We come together this evening to pray for and to share the pain and suffering of the victims, their families and friends and to express our oneness in sharing the deep anguish felt by our other American brothers and sisters in the wake of the horrible tragedy of Sep. 11,2001.
We pray that Waheguru grant peace and His benevolent grace to those who have died and the Rakhanhar – our Protector, extends His merciful protection to any who are still alive but buried under the piles of rubble.
In these horrific incidents, the destruction and loss of life, the human tragedy, is of unbearable magnitude. I cannot forget the face and the simple, poignant, heart wrenching words of a woman who just kept saying, “ he only went to work, he only went to work!” It will take us all a long, long while to be able to comprehend the import of the loss of innocence and acceptance of the stark emerging reality that safety and security in our routine life’s activities is possibly not a given any more.
The worst of times invariably bring out the best in us. We have much to applaud. Great has been the heroic courage and sacrifice of those who put their lives at risk and even made the supreme sacrifice so that others may live. Great is the spirit of service and commitment of those who are providing relief and succor, those who are working round the clock in search, rescue and clearance operations, those who are tirelessly striving to restore the services so that normal life can resume, those who are providing money, much needed blood donations, food, medicines and relief supplies. Great also is the fortitude of millions who have sought comfort and peace through silent prayer and helped others to cope with their sense of loss, fear and anxiety. This is sewa – service; and let us remember Guru Nanak’s persuasion to us all – vich duniya sev kamaiye, tan dargeh behsan paiye – while in this world, be of service to others for that will help you earn a place in His court. We thank those who are serving and pray for them.
Our political leadership has heavy responsibilities. These times will put them through severe tests. They are speaking with one voice. We pray that Waheguru gives them the sagacity to lead the nation strongly, compassionately and wisely so that we emerge stronger and hopefully make this world a little kinder, gentler, and safer. Pancham panch pardhan te jeh jaaniyo parpanch – the real leaders and the elect are those who have an understanding and empathy for the entire creation.
Last night as a panelist on the CPTV live discussion extending over 1 1/2 hours, I could share and listen to the concerns and anxieties of the people who called in. There was wide spread fear about the safety of children and schools. There was concern about the security of our vital installations like water supply, nuclear power plants, airports, communications and so on. People were worried about the economy, about the fallout of the destruction in New York on the Insurance industry, about the impact of difficulties of the airline industry on GE and United Technologies and related potential impact on employment in Connecticut; the vicissitudes of the stock market et al. We are all impacted by these and we all have the same concerns but we have our unique and added insecurity because of the suspicion, harassment, vandalism, arson and even assault (one resulting in death) ostensibly because of association with certain images that have been flashed across the TV screens. There is no face to terror but wrong kinds of fears have arisen in the minds of people and unwittingly the Sikh community has been placed at risk.
I have made the rounds of the television stations and the radio networks in the aftermath of this tragedy. Several of my other fellow believers have done the same here in Connecticut and elsewhere in the country. The Sikh community and I are very grateful for the co-operation, understanding and empathy we received from the media and for the time they gave to us when so much was going on. But I also want to share with you the pain and spiritually tearing feeling that I experienced when, to put in perspective the erupting prejudices in the wake of image profiling, I had to explain the differences – turbans and hair a part of our faith observance; S-I-K-H, Sikh a separate faith, no, not Muslim; our country of origin, India, not Mid East, when I cherish the message of universal brotherhood that Baba Nanak, the founder of our faith, gave to the world. He preached his message of love and prayer not only to those who came to him or he came in contact with. He traveled far and wide across Asia for over twenty years to spread the word. Our scripture, the holy Guru Granth Sahib, contains not only the compositions of our Gurus but also of several Hindu and Muslim saints of the times. The message of universality was real, earnest. Our Gurus said – sabh ko meet ham apan keena, ham sabhna ke saajan – to us each and every one is dear and we are friends to all; – manas ki jaat tum eke pahchanbo – recognize ye the entire human race as one and bhagat Kabir’s message that we revere – ek noor te sab jag upjiya kaun bhale kaun mande – the entire creation has sprung from Thy light, who are we to judge who is high or low, good or bad.
The days ahead will be difficult. The evil forces must be curbed. We should beseech God to give us the resolve never to – shubh karman te kabhoo na taroon – evade the righteous action. Yet let us pray that all our actions are motivated to pursue justice, and peace.
I thank Senator Kevin Sullivan, President Pro Tem, Connecticut Senate, for joining us in this service. I also want to acknowledge the willing cooperation that I received from the Senator and his staff in this regard – Brook Baran, the Senator’s press aide, who is with us here and Tracy, who did so much of the coordination but could not join us this evening.
Sep 20, 2001 [Text of remarks by the author at the Diwan at Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Southington, CT to pray for the victims of Sep. 11. Senator Kevin Sullivan, President CT Senate joined the prayer, at his request to express his solidarity with the Sikhs in their being attacked due to stereotypes and mistaken identity]