Approximately 10:30 a.m on August 5th, Sikh worshippers were preparing to meet in their regular Sunday service. It appeared to be a normal Sunday until an individual got out of a vehicle, walked into the church and killed six members before being confronted by a police officer and firing several shots into him. Another police officer then shot and killed the gunman. Thus, this shooting adds to the stream of violent events across our nation that ends in the senseless death of innocent people.
A shooting that fits no previous stereotype
Individuals who simply sought to worship quietly now feel insecure just because of their beliefs, culture and religious practices. Sikhs are neither Muslim or Hindu; so, present stereotypes do not fit their culture and practices nor indicate why they would have been targeted.
Obviously, many details will emerge in the days to come about the shooter and his motives, but for now, the 500,000 Sikh population in this country are on high alert for more possible attacks. The FBI is treating the shooting as a domestic terrorist event.
What do we tell our children?
I think of how our children may react to such an event. They do not understand this kind of violence and try to determine explanations. Why would someone do this, an inquisitive child would ask? The only good opportunity here is to use this tragedy to educate our children about a myriad of issues, but particularly to help them understand that violence is not an answer to our questions, struggles or differences. Helping them understand the impact of such events to families and to innocent people who are affected is worthy of processing time.
We grieve for the families who have lost loved ones. We also want to be sensitive to the Sikh culture that now has been targeted and feels very vulnerable. Maybe our children could send cards or some means of support to help the families of the victims.
I do wish those that have lost loved ones my thoughts and prayers. We need to rally around these families and help them understand that we are supportive of their right to safety and to worship in freedom in their own environment. It is the hallmark of our nation to protect all its citizens.
I am hopeful that we can use this opportunity to teach others tolerance, friendship and non-violence among all cultures. It is a good time to model core beliefs that will bring our peace and safety within our communities and our society.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network