Sanampreet Kaur Bhullar – Staff Writer
Sikhs have lived in the United States for over a century, and yet, there is still widespread misunderstanding about the community and its legacy. Ignorance is a breeding ground for bigotry and hate, and according to the Sikh Coalition, Sikhs continue to experience high rates of discrimination and violence.
Earlier this month, members of the Indianapolis Sikh community were targeted as four of its members were killed at a FedEx warehouse. In a statement released by the Sikh Coalition, “these kinds of violent attacks are a threat to all of us […] our community has a long road of healing – physically, mentally, and spiritually”, said Maninder Singh Wala. Police have identified the victims of the shooting: Samaria Blackwell (19), Karlie Smith (19), Matthew R. Alexander (32), Amarjit Sekhon (48), Jaswinder Kaur (64), Amarjeet Johal (66), Jaswinder Singh (68), and John Weisert (74). Attacks that target minority groups demonstrate the need for much-needed reform.
Programs on Sikh awareness are an effective tool for deepening Sikh civic engagement. In August 2019, Governor Pritzker designated April as Illinois Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month. However, in 2011 the Sikh Coalition helped create and passed the nation’s first Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month in California, home to the most prominent Sikh population in the United States.
Earlier this month, Benedictine University sponsored two events to commemorate Sikh awareness in April. The first event was on April 12, where the Benedictine community partook in a film screening and discussion of Guru Nanak: The Founder of Sikhism. Participants discussed various parallels between the Sikh faith and Benedictine traditions. This past Monday, guest speakers Simran Jeet Singh and Mallika Kaur discussed experiences as Sikhs and the coalition between the Sikh faith and the American culture.
Hosting events such as these supports greater Sikh awareness and appreciation. As a result, it has helped educate surrounding communities about Sikhs while starting a meaningful dialogue on addressing issues that Sikh Americans face.