My friend and spiritual leader Ralph Singh who has been leading prayers and talking at our vigils at the Peacemaker's Sanctuary after mass shootings had a Letter to the Editor published today in the Syracuse Post Standard.
Ralph Singh, of Elbridge, is chair of Wisdom Thinkers Network. The nonprofit creates training workshops for schools, religious educators and corporations to use stories in developing a more compassionate, inclusive and ethical culture.
In this Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, Ralph Singh speaks at a sunset candlelight vigil held along Onondaga Lake's West Shore for victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Singh writes in response to recent shootings at schools and houses of worship. (Michael Greenlar | firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Ralph Singh | Special to Syracuse.com
Following 9/11, people came together in solidarity, not simply to stand together, but to pledge that hatred and fear could not tear this nation apart. No doubt the focus was that the fabric and resiliency of our great Union was stronger than any external terrorist threat – existential or real. But what we didn’t recognize and are still not willing to come to grips with, is the enemy from within. The hatred and fear that continues to gain momentum, not just in our country but around the world. For once given air, once allowed to see the light of day, its power grows exponentially. Even more basic, is the need to control the anger and hatred that lies within each of us.
I spoke as part of the post-9/11 memorial in Clinton Square, and at another in Fulton, calling forth the light in each of us to overcome the darkness, and I was among the first group of spiritual leaders who prayed together on the wooden “bridge” that was extended next to Trinity Church overlooking the gaping hole that had been the World Trade Center. The air was heavy not simply with the dust which still clogged the streets and fogged the night air, but with the souls of the martyrs.
They were crying out: “Is it enough? Was our martyrdom enough to stop the hatred and war?”
The answer came “Yes!” But there was a condition: that we, the living, not forget – and stand against hatred. It seems we are not living up to our part.
But the attack also triggered a string of hate crimes, killings and arsons, which continue to today. Sikhs with our distinguishing turbans and beards were made the first visible target. Gobind Sadan, USA, our spiritual center in Palermo, N.Y., was the first victim of an arson attack on a house of worship in the country following 9/11. Four teens got drunk and torched the place, but instead of hatred, we responded with a powerful prayer of forgiveness from H.H. Baba Virsa Singh ji and embraced the teens as part of our family. They wrote to us from prison, “If only we’d known your story, we never would have done this.” To this day, some say that our response transformed their lives. And it brought the broader community together in love to transcend the darkness. Strangers were calling, “This is not the America I fought for.” We are with you.
It is out of that attack that the seeds of Wisdom Thinkers were sown.
Hate and its derivative, fear, have always smoldered beneath the surface. It erupts from time to time whenever and wherever it gets air. So while spiritually we can forgive and embrace others, we cannot allow hatred in whatever form to be given free reign. We have created the climate for hatred to breed and it has become rampant.
The hatred and intolerance contained in what is termed the white supremacy movement is undeniable. It cannot be ignored. And it is incumbent on our leaders from the top down – not only to condemn it, but to take the necessary steps to curtail it. All people should be welcome, as long as they leave their hatred at the door.
While the measles outbreak has garnered well-deserved attention as a major threat to public health, how do we vaccinate our children and others against hate? It is my firm conviction, that sharing each other’s stories and gathering to love our neighbors, no matter where they are from or what they look like, provides some simple first steps.
Wisdom Thinkers and wisdom thinkers of all ages have always called on humanity to rise above our baser instincts and forge a path to peace. Let us all follow that story.