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Today my name is Julie Saur. I am a Sikh.
If I were male, I would take the last name Singh as a sign of my faith. Saur means princess. Singh means lion.
In the Sikh faith, we believe there is one God for all people and all religions. We believe, as Jesus did, that all people are children of God. Our guru teaches that "deep within the self is the light of God." Your Christian Bible teaches the same truth.
At the same time your Presbyterian Church was being founded by John Calvin in Europe, our faith began in Northern India by the Guru Nanak. There were other gurus who led the faith after him. We are now the fifth largest faith group in the world with 20 million disciples, even larger than Judaism.
Christianity and Sikhism share many of the same values. We gather to worship in temples called gurdwaras, which means gateway to teaching. Our gurdwaras are open 24 hours a day to provide refuge and prayer. We sing hymns together called kirtan, we read and interpret our holy writings, we give offerings and we pray. All of our gurdwaras host free community kitchens and feed people of all backgrounds. We know you do this too.
We believe in adult baptism into khalsa, which means purity. We call ourselves disciples, which means student. We believe that holiness is achieved in daily, family life, and we do not practice celibacy or set aside some people as priests. We share your respect for religious freedom and submission to God's will. We also believe in salvation by grace alone, not by human works.
Sikhs like me honor commitment, dedication, social conscience, service, humility and equality. We see many of those qualities in Christians. There are differences between our traditions, and we honor those as well. Yet there is a spirituality that connects us.
My sister and brothers who were killed as they gathered to practice their faith the Sunday before last in Oak Creek, Wis., were not victims. They were witnesses to our teachings. Hatred and violence cannot kill the soul, only the body. As your Lord Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Together we stand against oppression and evil. Today my name is Saur.
Rev. Julie R. Harley is lead pastor of First United Church, 848 Lake St., Oak Park.