In this hostile climate, we have to protect our children -- both from becoming targets of bigotry and fear and from becoming bigoted and fearful themselves. As Sikhs around the world remember their ninth guru -- Guru Tegh Bahadur (d. 1675) -- I draw from his life and teachings to highlight two key lessons.
First, if we are truly people of conscience, we must be willing to put our lives on the line for justice. We cannot sit by idly as people around us are being persecuted. As our tradition maintains, although the Sikh community was in stable political standing at the time, other local communities were being oppressed. Guru Tegh Bahadur confronted the emperor about these injustices, and he was imprisoned and ultimately executed for being a steadfast ally. Let us all commit to taking such a principled stand.
Second, our traditions also tell us that Guru Tegh Bahadur wrote a composition while in prison that is now enshrined in the Sikh scripture. This work, Salok Mahala 9, is a beautiful reflection on devotion, justice, and living a life of purpose. One of the most striking couplets in this composition offers a powerful lesson for navigating the difficulties of today's world: "Nanak says, listen to this, my heart and mind. A truly wise person is one who doesn't fear anyone or frighten anyone."
The Sikh worldview is one that advocates for love -- the immersive, all-consuming, drenching kind of love. In that kind of world, there is no space for hate or enemies or fear. This is our tradition, and this is why we have survived all sorts of persecution over the years while being able to maintain our unconquerable spirit of eternal optimism.