On August 5, 2012, a neo-Nazi walked into a Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and massacred worshippers inside, killing seven and permanently altering the lives of many others. Since then, additional Sikh gurdwaras and other American houses of worship have been actively targeted through vandalism, arson, bomb threats, bioterrorism, and mass shootings. Members of the Sikh American community and gurdwaras continue to be targets for acts of hate.
Sikhs have a long tradition of defending gurdwaras against attacks. However, many are not necessarily aware of how to obtain free security consultations and safety checks that will better protect their gurdwaras.
Since 2017, the Sikh Coalition has been sharing free security preparedness resources with almost 300 gurdwaras across the United States. Using existing guidance from the federal government, we have been sharing authoritative guidance on improving security with gurdwaras of all sizes. The expertise, knowledge, and recommendations shared by these security experts is some of the best in the country.
Every gurdwara is different and has unique security challenges that can only be identified by appropriate experts. We introduce gurdwaras to local, state, and federal security experts to conduct free in-person security assessments. These consultants can visit your gurdwara and provide advice for improving security, such as installing alarm systems and video cameras, improving locks and lighting, and creating an emergency response plan. Based on the recommendations provided by security experts gurdwaras are able to determine how to address their specific security needs through training, enhancing security features, or even improving the relationship between emergency response officials.
- gurdwaras nationwide
- gurdwaras have taken proactive steps for greater security
- free consultation can help prevent hate
Since the 2017 launch of this program, more than 80 gurdwaras have worked with the Sikh Coalition to take proactive steps to make their gurdwaras safer. In most cases, the free security recommendations identified safety improvements that the gurdwaras were not previously aware of. These simple and effective security consultations have helped gurdwaras to implement new security measures without altering the welcoming environment and helped mitigate some of the threats gurdwaras face.
Upon completing a free security assessment, gurdwaras are better able to determine what types of trainings are necessary to protect the sangat (community). Examples of training programs include active shooter response, bioterrorism awareness, and arson prevention. Some gurdwaras may also be eligible for federal grant programs that cover the cost of improving security.
Gurdwaras have also found that in-person security consultations helped improve relationships between local first responders and the Sikh American community. Improving dialogue and trust between local first responders reduces delays in response and reduces misunderstanding on proper observance practices in a gurdwara.
How You Can Help
Ask your gurdwara committee to review the security preparedness resources, available for free in English and Punjabi.
Gurdwara officials: Call (212) 655-3095 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a free security consultation and obtain more information about the security preparedness program. Requests can be made in English or Punjabi.
“No one thinks of your problems until they know you're there, and once that introduction has been made, they think of you and keep you updated. Important for us to let these agencies know that we are a part of the community. I would tell every gurdwara to jump on it because it's so easy, great, and free!”
Sudha Chopra, Lexington, KY