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Harvard professor says “America has much to learn from Sikhs”

August 17, 2012 | By

New York, (August 17, 2012): “As the Sikhs in the US makes efforts to recover from the tragedy of the Gurudwara shooting, a Harvard professor has said Sikhs have emerged as a role model for Americans who can learn from the dignity and generosity the community”, reports Press Trust of India (PTI).

Most Americans still know little of the Sikh Americans whose history in the United States, dating to the early 20th century, is now firmly part of our common history.

“While we catch up on our basic education, however, it is important to know that Sikhs share three distinctly and deeply American values — the importance of hard work, a commitment to human equality, and the practice of neighbourly hospitality,” Harvard University professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies Diana Eck is reported to have said in an editorial in the Dallas Morning News.

Eck said if the gunman Michael Wade Page had been simply a neighbour or a local visitor, he would have been warmly welcomed by the community and served food in the gurudwara. The assailant would have “discovered a religious community so confident and expansive in its hospitality that it would embrace a complete stranger”.

In the face of immense tragedy after the shooting, Sikhs still offered the food they had prepared to the hundreds of emergency workers, police officers and staff who surrounded the temple.

“The dignity and generosity of the Sikh community in the wake of this violence remind us just how much we have to learn from these neighbors,” Prof. Eck added.

Prof. Eck said no other religious community demonstrates the meaning of hospitality as abundantly as the Sikhs, noting that the huge, “industrial-size kitchens” in gurudwaras prepare food for community members and strangers alike.

“This hospitality is not just a gesture; it is foundational to the Sikh faith. Eating together is what knits the Sikh community together and breaks down the barriers that divide the wider human community,” Prof. Eck said adding that eating together symbolizes a Sikh’s personal rejection of discrimination and prejudice.

“Sikhs remind us that eating together is one of the important liturgies of the human community, for people of every faith and none,” the professor said.

Six members of the Sikh community were killed in the Wisconsin gurudwara on August 5, 2012 when Page opened fire as they were getting ready for Sunday morning prayers. Page was wounded by a police officer and died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head. The shooting shocked the peaceful Sikh community, which received wide spread support and sympathy.

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