By Balwant Sanghera
The recent tragedy in Pittsburgh has shown that racism can raise its ugly head anytime and anywhere. All it takes is one twisted mind who can do so much damage. The massacre of eleven innocent people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in one of America’s thriving communities,Pittsburgh, has sent shock waves throughout the world. In addition to that,more than six persons sustained serious injuries. Some of them are fighting for their lives. This senseless act of violence has been condemned around the globe. We pray for peace for the departed souls and wish early recovery to those injured in this very tragic event. The anti-Semitic truck driver, 46 year old Robert Bowers, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that could put him on death row.
In times of need, Canada has always stood with the victims of such heinous crimes. Canadians from coast to coast to coast, have strongly condemned this act of violence on innocent citizens gathered to pray at their place of worship. Here in Richmond, amongst others, the Highway to Heaven Association (H2HA) and India Cultural Centre of Canada Gurdwara Nanak Niwas has expressed condolences and support to the Jewish community. All of us standsolidly with the Jewish community. Such tragedies can happen anywhere any time. Thus, we must count our blessings and be thankful for living in a country like Canada.Unfortunately, no group, community or country is immune to such unthinkable tragedies as we saw in Quebec in 2017 when six innocent worshippers lost their lives in a mosque.
When something like this happens, people are forced to think as to why incidents like these take place and what we, as concerned citizens, can do to avert them. In this context, education plays a major role. Most of the religions advocate that as human beings we are connected with each other and welfare of humanity should be our top priority. We need to work hard to reach out not only to each other but also to the fanatics with twisted minds who have no regard for their fellow human beings. Low self-esteem, social isolation, ignorance about “others” and fear of the unknown are some of the driving forces that play a major role in such tragedies. Responding to hate with love and understanding is one of the key ingredients for peaceful co-existence.
The political climate plays a crucial role in promoting love and understanding amongst its citizens. Unfortunately, the political developments in the U.S. during the past few years have resulted in creating divisions and hatred amongst different groups rather than love and understanding. In this context, Canadians are rather fortunate. Our political leadership at all three levels-local, provincial and federal-has been quite proactive in promoting harmony amongst various communities. This has made it as one of the most desirable countries to live in. Canada is well-known throughout the world as a very inclusive and welcoming country. Its emphasis on inclusion, mutual respect and cultural diversity is second to none.
Canada is now home to more than 200 communities from every corner of the world. Canadians are well-known for their open mindedness, tolerance and compassion.As a land of immigrants, we understand what it means to start anew and what it feels like to be welcomed into a new home. This, in part, explains the tolerance and compassion Canadians feel towards one another.This country’s respect for human rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a model for others to follow. It may be one of the reasons that we have been spared the kind of racial tension that has reared its ugly head in many countries. However,rather than resting on our laurels, we need to realize that what happened in Pittsburgh can happen anywhere. As such, we need to be proactive in ensuring that tragedies likethe ones in QuebecCity and Pittsburgh never happen again.
Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.