Learning From Tragedy

(This happend in mid-2012 — One of several tragedies in our country this past year)

The awful shooting that took place last weekend near Milwaukee was both sickening and shocking. At the time I’m writing this, the shooter is dead, and can’t tell us anything about his motivations or reasoning – as if there could be any reason for such an act. We’re told that he was a military vet who had been tossed out due to alcohol problems. He is also said to have been in “skinhead” bands, with other evidence that he was a white supremacist.

The equally sickening finger pointing by some politicians and pundits regarding who might be to blame for the shooter’s actions was troubling, but it is an election year, and some apparently feel all is fair in love, war, and politics.
The people shot were at a religious service in a Sikh temple. I heard early reports that it was a Muslim mosque, which were later clarified. Sikhism is unrelated to Islam. Also, hours after the incident, I saw a reporter pronouncing the name of those shot as “Sicks” instead of “Seeks.” We may have religious freedom in our country, but not so much religious knowledge.

I did a little checking, and found out that India is the birthplace of four of the major religions of the world. Sikhism is one of them, though fewer than two percent of Indians are Sikhs. The Sikh temple is called a “gurdwara.” The Sikh religion promotes truth and selfless service.

The other religions founded in India are Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Buddhism has existed for 2,500 years. Siddhartha Gautama, later called “The Buddha,” is said to have gained enlightenment and an awakening of the nature of life, and Buddhism is meant to help others reach that same enlightenment.

Hinduism preaches belief in reincarnation, one all powerful being of many manifestations, the law of cause and effect, (good and bad Karma) pursuing righteousness, and the desire for freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. It is said that there are a billion followers worldwide.

Jainism, which preaches non-violence to all living things, and self-effort to move one’s soul towards divine consciousness, has six million followers in India, where it is still considered a minor religion, in that there are 1.22 billion people in India. That gives us an idea how big India really is.

But, that’s not all. There are Jews in India and Muslims as well. There is another religion called Zoroastrianism, after the prophet Zoroaster – once a major religion. Christians also live and worship in India. I’ll bet there are even some atheists.

The shooter in last weekend’s tragedy may have hated Sikhs, or he may have hated anyone different from him. He may have been mentally ill. We’ll probably never know for sure.

For those of us whose primary interaction with people of Indian descent is in convenience stores and at hotel desks, it’s easy to lump them together into one group, just as it is easy to lump all Middle Eastern people into a group, even though there are many differences among them.

I’m doubtful that any of the above information would have changed the outcome last weekend. But, perhaps it’s useful to take that horrible incident to learn a little bit about the Sikhs and how they fit in to the world of religion. It can’t hurt.


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