April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. At the Jakara Movement, we are committed to making sure we have an ongoing conversation within our community to bring about a change in our culture. Last year we circulated an "Open Letter" that can be read here. This year we continue that message addressed to two audiences: 1) those that have been threatened, shamed, or guilted into silence after suffering this sort of abuse; 2) an apathetic community that prefers silence over confronting perpetrators.
To those that have endured such crimes, we are with you. You are loved and you are not alone. You have a voice and you have our support. The Jakara Movement condemns the abusers who, no matter what their appearance, must be punished along with the silent consent that makes this abuse possible. Dismissing charges of abuse with responses like, “they [victims] are trying to make the community look bad” or “this is what all parchaaraks (preachers) face” are little more than excuses and attempts to cover up the crime. There are far too many of us that have experienced this sort of violence; together we can make our voices a thunder. In a community that too often sides with the perpetrators, we put the burden of responsibility upon the accused and stand in solidarity with all that have been made to suffer.
Sangat ji, our silence when we hear of these crimes makes us complicit. If we hold our sidhaanth (principles) and love for niyao (justice) above personal loyalties, then we are fulfilling the mission of our Guru. Guru Nanak rejected Sri Chand for an egotistical vision; Guru Gobind Singh forgave Mahan Singh and the Chali Mukte for fulfilling their original vow.
When we idolize the personalities of power, we are committing the worst type of buth-prasti (idol-worship). The Gurus were buth-shikan (idol-destroyers) and freed us from this influence. It is not a person’s status, but the person’s practices that make them worthy of prestige. However, if we learn that these people have abused that prestige and have abused their power, especially to take advantage of others, then we have a duty to stand for the victim. We cannot allow the fear of scandal to silence the most marginalized and the least powerful who have already been stripped of voice within the community. As a sangat we must rise in challenging patriarchal cultures, including our own.
The greatest gift the Guru has given us is a voice and the courage to use it, even against popular positions of apathy. We are sovereign: mind, body and, spirit. As a community which prides itself on its dedication to justice, its proud heritage of those who spoke truth to power, we must continue to rekindle this spirit within us everyday. The Guru sits on a throne of justice, and answers the calls of those who call out. The Jakara Movement is here to call out and give voice to the voiceless. We urge each local sangat to do the same.
Last year we created an open link for those that wished to share their stories to be able to do so. Whether with name or anonymous, the choice is yours. You can even share without wishing for it to be published. Each week, we will share only those that we received consent. If you wish to share or to send the link to someone you know, click here.