NORWICH, CT, USA—Since 9/11, Sikhs have unfairly become targets of religious-based attacks. Hate crime reports from previous years have shown a troubling trend towards hate-motivated violence against Sikhs mistaken for Muslims. Many Sikhs are now living in fear that the current perceived anti-immigrant and anti-muslim rhetoric in the US (and other Western countries) could lead to another uptick in bigoted attacks.
“After the Quebec attack in Canada we asked our members to be vigilant, but today we’re asking them to be proactive. Let’s combat this growing climate of fear and xenophobia with compassion,” Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, organizer of UNITED SIKHS Connecticut Chapter said.
That’s one of the thoughts behind the UNITED SIKHS Connecticut Community Food Drive. As part of this quarterly event, a dozen or more volunteers (usually Sikhs) will prepare and distribute food to residents in need in Norwich, Connecticut. The first food drive was held February 12th at Lee Memorial Chapel in Norwich. Up to 75 people in need received a home-cooked meal, complete with rice, beans, salad and a dessert.
“Food is one thing which connects people and I believe this is one way we can reach out to fellow Americans and initiate the dialog that may otherwise never be had. We hope that by increasing community engagement we can decrease the likelihood of hate-motivated crime towards us – and other marginalized groups,” Swaranjit Singh said.
The UNITED SIKHS, an international UN-affiliated ngo that offers humanitarian relief and legal assistance to Sikhs and others in need, hopes that by taking more proactive steps towards community building, it can ensure less discrimination cases comes through its doors.
“Sikhs have been living in the United State for more than 100 years but are still victims of ongoing hate and racial profiling. Being an organization that works for human rights and civil rights, I think it’s very important we take these kind of outreach programs to every city,” Swaranjit Singh said.
Swaranjit Singh says the mission behind the foot outreach is inline with what Sikhism teaches. “The message of Guru Nanak (Founder of Sikhism) which is love, compassion, sharing equality needs to go door to door and we believe this is good way to start. Every month UNITED SIKHS will plan something in a different town and different city to reach out to people and share message of Guru Gobind Singh ji which is ‘Recognize All Human Race as one,'” Swaranjit Singh said. UNITED SIKHS as a part of their Humanitarian Aid chapter conducts similar drives in Los Angeles, Toronto and in New York City.
February has been an active month for UNITED SIKHS. The organization had a major presence in Yuba City last week as it (along with CEMA) provided food and shelter to the families who evacuated during the flood threat. A video of one grateful volunteer, went viral last week.