"May peace pass from my hand to yours."
That is the motto of Peace Learning Circle, which in conjunction with Racine Community Acupuncture presented a community education program titled "ONE Community, ONE World: Understanding the Sikh Community" Wednesday in Oak Creek and Thursday in Racine.
In the aftermath of the Aug. 5 Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting that took the lives of six temple members, three women—Peace Learning Circle's Sue Hollow, Racine Community Acupuncture Owner Christie Kern and Kern's client Christine Donalies—took it upon themselves to put that motto into action.
Kern was incredibly disheartened following the shooting. That day's events brought back memories of her time in Trinidad in 1990, when a coup claimed the lives of 50 people.
Kern remembered feeling helpless to stop the senseless violence in Trinidad. Instead of letting that feeling overcome her again after the temple shooting, Kern acted.
"I realized that if I can do something, anything at all, and help someone have a voice, then I would take action," Kern said.
"Acupuncture is really about bringing peace to people. Since that's what I do every day, all day, it just seemed like this was a good time to find other ways to bring peace."
The goal of the program, according to Kern, was to promote a simple idea: despite different cultures, we are all the same.
That theme resonated throughout the night as speakers talked about the Sikh religion and culture. They discussed how different cultures and communities can come together and celebrate their differences through understanding and education.
Valarie Kaur, a filmmaker and civil rights advocate who presented during the program, spoke about her experience during the victims' funeral service.
"The people of Oak Creek came out in the thousands and said together, 'Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,'" Kaur said. "Your love is helping to drive hate out."
Kaur presented and narrated short excerpts from her two films, "Divided We Fall," which documented intolerance towards Sikhs after Sept. 11, and "Oak Creek: In Memoriam," which documented her time in Oak Creek after the Sikh temple tragedy.
Filmmaker Sharat Raju also presented his film "American Made," which focused on the issues of racial and religious prejudice in America today.
Each film centered on the theme that understanding and acceptance brings peace.
Kamal Saini, whose mother was killed in the attacks, and Pardeep Singh Kaleka, son of slain temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, presented emotional testimonies describing their experiences after the shooting.
Describing the hectic scene at the temple in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Saini noted, "the unity I saw as soon as I got there. It wasn't just Punjabi or Sikh people; it was whites, blacks, every race and culture. It was great to see that support in that moment."
Kaur was also thankful to the Oak Creek community.
"We've spent many weeks coming to Oak Creek, trying to find ways to get the (victims' and community's) stories out to the wider world," Kaur said. "In the process, there were family members who led us into their lives and homes. It really feels like you all have become our second family."
Those who spoke in a question-and-answer session afterward also offered emotional accounts and shared their experiences in the aftermath of the shooting. As many audience members shed tears when speaking, those around were quick to embrace them with a hug.
Kaur summed up the evening by stating a basic tenant of the Sikh religion.
"God is one, humanity is one," Kaur said. "Beneath all these husks and labels, we are all one."