Sikhs around the world have been marking an important anniversary, namely the death of the 5th Guru
Over the last few days, Sikhs around the world have been marking an important anniversary, namely the death of the 5th Guru. It’s a moment which changed the community forever. In 1606, the Guru was arrested by the Mughal authorities. Various reasons were given for his detention. He was tortured horribly, told to renounce his faith, and when he refused, he was killed. He became the first person to die simply for being Sikh. The community was completely devastated by this, but the Guru’s son, who in turn had become the 6th Guru, ensured that the collective grief developed into a source of strength, to show that Sikhs wouldn’t be downtrodden by others, and ultimately transformed the Sikh community into the religion it is today, a faith willing to fight for true equality for all, regardless of people’s backgrounds or beliefs.
That collective response to a tragic event is something we’ve seen this week. On Monday evening, Soho in central London came to a standstill as thousands gathered to remember the 49 gay men and women killed in Orlando at the weekend. Many people from faith communities attended the vigil, including from my own organisation, the Faiths Forum for London. It was a deeply moving show of strength and defiance against those who want to tear communities apart with hatred.
The location was poignant. The vigil centred on the gay pub where the London nail bomber had killed three people just 17 years ago. In the weeks before that attack, David Copeland had bombed the diverse areas of Brixton and Brick Lane, leading to countless injuries. His next target would have been Southall, home to one of the largest gurdwaras in Europe.
It’s often difficult in the immediate aftermath of an atrocity for us to look beyond grief and anger. Emotions are still raw, especially when a community has been targeted simply for being true to itself. But a society’s collective response can change that narrative, taking control away from those who want to spread hatred and fear.
To mark the 5th Guru’s death, Sikhs give cold drinks to people passing outside gurdwaras to remember the Guru’s thirst whilst being tortured and to make sure others don’t suffer like he did. Love, strength and compassion, not fear, is what emerged from that tragedy.
At times like this, all communities must come together to show they aren’t scared or frightened by the senseless acts of the few, and that we’ll fight for what we believe is right and just. The last living Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, put it well when he said “Oh Lord, grant me this boon that I may never refrain from rightful deeds”.
Because ultimately, as the social media response to the Orlando shootings has made very clear, ‘Love Wins’.