The Faiths Act Fellowship of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation brought together 34 young people of faith from around the world -- creatively highlighting faith as a force for good. Over the course of one year, we mobilized faith groups to engage in sustainable interfaith social action within our local communities and the results were inspiring. As the Fellowship came to a close a few weeks ago, we have reflected deeply on the importance for us as an international cohort to continue our efforts wherever in the world we may be.
The recent events in Wisconsin highlight just why religious tolerance, coexistence and literacy are so imperative in today's world.
In the wake of the tragic gurdwara shooting, a group of us across continents have come together -- inspired by our time working with global Sikh communities.
It was Sunday lunchtime, here in London, that a Sikh friend was discussing the concept of Chardi Kala (a state of mind linked to rising spirits in all situations) with me. When I heard about the gurdwara shooting later that evening my first thoughts were of the families afflicted by this heinous act of terror. As a Hindu, I am deeply inspired by the unwavering state of Chardi Kala demonstrated by the families affected in Wisconsin and pray for their strength.
Hannah Shirey, Christian, New York, USA
Through the pain, I have been reminded of the deep gratitude I feel for my time spent at a Sikh NGO -- UNITED SIKHS -- this last year as a Faiths Act Fellow.
As we move forward, I am inspired by Sikh scripture that calls devotees to "recognize the human race as one" and by Jesus of Nazareth's famous words, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." In our differences and our pain we are all interconnected and we all are capable of being peace-builders.
Nomi Teutsch, Jewish, Jerusalem, Israel
The injunction to "love the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt" is one of the most central teachings of my Jewish faith. To me, this speaks to the connection that all minorities have to one another. We must not only feel hurt and anguish, but rather remember to transform those feelings into standing up for other groups in their times of need.
I spent the last year working at UNITED SIKHS along with Hannah Shirey, and I became more and more connected to Sikhi's message of equality and openness each day. I pray that Sunday's devastating events remind us all to get to know the strangers in our midst so that we may love them.
Sana Rahim, Muslim, Chicago, USA
On Aug. 5, ignorance and hatred materialized into a tragedy that will be etched in my memory for years to come. Last night, I went to my local gurdwara and stood in solidarity with the Sikh community as an American Muslim. While the Quran stipulates that our differences exist so that we "may come to know one another," it is only when our friendships compel us to action that we truly begin to challenge the status quo.
Eric Farr, Bahá'í, Toronto, Canada
As a Bahá'í, I commit myself to helping usher in a day when people of every race and religion will look at each other with an understanding and protective love akin to what we feel for the members of our own family. I offer my sincere condolences and prayers for my brothers and sisters of the Sikh Faith affected by the tragic events of this past Sunday.
Immy Kaur, Sikh, Birmingham, UK
The last few years have seen me move from skeptical to utterly convinced about the need for interfaith interaction, friendship and shared experience. During this painfully difficult time as a community, I have been touched by the global outpouring of love and support towards the Sikh community. The state of Chardi Kala by the American Sikh organizations leaves me yet again in awe of my brothers and sisters across the shores.
So, as we grieve together over the shootings, we reflect on the bravery of those affected and there is still hope. It has been heart-warming to witness the immense support offered by those of American faith communities through interfaith vigils, congregation prayers and messages of solidarity -- and may this continue. While the headlines may pass it will be the friendships formed with our neighbors that stand the test of time. Together, faith communities will flourish and thrive over the voices and actions of intolerance.
To the families in Wisconsin, as a group of young people of different faiths from across the world =- we offer our hands in unity. For as Valerie Kaur of the Groundswell Movement stated so aptly: Today, we are all Sikhs.
Follow Harsha Sharma on Twitter: www.twitter.com/harshasharma