Yesterday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, seven people were killed and a number injured, including a police officer, when a gunman, named Wade Michael Page stormed a congregation of five hundred people at an American Sikh gurdwara. He was aged 40, and a former U.S. army soldier.
Shortly after the news broke, at Muslims for Progressive Values Canada, we were reflecting on words for an appropriate statement -- words that would somehow convey our sorrow, disgust, empathy and hope for the Sikh community in North America.
While we and other faith groups dug into our hearts in this manner, the Westboro Baptist Church representative Fred Phelps tweeted: "Beautiful work of an angry God who told Wisconsin to keep their filthy hands off his people."
That God would want a gunman to enter into a house of worship, any house of worship, and kill and injure innocent people -- including a police officer, community leaders and mothers in a kitchen preparing food, sending terrified children to a basement and grownups into closets, fearing for their lives and the lives of their families and friends -- is nonsense.
No -- it is heresy.
Before we are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, B'hai, Jain, Zoroastrian, Aboriginal, Wiccan, Humanist and Sikh -- we are human.
We call God by many different names. Some of us call God Allah, some Jesus, some Jehovah.
Some of us worship Buddha, Brahma, Vishnu, and/or Ganesh. We also have Al-Abha, Buddha, Ahura Mazda, the Earth Mother. Our Sikh brothers and sisters call God Sat Nam and Waheguru.
Some of us do not have a name for God, because we believe God lives inside every soul. Some of us do not believe in God, because we believe only in humanity.
And notwithstanding all our various ideologies and classifications we are not different at all. Our bodies, in their various colours and shapes, are the same. We all feel love and sorrow, heat and cold, pain and comfort.
And many of us believe, that in creating all of humanity God placed upon us responsibilities to our fellow human beings regardless of faith -- a duty to love and look after our neighbours and not just our neighbours of the same faith, a duty to speak out for justice and not only to help those of our own faith, a duty to work towards peace for all of humanity and put an end to war, famine and oppression, without regard to faith.
God doesn't care if you are Muslim or Christian, Jewish or Hindu, Jain or Buddhist, B'hai or Sikh -- or any of the other classifications by which we categorize ourselves to better understand our journey here on earth.
God only cares about the way in which we treat one another.
"Do you know what is better than prayer, fasting and charity? It is keeping peace and good relations between people." -Prophet Muhammad
So to our Sikh brothers and sisters in North America and beyond we say this: The shooting of members of the American Sikh community at gurdwara in Milwaukee, Wisconsin yesterday was a tragedy that has shocked us all. We offer our condolences to you at this time and hope and pray that your communities -- your loved ones, families, friends, priests, and places of prayer and reflection -- remain safe now and in the future.
Sat Sri Akal. God is the Ultimate Truth. Yes. Salaam. Peace.