Living in Chardhi Kala: One Year after the Shooting in Oak Creek

One year ago, a lone gunman entered a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and senselessly murdered six worshippers and seriously injured several others, including Police Lieutenant Brian Murphy, who was shot 12 times at close range while attempting to save others.

In the last year, individuals and communities around the country have come together in a national conversation about how to respond to crimes of hate and to ensure the safety of all our communities – from Oak Creek to Aurora to Newtown. That conversation continues, and is the reason why the President supports a plan to reduce gun violence through executive and legislative action.

In addition, the Attorney General recently announced that the FBI will add a number of categories in its tracking of hate crimes, including those committed against Sikhs:

After a nearly year-long process, in June of 2013, the Advisory Policy Board that advises the FBI on various issues, including statistical reporting under the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, recommended that the FBI Director add a number of categories in its tracking of hate crimes – including offenses committed against Sikh, Hindu, Arab, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and Orthodox Christian individuals. Director Mueller approved this recommendation. And – as we look toward the future – I’m confident that this change will help us better understand the law enforcement challenges we face. It will empower us to better enforce relevant laws to protect everyone in this country. And it is emblematic of our unwavering resolve to prevent and seek justice for acts of hate and terror.

On Monday, I stood outside the gurdwara in Oak Creek to remember the six worshippers whose lives were lost in the shooting and stand in solidarity with a broad coalition of faith leaders and civil rights advocates, elected officials and law enforcement, and gun safety advocates and victims of gun violence from Tucson, Virginia Tech, and Newtown. There, I had the honor of sharing a message from President Obama to the Oak Creek community, in which he said:

As we mark the anniversary of the tragedy at this Gurdwara, we honor the memory of those who were taken from us too soon, pray for their loved ones whose grief remains, and stand with a community whose enduring commitment to living in Chardhi Kala inspires us all.

In the months and years to come, that Sikh concept of chardhi kala – relentless optimism, even in the face of adversity – will continue to heal and unite the Oak Creek community, and inspire all of us to take action to create a more safe and peaceful future.

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Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the Office of Public Engagement.

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