Two years ago today, Americans witnessed one of the most horrific mass hate crimes in modern U.S. history when a white supremacist walked into a Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and killed six worshipers and wounded four others.
The trauma of what happened in Oak Creek not only resonated with the global Sikh community, but other faith communities, including Hindus, as well. For many Hindu Americans, the pain that Sikhs have felt hits close to home, in part because of both faith's shared history and because many Hindus and Sikhs in the United States have congregated in the same communities. Through intermarriage, many Hindus and Sikhs also have extended kinship.
After Oak Creek, the Sikh community in the United States and across the world rallied together and built interfaith alliances. Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and even those who don't ascribe to a faith were drawn to the community's grief and subsequent resilience.
Today, the Sikh-American community has used the tragedies of 9/11 and Oak Creek to build a collective identity. They have worked with legislators, interfaith leaders, educators, and law enforcement agencies to ensure that they are not victims of hate ever again. From a Hindu-American perspective, it's inspiring to see the proactive ways in which Sikh-Americans, particularly those in the second and third generation, are doing to advance civil rights and civil discourse in this country.
Whether it be textbook reform, standing up to bullying, or just allowing Sikh youth to feel comfortable with their identities, Sikh-American leaders are doing great work. I especially feel indebted to advocates like Mirin Phool of the Kaur Foundation and Harminder Kaur, who have gone out of their way to advance Hindu-Sikh cooperation in a sustainable way. Harminder's daughter Hana is a hero for starting Sikh Kid 2 Kid and helping to advance interfaith dialogue among her peers. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my friend Manpreet Teji, who is among the next generation of interfaith leaders working to make sure that the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement is embraced by minority faith communities such as ours.
Through tragedy, the Sikh community has triumphed. There's still a long way to go, but I'm proud to say that the Hindu American community and organizations like the Hindu American Foundation stand ready to work alongside our Sikh brothers and sisters.