By Mark Wolfe, President of the Interfaith Forum
and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Fellow
I always used to wonder what the word “Gurdwara”
meant when my family would travel to church
on Sunday mornings. The word was plastered on
the front of a building that was continually in our
path, and I would often see people walking around
the complex with turbans adorning their head. With
my limited knowledge of different faiths at the age of
nine, I never considered I might be viewing a Sikh
community. After the September 11, 2001 attacks
that forever changed America’s perception of the
world, my own perception of the “weird” people at
the “Gurdwara” was forever changed.
Few know that 99 percent of Americans that wear
turbans are Sikhs. Sikhs even have a bracelet that is
worn to differentiate themselves from Muslims because
the two groups seem so similar in appearance.
After 9/11, the entire American Sikh community
found themselves as the unwilling victims of misguided
aggression meant for innocent Muslims.
The Sikh Satsang in Indianapolis could not escape
this unfortunate onslaught. Rocks were thrown into
their building. Graffiti defaced their beautiful complex.
I was confused because I could not understand
why anyone would want to harm these innocent
My church saw what occurred at the complex
down the street and decided to take action. As we
knew most of the problem was a result of ignorance
of Sikhism, my church enacted a worship service
swap. The Sikhs visited my church for a Sunday service,
and we visited the Sikhs for a Sunday service. I
was invited to become part of the Sikh community
for a day, and I wore my turban proudly as I dined
on Indian food for lunch. I still did not fully comprehend
Sikhism, but I knew that these people did
not have a harmful bone in their bodies. After we
swapped services, my church helped restore the
Sikh temple to its original state, as Sikhs and Christians
worked alongside each other to bring about a
As I look back on the persecution the Sikhs suffered,
I realize that I still see a world around us that
is fearful of the unknown. With the backdrop of the
Ground Zero Mosque controversy and the threatened
Quran burnings by Terry Jones, I see a fragmented
America. Even at the University of Indianapolis,
my college campus, I see a separation between
student groups. I watch as Christians associate with
Christians, Jews associate with Jews, Muslims associate
with Muslims, etc. There is another world that lies
outside our grasp because we choose not to engage
it. There is no reason that Christians, Jews, Muslims,
Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others cannot come
together in harmony. I saw Christians and Sikhs do
it during a time of distress. Why can we not do it in a
time of peace?
While we let our faith identities conflict, we let the
rest of the world decay. Wars from Iraq to the Congo
cause suffering for innocent bystanders. Hunger and
dirty water plague those in the developing world.
Homeless live on the street with no roof over their
head. Children are brought into prostitution every
day. Disease wreaks havoc on the health of multitudes.
There is so much pain that all faiths are called
to heal. Christians wish to show the compassion of
Christ to others. Jews wish to fulfill the Law that God
has sent them to address the needs of others. Buddhists
wish to ease the suffering of those around
them. Imagine what we could do while united. Imagine
the ideas that could come from the discussion of
multiple great thinkers from different backgrounds.
Imagine the change we could make in the world. But
change does not occur from ideas or imagination; it
comes from action.
On Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Indianapolis community
will be invited to the University of Indianapolis
to take the first step towards an interfaith
reality at the “What IF?” Speak-In Event. First, a
service project that will make no-sew blankets for
a homeless center run by the Interfaith Hospitality
Network (IHN) will start at 7 p.m. Afterwards,
a panel of speakers from the IHN will discuss
their commitment towards serving the homeless
and interfaith cooperation. Lastly, there will be
facilitated small group interfaith dialogues on the
shared goal of social action. The event will conclude
around 9 p.m.
What if other faiths worked together instead of
working separately? What if the combined forces
of social activists across faith lines worked on a
social issue like homelessness? What if we decided
to act now? Would we change the world?
On Nov. 16, Indianapolis will discover that we are
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