As we travel throughout the world speaking to parents and professional people about their families, we meet amazing, wonderful leaders of all different religions and cultures.
Recently, on a trip to Monte Carlo, Monaco, our host was a remarkable corporate president who is the devoted father of three small children, and is a practicing Sikh. We liked him quickly and his wife instinctively. They had a calm, serene spirit and the same family-centered priorities that we do. They were empathetic and interested in us.
He took me (Richard) to the fabulous tennis club where the Monte Carlo Open is played, and we played a couple of sets — he with his turban on. In our association, he followed all of the tenets of his faith, and we shared our beliefs with each other.
The turban and never cutting his hair are symbolic to Sikhs just as our temple beliefs and clothing are symbolic to us. Their temples serve free meals to everyone who comes and they do much humanitarian work just as we do. At their “Golden Temple” in India, they feed more than 50,000 people every day.
I learned from my new friend that Sikhs view themselves as a sort of “reformed” or “restored” Hinduism, much as Mormons view themselves as restored Christianity. Their brand of Hinduism emphasizes a belief in one God instead of the many gods embraced by Hinduism.
Since then, we have met and become acquainted with many Sikhs in India, in the Middle East and particularly here in Salt Lake City. Our favorite Indian restaurant, The Bombay House, is run by Sikhs and owned by a remarkable and highly cultured and friendly man we call “Paul.” The Sikh temple in West Valley City on Redwood Road is the religious home to hundreds of wonderful people who live their religion and are great citizens in their neighborhoods and communities. So far, every Sikh we have met has a calm and gentle nature that we admire. Of course, like all faiths, there are Sikhs who do not live up to the religion’s ideals, but to this point, we have not met a single one of them.
Which is one reason that what happened recently at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin is so sad.
It is sad for the Sikh people everywhere and for all those who know them. It is sad for America, whose tradition is one of merging, melting together and learning to appreciate each other for our commonality and for our differences. Perhaps most of all, it is sad that hate groups, like the one the gunman affiliated with, still exist in this country — and, in fact, seem to be more numerous than ever before. These are people who know little about those they hate — other than that they look different than those who hate them.
Hate is a hard problem to deal with. It becomes so deeply ingrained in people and is always associated with fear and insecurity. But if we can’t eradicate it in the current generation, surely we can prevent it from ever taking root in our children. We must each strive to teach our own kids how right it is to love and embrace all cultures, races and religions, and how very wrong and foolish it is to hate any of them.
The shootings would have been sad no matter which religion was targeted. It would have been sad if it had been Muslims, or if it had been Buddhists, or if it had been Mennonites.
But for us, it was particularly sad that it happened to a faith as gentle and peaceful and compassionate as the Sikhs.
We called the Sikh Temple in West Valley City and offered our condolences. Typical of them, they were deeply thankful and simply invited us to come and visit them and become better acquainted with the good that they are trying to do in their neighborhood and community.
It is an invitation we will gladly accept.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.