Friday, August 17, 2012

Who Is My Neighbor?

Sikh Temple in Fremont, CA. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Edwards
By Rev. Elizabeth Edwards

I had just arrived at the Y on Sunday when I saw the news scroll across the screen: MASS SHOOTING AT SIKH TEMPLE. Two weeks before, I would have responded the way many of us have who are dreadfully accustomed to hearing about such shootings: a feeling of sadness and shock, a prayer uttered for the victims, and a return to my routine. But Sunday was different. I stood holding my breath. Eleven days earlier, the Lakeside pilgrims had visited the Sikh Temple in Fremont, CA. I won’t say it lessened the horror of the event when I saw Oak Creek, WI, appear on the screen, but I did feel a sense of relief that the people who had welcomed us so warmly were safe: people who had brought their children to the Temple for a program akin to our VBS, people whose faith obligates them to defend anyone who is being attacked even to the point of risking their own lives, people who expressed to us concern over being mistaken for terrorists because of their dark skin and head coverings, people gathered for fellowship and prayer.

Youth & adults from Lakeside Baptist at the Sikh Temple in
Fremont, CA. Participants visited many communities of faith
to learn about different worship, beliefs & devotional practices.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Edwards.
On Monday, I received an e-mail from Rick Sample, the CBF missionary in Fremont who had made the visit with us. He and his wife Lita had taken food to the Temple and had expressed their prayers and support on behalf of CBF and their Christian neighbors. Rick was surprised to learn that they were the only Americans who had reached out to their Sikh neighbors.

The past few days have convinced me more than ever that making an effort to know and understand our neighbors of all colors and languages and faiths is not only important for fostering respect and cooperation but also vital to the health of our communities and a response that our faith in Christ necessitates. Our pilgrimage experiences were a significant first step in opening our hearts and minds to others. Perhaps because of the encounters we had in California, some of our youth will be inspired to devote their lives to reach across lines of religion and race and economic status to work for peace. Or perhaps one of us will have an opportunity to speak up when we hear hate-filled or misinformed speech. But we shouldn’t have to board an airplane to realize our responsibility.

It is not acceptable that we have come to tolerate or even expect violence, whether in Colorado or in a Sikh Temple or in the streets of Rocky Mount. It is not okay that I don’t make the same effort to know and understand my neighbors across town when I have traveled across the country to do so. Each of us is called to do our part to wage peace in the face of such violence and hatred. The example of Christ, and that of our Sikh neighbors, demands it.

Elizabeth Edwards is the Associate Minister at Lakeside Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Link.

No comments:

Post a Comment