I remember, when I was young, reading the passage in our High Holy Day prayerbook that listed an acrostic of our sins… one for each letter of the alphabet in order. We thought the author chose ‘xenophobic’ because they needed an ‘x’ word and that was all they could come up with.
Today I see the sin of xenophobia all around us. It’s on television and radio, in national rhetoric and even in our own community. This week it caused the brutal attack of one of our own.
One definition described xenophobia as: an unreasonable fear, distrust, or hatred of strangers, foreigners, or anything perceived as foreign or different.
Unreasonable… irrational… baseless…
Amrik Sikh Bal was attacked Saturday morning as he waited for a ride to work. ‘Two white males’ drove by, yelled obscenities at him, got out and attacked him and then hit him with their car.
Our local Sikh community must again face horrible trauma that leaves a lasting scar. They are not alone. Various ethnicities continue to face the lashing out of xenophobic ignorance. And they are not alone because all of us who love justice and humanity must stand with them… stand together as ‘us.’
As one of the young leaders of the community spoke, I thought about his beard and head covering, the foreign language with which he greeted the community and offered blessings of peace… we do the same in our synagogue each week. Beards and head coverings are traditional for some in our community and we welcome and bless in another language. We, too, have been the target of xenophobia.
We’re different and we’re the same.
Xenophobia is born out of ignorance.
Let us bring light to the darkness through education. Those of us who are less familiar with Sikhism should learn more because the deeper we understand it, the more we see the great values upon which our country is founded.
It takes time to learn about other religions and get to know the members of the community. In the meantime, we can stand up together with our Sikh brothers and sisters and say, ‘this will not happen in our community.’
We offer blessings of healing to Amrik Sikh Bal and his family as well as to the entire Sikh community shaken by injustice.
Stay tuned for our annual Interfaith Scholar Weekend this April 8-10 as we welcome to our community the highly respected Sikh scholar, Nikky-Guninder K. Singh.