Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune, who serves as vice president for Grace and Race Ministries, Inc., represented the ministry at a press conference on Jan. 26, 2015 at the National Press Club for the launch of a public awareness campaign about Sikhism. Sikhs have lived in America for hundreds of years but a majority of Americans do not know anything about adherents of the faith. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th many Sikhs have experienced increased incidents of violence, bullying and discrimination because of what they wear and others’ ignorance about what they believe.
Grace and Race Ministries supports the Sikh community and their efforts to educate Americans about their faith. Increasing awareness and understanding of Sikhs can only strengthen America and lead us toward full reconciliation and healing from a checkered past of bigotry and prejudice.
Below are Dr. Copeland-Tune’s remarks from the launch of the National Sikh Campaign.
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this important event. I am honored to be here with you today representing Grace and Race Ministries, which has as its mission to help foster racial understanding, healing and reconciliation.
It was just before 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001 when the world as we knew it changed. We could not have envisioned such devastation on American soil. We could not have fathomed such hatred wielded against innocent people. But, sadly, the hatred that drove planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in NY did not stop there. It spilled over to Mesa, Arizona so that four days later the life of another innocent person was taken, that of Balbir Singh Sodhi. He was not killed because of anything that he had done. He was not killed because of anything he said. He was not killed because of his job or because he was serving his country. He was not even killed because of his religious beliefs. He was murdered because of mistaken identity. Because someone simply looked at him and decided his life was collateral damage in a war—not against terrorism—but against those who look different and have different beliefs. Can you imagine living with that kind of daily threat to your life and that of your family? Can you imagine your life hanging in the balance based on someone else’s perception of who you are and what you represent?
Yes, 9/11 was a tragedy of epic proportions. But 9/15 was also a tragedy and one that tears at the very fabric of American society and values. We are here today because the remnants of that tragedy continue as Sikhs are discriminated against and mistreated because of how they look and what others think they believe. (more…)