Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Personal Reflection on the Shootings in Wisconsin

Hello, My name is Harsha Nahata. I'm a junior at the University of Michigan, studying public policy. This past weekend - August 3rd through 4th - I had the pleasure of attending the HASC Next Generation Seva Leaders Conference. In light of the events that occurred on August 5th, this is my reflection on the conference, the shootings in Wisconsin, and how we can use our faith and service to move on and heal from this tragedy. This past weekend at the HASC conference, we learned about the importance of interfaith work, of increasing awareness especially of the Eastern religions. And we also learned the importance of using these connections to impact the communities around us by making social change; to combat anger, hopelessness, and hate, with love and compassion. We heard from many inspirational speakers, one of whom was Valerie Kaur from Groundswell. Valerie traveled the country post 9/11 collecting stories Sikh Americans from around the country facing discrimination and hate violence. She turned these stories into a documentary that is now available for viewing. Her work in telling stories of individuals who are suffering is inspirational, and all the more necessary after today's events in Wisconsin. Telling these stories won't stop every crazy individual with a gun looking to shoot, but it will inspire dialogue and help us empathize with the victims. There is no excuse for targeting a group of individuals on the basis of religion, not in this country at least. There is no justification, no logical rationale. The events in Milwaukee, Wisconsin were horrific. My thoughts and prayers genuinely go out to all the victims and the entire Sikh community. They are once more unfairly made the target of unnecessary anger and hate. I'm not Sikh. I grew up in a Jain household. But even so, for me the impact is no different than what it would be if it was a Jain temple that was targeted. It isn't a matter of faith, as we talked about at the HASC conference, it's a matter of basic humanity. Of spreading love and compassion, not fear or anger or hate. It's a matter of standing together with a community that has been and continues to be unfairly targeted. It's a matter of standing in unity with people who were innocent victims of circumstance and irrational malice. At the conference we discussed unity among the Dharmic traditions to great length. We talked about how essential it was for Eastern religions to unite and follow through on their commitment to service and Seva within the communities, to make the world a better place than we found it. There isn't much positive that can be drawn from this situation or from these events. But, they do present us with an opportunity. An opportunity to unite with one another, to stand by each other in a time of great tragedy, and to work together to spread awareness. We were told, at the conference, that it isn't the grand things you can do, but the small things. The tiny ways you can make an impact on an individual or a community. If ever there was a time to unite and work to make someone's world a little bit better, it is now. We can't go back in time and undo what happened in Wisconsin today, but we can show the community in Milwaukee that they do not stand alone. That we support them and stand with them.

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