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FIRST PERSON: Sun sets on a Sikh massacre

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a package of stories on Sikhs. Read the others:

Heartbroken: Students, IMB workers reach out to Sikhs

What do Sikhs believe?

Baptists have ‘opportunity’ to reach out to Sikhs

DELHI (BP) — It’s sunset on the day after a massacre. I’m standing in a Sikh temple in Delhi, India, wanting so badly to tell the Sikh men and women here that I’m sorry, that I’m ashamed at what happened to their Sikh brothers and sisters in the U.S.

A shooter in Wisconsin killed six people Aug. 5 in a gurdwara, the Punjabi word for temple, just like this one.

I realize that I walked into the temple with a frown on my face. It has been a long day — it’s hot, a motorcycle almost hit me and a man purposefully shoved me aside on the street.

I realize these are all trivial things, and I have a chance to show Christ’s love to a people who are hurting because of this tragedy.

Everyone’s eyes are on me. Granted, I’m the only Westerner in the temple. I wonder if they’re thinking, is she different? Is she American? Does she think we are Muslims, too?

My facial expressions change after this realization. I smile and look people in the eyes. I say, “dhanwad,” which means “thank you” in the Punjabi language, to the woman I give my shoes to before entering the temple. She holds my gaze and returns my smile.

I say, “Sat Sri Akaal Ji,” the customary Sikh greeting, to an older woman as I enter the temple. As soon as I say this, her face changes from a scowl to a smile.

A man with a neatly wrapped blue turban approaches me and introduces himself. I tell him I’m studying Sikhism.

“I am a Sikh history teacher!” he says excitedly. “Let me teach you!”

He leads me to the balcony of the temple and as the sun sets, he tells me the history of this temple. It is a memorial to a massacre.

One of the Sikh gurus was beheaded near the temple hundreds of years ago by the Moghuls, Muslim descendants of Genghis Khan.

This gurdwara is his tomb.

My new friend asks where I’m from. I first tell him I live in Thailand. I am not sure if telling him I’m from the U.S., where six Sikhs were just killed, will change his mind about being friends.

But I decide to tell him so he knows all Americans don’t act like the shooter in Wisconsin.

The news I’m American doesn’t change anything. He asks to take my friends and me to a Sikh museum, and we have plans to meet with him later this week.

Soon I take a seat, joining dozens of men and women, facing the palanquin that holds their scriptures.

A man sitting next to me explains the rituals as they unfold. There is music from the ragis, the temple singers, as well as congregational prayer and the recitation of scripture.

This man’s son lives in New York, and he’s been to visit him there.

Earlier that day, I met with a former Sikh who became a Christian. He mentioned the shooting and his sadness over what happened. He didn’t dwell on it — his main mission that day was to see that his Sikh brothers and sisters discover Christ just as he had.

I’ve learned Sikhs don’t judge a people by the actions of one. A Sikh businessman told me people’s individual choices are their own.

I’ve learned this week in India that Sikhs are a kind, hospitable and generous people.

They’ve been some of the only people here who’ve approached me on the street and asked if I need directions or assistance.

This week Sikhs have given me free rides in auto rickshaws and others wouldn’t let me pay the full fare in taxis when they hear I’m learning about Sikhism. Sikh men don’t stare at me lustfully like some other men in India do. In Sikhism, women are equal and to be respected.

Sikhs have invited me into their businesses for tea and have made me feel at home in India.

I’m blessed to have met Sikhs. I pray they’ll see the same kindness in me and in Americans.

I pray they’ll see the light of Christ in me and want to know more. Sikhs are seekers of truth — it’s part of their beliefs. I pray they’ll seek the ultimate Truth.

I pray you’ll take the time to get to know a Sikh.

Approximately 700,000 Sikhs live in the U.S. Learn more about Sikhs and how to share the Gospel with them at sikhoutreach.org. Download a free, one-page prayer guide concerning Sikhs at https://southasianpeoples.imb.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Prayer4_SouthAsians_Sikhs.pdf and find related information at southasianpeoples.imb.org.
Caroline Anderson is an International Mission Board (IMB) writer living in Asia.

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  • Caroline Anderson