Interfaith Student Group Presents Documentary and Welcomes Sikh Research Institute
Fairfield University’s interfaith student club, Common Ground, recently hosted a viewing of the documentary, Waking in Oak Creek, followed by a discussion led by Inni Kaur, CEO of the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI).
The documentary was the first in a film series released in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the organization, Not in Our Town (NIOT), which focused on efforts to help law enforcement and communities work together on hate crime prevention. Not in Our Town is a movement that was developed in 1995 to stop hate, address bullying and build safe, inclusive communities for all.
Waking in Oak Creek documents the law enforcement and community response to the hate crime killings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, August 5, 2012, when six Sikh worshippers were killed while praying and Oak Creek police Lieutenant Brian Murphy was shot 15 times by a white supremacist. Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards and Mayor Steve Scaffidi responded to the events by joining forces with the Sikh community, city leaders and community members to address the needs of victims and their families and guide the community toward healing. With a spirit of resilience, young temple members, still grieving, emerge as leaders in the quest to end the violence. The film also focuses on best practices in community engagement to prevent hate crimes, support victims and encourage effective law enforcement around these incidents.
Kaur’s talk focused on race relations in America and the impact of love: “The only way to conquer hate is through love. It boils down to that.” Kaur spoke about the history of the Sikh community and the Sikh belief that “the light of God is in everyone, the divine is in everyone.” Kaur explained, “Sikhs are defenders of the faith, not one faith, everyone’s faith.” She continued, “People have given up their lives for their own faith, but to give up your life for the freedom of another’s faith, that is what a Sikh’s faith is about.” Kaur also spoke about how the hate crime in Oak Creek strengthened their community: “It produced love in spite of the horrible act in that community. That is why these documentaries are being made, to show there is hope.”
A long time Fairfield resident, Kaur is dedicated to community and service of others and is a respected artist, poet, published author and member of several faith-based organizations. As CEO of Sikh Research Institute whose mission is to provide educational services to the community, Kaur leads SikhRI’s team of writers, professors and speakers who educate a range of audiences on the five hundred year Sikhi history, culture and value system.
As an advocate and representative of the Sikh community for interfaith and education forums, Kaur has addressed the U.S. Office of the Pentagon Chaplin several times and has made presentations at universities as well as creating awareness of the Sikh identity to the Connecticut Board of Education, local police departments and area schools. Kaur serves on the Board of the Interfaith Council of Southern Connecticut, an organization dedicated to increasing interfaith understanding. She also serves as a local Justice of the Peace. Prior to moving to the United States in 1982, Kaur has lived in Kuwait, New Zealand, Australia and Greece.
Click Waking in Oak Creek for more information about the film and Not in Our Town.