Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 7: Jasnam Daya Singh and Sahaj Kohil


This is my friend Jasnam Daya Singh, formerly known as Weber Iago. He's a Brazilian immigrant and an incredibly talented, Latin grammy-nominated jazz pianist and composer who has performed all over the world. He grew up Catholic, but now he is Sikh.* We are extremely fortunate to have him play piano at our church, Spirit of Grace--he has become a beloved part of our community. Here's a sample of his playing.

Just the other day, I was asking him if he is worried about traveling because of the recent crackdown by immigration and border agents. He told me he wasn't too worried because he's an American citizen. And then the next day I read about the Sikh man who was shot in his driveway outside of Seattle, of all places. My heart is hurting.

After reading today's scripture, I knew I wanted to write about Jasnam. And in a divinely inspired moment, I came across this piece by Sahaj Kohil, a Sikh-American woman, who wrote, "America's Melting Pot is Boiling People to Death."

Kohil writes, "Every single day I wake up with a sense of dread that something is going to happen to someone I love. The chances just keep getting greater." Her family is debating the prospect of leaving the U.S. and learning how to protect themselves, a difficult discussion for believers in nonviolence. Every day, something else happens that makes them question whether they belong here, in the supposed great melting pot.
"It reminds me of the boiling frog metaphor: When a frog is put into boiling water, it immediately jumps out, but if you heat the water slowly, it doesn’t perceive danger and thus is boiled. 
Almost every day, I read or hear about a story of a minority being accosted or attacked. And as long as our government leaders are silent, and as long as we allow discriminatory rhetoric to go unchallenged in the media, hate will only continue to flourish. People of color are growing accustomed to imminent danger and living in fear of threats and attacks; before we know it, we’ll all be, or know someone, personally affected by this prevalent hate."
To Kohil and many other brown people (especially those who are visibly of a different faith than Christianity), America doesn't feel free any more. It feels frightening, especially when people are gunned down in their driveways or at the bars they frequent with friends.

"As long as our government leaders are silent," Kohil writes, "and as long as we allow discriminatory rhetoric to go unchallenged in the media, hate will only continue to flourish."

My friend Jasnam is one of the kindest, most compassionate men I know. He and all the other people of other faiths in my circle--Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh--are peaceful, loving people. They deserve to be loved and embraced as our own, as we read in Leviticus.

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

*Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, and 250,000 of them live in the U.S. Sikhism is monotheistic, founded in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev. Sikhism broke from Hinduism mostly because it rejects the Hindu caste system. Read more about the Sikh religion.

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