He reminded everyone that after 9/11 and then in the recent Trump era things have simply gone from bad to worse. Every time there is a crisis in the middle-east Sikhs have been made targets of the public’s rage. S.Sutinder Singh mentioned the many events of the past which have been seared in the memories of Sikhs, as those moments when the entire community is on high alert due to bias attacks – nationally.
He went on to explain the reasons for the unique Sikh identity as it is part of the religious uniform and a manifestation of the core beliefs and for Sikhs, the identity is a commandment by the Sikh Gurus.
Attorney General Gurbir Singh addressing the interfaith gathering.
In 2019 – CNN and several Sikh advocacy groups report hundreds of instances of hate crimes, harassment, attacks, every year and even deaths. The environment has got worse in the years after the recent election in 2016. Kamau Bell, a comedian, presenter was commenting on the first victim of backlash; Balbir Singh Sodhi a Sikh who was killed because the perpetrator thought he was Muslim and Kamau said, “We can’t even get our hate right”! Hate can’t be right. Killing a Muslim instead would have been OK? – of course not!
Sikhs are taught not to hate anyone, because all that you see around you is a manifestation of the Creator. If you hate people, then you hate the Creator!
We don’t degrade other religions because our scripture, tells us that those who do not understand their own religion need to read and contemplate before calling out others.
As leaders and members of the congregations, we need to educate ourselves about others and also help our own congregations understand other religions. S.Sutinder Singh gave the meeting several examples of where there is common ground between many religions. His final suggestion was that instead of Sikhs going around to every church or temple to explain who Sikhs and what Sikhi is to non-Sikhs, each of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders should learn about the Sikhs and give a short talk on the Sikhs, to their congregations. That way, in one-week hundreds of thousands of Christians will have a better idea of who the Sikhs are. Similarly, Sikhs should also talk about other faiths withing their own Gurdwaras to increase awareness and better understand others and their faith.
All the faith leaders agreed to do more in order to reach out to their neighbors and ‘others’ in order to bring more amity and peace across the nation.
S.Sutinder Singh with Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders.