My name is Dr. Japjeet Kaur. I am originally from Weelde near Turnhout, Belgium. I lived half of my life in Leuven, 15km away from Brussels.
As a practising (Khalsa) Sikh, I’m very sad to hear about the terror attacks in Brussels today. This is a terrible tragedy and I want all of Belgium to know that the Sikh community globally sends its love and goodwill to the families of the dead and best wishes to those injured so they recover both physically and psychologically.
The Sikh community I am part of look very different to most people in the West, especially as we have turbans. Sikh men also have full beards. To some who may not have seen a Sikh before we look strange and they may associate this look with terrorism.
But there are many Sikhs in Belgium and we have many Sikh temples here in Liege, in Vilvoorde (in Brussels), in Ghent, in Sint-Truiden, in Alken and in Borgloon. Many Sikhs came to Europe in WW1/WW2 and fought against tyranny and oppression. There are many Sikh names at the memorial in Neuve Chapele and also at Ypres.
Sikhs believe that all humans are equal and that everyone should have freedom to live in peace. One of the key principles of Sikhi is to have free food available for anyone who comes to the Sikh temple.
As a Belgian Sikh, I want to reach out to the grieving masses and say that we should all try not to give in to the fear and anger that these terrorists want to create within us. The very first verse in Sikh scripture, our root mantra, says that God is Without Fear and Without Hate. In the spirit of this, we invite all of you to come and visit a Gurdwara in Belgium, have a meal with us and share in our hospitality. Instead of Hate and Fear, let’s unite and break bread together.
Dr Japjeet Kaur
PhD and former postdoc at KULeuven University/University of Louvain, Belgium