To mark Oak Creek anniversary, Sikhs to observe Annual Day of Seva

  • Neetika Walter, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Aug 01, 2015 18:26 IST
People of US wearing similar shirts to mark the anniversiry of Oak Creek Gurdwara attack (HT photo)

Sikhs across 15 cities of the US will observe the Annual Day of Seva to honour the lives lost in the 2012 attack on Oak Creek Gurdwara on August 1.

This year marks the third anniversary of the deadly attack in which six innocent worshippers were killed by a gunman with Neo-Nazi ties. It was the most violent attack on an American house of worship since the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama, until the recent horrific tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, past June.

An initiative of Sikh coalition, a community-based organisation that works towards the realisation of civil and human rights, the event is organised every year since the Wisconsin tragedy to honour lives lost to hate crimes and to spread ideals of positivity and service.
“For the past three years, the Sikh coalition has taken the initiative to honour the lives lost to hate by engaging local Sikh communities across the nation in an annual Day of Seva. Seva, or selfless community service, is a fundamental tenet of the Sikh religion. It is our way of spreading goodness and paying tribute to the Oak Creek community, while raising the shared understanding about our faith and community in America and the reality that we’re strongest as a nation when we stand together,” said Harjeet Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s Day of Seva coordinator.

This year, the Sikh community will also honour the victims of the Charleston shooting. “When a tragedy like the one in Charleston occurs, the Sikh community feels the pain and suffering that comes from an attack born of hate. We want people to see that this type of attack is not just an attack against one community; it is an attack against all of us. The anguish we felt after the Oak Creek massacre has since transformed into a call for action to end hate,” said Harjit Kaur.

On the Annual day of Seva, Sikhs will indulge in different community-based services in 15 cities of the US. These include serving of meals to homeless in Boston, Massachusetts; park cleaning in New York; toy for tots at Jersey city, New Jersey; packing meals at Detroit, Michigan; and children book reading at Fremont, California, among others.

“Day of Seva events across the nation are at their core, acts of solidarity meant to end hate and inspire lives of service, compassion, and giving. These values are as much in line with Sikhism as they are with American beliefs and our seva projects aim to bridge gaps and unite communities in this shared passion for service,” says Ashima Duggal, participating in Boston’s Day of Seva event.”

“The Sikh spirit of Chardi Kala, or eternal optimism inspires Sikhs to stay strong even in the face of hate. It is what motivates us to combat hate with love and seva, to remain positive, and to keep working towards a tomorrow that recognises all beings as one human race. This feeling is ingrained in our seva,” said Jasvir Singh, participating in Detroit’s Day of Seva event.

Response over the years

Sikh community feels that over the years the event has become instrumental in spreading awareness about Sikhism.

“Our annual park clean up in NYC has been an incredible pleasure over the past two years. It is always heartening to have bystanders stop and ask about our motivation for Day of Seva and strive to learn more about Sikhism. Seeing others’ eagerness to join in the service we are doing demonstrates that seva is a great way to engage both Sikhs and non-Sikhs across the country,” said Satjeet Kaur, director of Development and Communications, Sikh Coalition.

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