Sat Nam, brothers and sisters!
I am a former U.S. Marine and someone who has been involved with Gurdwara and Solstice security for decades. I would like to address what I see as a general absence of security/soldier consciousness within Sikh communities by quoting the Siri Singh Sahib, who said:
“Human is a blend of Saint and Soldier; this is a complete person. If you are not a Soldier your sainthood will be kicked around. If you are only a Soldier, not a Saint, you will start kicking others around.”
The Siri Singh Sahib was once asked to express his priorities at a 3HO Solstice Sadhana gathering in the early ‘70s. His reply was, “Security, Security, Security.” And since the establishment of the Guru Ram Das Ashram in Los Angeles, and until this very day, a sevadar is posted at the door of the gurdwara as ordered by the Siri Singh Sahib. Security has been a priority consideration since the earliest days of 3HO/Sikh Dharma.
While recently speaking with a sangat member regarding the subject of Gurdwara Security, she mentioned how she thought she would respond to a shooting within her community. She said her first instinct would be to physically cover any potential victims with her body as a shield. I advised her that this would be exactly the wrong action to take. I suggested that she think about the instructions given by airline attendants concerning an in-flight emergency. Passengers are advised to take self-saving actions first by utilizing their oxygen mask on themselves before attempting to assist anybody else.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but self-preservation must be the first response in order for other potential victims to be protected and defended. Contrary to the unfortunate outcomes of numerous recent horrific events, a shooting is not a situation where potential victims are without recourse. This is addressed in numerous, simple, and surprising ways in a survival training video called Survival Edge: Active Shooter Survival, available at ACTCert.com (ACT stands for Attack Countermeasures Training), which I urge all communities to acquire and watch. This DVD provides a reality-based, step-by-step training program that covers how to protect yourself and others from extreme violence, including responding to an active shooter, managing workplace violence, improving Gurdwara security, becoming better prepared, saving innocent lives and surviving terrorism.
Though the outcome of the shooting event in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last year was horrific, those murders might have been preventable to a significant extent. There are specific actions (some even at the time of the attack) that could have possibly mitigated the outcome.
Since the incident, many Sikhs have opined that as unfortunate as it was, it was the will of God and Guru. This is true. But I opine that the event did not just happen in order to happen. It happened with a clear and challenging message to the Sadh Sangat: as Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh, it is our sacred duty to defend the weak and protect the innocent.
My question is, what are we collectively doing to meet this challenge? What are we doing in the way of securing our communities, whereby we honor our sacred duty?
My concern is that with the passage of time, the memory of the Oak Creek massacre and other tragedies will fade away. I strongly encourage all members of the Sikh community – and especially Sikh Dharma Ministers – to act now to meet this ever-present challenge – not out of a sense of reactionary fear, but with the same attention and fearless dedication as our beloved Siri Singh Sahib.
As a member of the Solstice security team, I am working to help develop programs and awareness and I am happy to receive communication from sangat members to discuss this topic.
My website at www.GurdwaraSecurity.com provides resources, tips, and thoughts about this important topic.
Mukhia Singh Sahib Hari Singh Bird Khalsa