‘Understand the why’: Sikh and former white supremacist talk about finding common ground at Calgary event

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You’d by no means assume “Sikh,” “white supremacist” and “mates” could be phrases used collectively in a sentence.

Two males from reverse worlds demonstrated that individuals can overcome variations — and even turn out to be mates — at an occasion at Calgary’s Mount Royal College (MRU) on Tuesday evening.

A brutal assault entwined their lives.


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On Aug. 5, 2012, a white supremacist fatally shot six folks inside a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.

Arno Michaelis was a founding father of the white supremacist group to which the shooter, Wade Michael Web page, belonged. Michaelis had denounced his former affiliation in 1994.

Pardeep Singh Kaleka was the son of Satwant Singh Kaleka, the temple chief and a casualty of the capturing.

After the tragedy, Kaleka reached out to Michaelis to attempt to comprehend the explanation behind the assault.

“Once we first met, he helped me perceive the why and what we will do about it going ahead,” Kaleka mentioned. “Our relationship, our friendship has been instrumental not solely in our communities therapeutic, however [in] my particular person therapeutic.”

The pair labored collectively and based Serve2Unite, a global peacebuilding and academic initiative.

Authors and Serve2Unite​ cofounders Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis spoke at Mount Royal College in Calgary on Tuesday.

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On Tuesday, the boys spoke about their journey by means of empathy on the Manmeet Bhullar Speaker Sequence inside MRU’s Bella Live performance Corridor. They obtained the Arts Distinguished Speaker Award, which acknowledges advocacy work in social sciences.

In collaboration with writer Robin Gaby Fisher, the 2 wrote a ebook referred to as The Present of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist discover Forgiveness after Hate, which was printed in April 2018.

Serve2Unite​ cofounder Pardeep Singh Kaleka spoke at Mount Royal University in Calgary on Tuesday.

Serve2Unite​ cofounder Pardeep Singh Kaleka spoke at Mount Royal College in Calgary on Tuesday.

World Information

Kaleka mentioned folks have to have face-to-face conversations to have the ability to develop stronger collectively.

“I feel divisive instances that exist proper now have been right here for a very long time — it’s simply we’re plugging into a few of that and actually in tune due to social media,” he mentioned.

“Loads of the angst and worry that exists, exists inside us and inside our teams. We have to tackle it.”


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Michaelis agreed that polarization within the present political local weather stems from deep-seated worry.

“I feel what we have to do is create some room for uncertainty,” he mentioned. “In that area for uncertainty, we will have area to take heed to those who we’d not agree with — the beginnings of a path to search out widespread floor.”

Former white supremacist Arno Michaelis spoke at Mount Royal University in Calgary on Tuesday.

Former white supremacist Arno Michaelis spoke at Mount Royal College in Calgary on Tuesday.

World Information

To seek out similarities, Michaelis mentioned folks have to convey that dialog to a private degree and make it about human values — compassion, kindness and forgiveness — no matter ethnic, political and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“As an alternative of discussing macro, geopolitical issues, let’s speak about me and also you and the experiences that we’ve had firsthand, and the way that informs our opinions,” he mentioned.

“It’s potential to not solely heal and work by means of trauma however to achieve a spot the place you possibly can assist others heal as effectively.”

© 2019 World Information, a division of Corus Leisure Inc.

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