Sikhs in Oak Creek to reach out to other civic groups

In the wake of gurdwara shooting, members of Sikh community are focusing on creating educational programmes.

New York: In the wake of the tragic gurdwara shooting, members of the Sikh community in Oak Creek are focusing on creating educational programmes to educate, spread awareness about Sikh faith and to reach out to other religious and civic groups.

The August 5 shooting "has been a wake-up call, the impetus for us to get out into the community," Kanwardeep Kaleka, who helps lead the youth group at the Oak Creek gurudwara, said.

Kaleka said Michael Wade Page, who had gunned down six members of the Sikh community, "came from a place of hate but most hate comes from ignorance."

Temple trustee Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal said in a report in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that members of the community are working on an educational programme that they could offer first to schools.

The gurudwara`s youth group is also looking at ways to spread awareness about the Sikh tenet of service to other communities.

Many in the Sikh community are also welcoming the chance to reach out to religious and civic groups to talk about themselves and their faith.

"There`s a heightened interest in interfaith relationships and understanding of diverse faiths" since the shooting, said Tom Heinen of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

Pastor at congregation Faith Builders Jeff Pruitt said in the wake of the shooting, there will be an "effort to be much more inclusive and to learn
about not only the Sikh faith, but others with whom there is much less familiarity."
He said often in evangelical circles, people do not know how to reach out to people of other faiths.

The congregation had yesterday organised a multifaith celebration, attended by about 1000 people, as a show of support for the Sikh community.
Pruitt said he expects to draw flak from some fellow evangelicals for reaching out to "nonbelievers."

"There is one stream of evangelical Christianity that sees such a strong Christian heritage to America that any other faith group - particularly immigrant faith groups - is seen as a foreign influence and not fundamentally legitimate," said David Neff, vice chairman of the board for the National Association of Evangelicals.

"That`s compounded for Muslims and those - such as Sikhs - who are mistaken for Muslims because of the post-9/11 suspicions that they are a security risk," Neff said.