Testing faith: Sikh Temple in Marysville stays true to its teachings

MARYSVILLE – With President Trump’s immigration policies causing uneasiness and the recent shooting of a Sikh man in Kent, you might expect local Sikhs to be concerned.

Nothing could be further from the truth. At a recent Sunday service, some 250 Sikhs crowded into the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville for worship, music, food, bright multi-colored décor and fellowship across many generations.

Satwant S. Pandher, a retired family lawyer in Everett and President of the Committee temple in Marysville, said the shift in immigration policy has not been an issue.

“I’m personally not very concerned, and I haven’t met anyone else who is afraid or concerned,” Pandher said.

He said they do talk about Trump’s plans and why certain decisions are being made. “We’ve not had to face that before. With the muslim countries, I think the approach is wrong.”

Kirn Kaur is a social worker with the state agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid programs. She said the shooting in Kent, where a man still at large told him to “go back to your own country” before firing, is another unfortunate instance of a lack of education and “mistaking the turban.”

“More than ninety percent of the people wearing turbans are Sikhs, not muslims,” she said.

Kaur said Sikh members have been in the U.S. since the 1880s, and have fought for the nation ever since. They always want to be part of the community, frequent small businesses, go to schools and assimilate, “but hold onto our identity.”

Kaur was born in India and into the Sikh faith.

The Sikh religion originated in the Punjab region of northern India during the 15th century. The fundamental beliefs include faith and meditation in the name of the creator, unity of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct.

The faith is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak, the first guru. The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, is a sacred shrine for Sikhs.

Pandher helped start the temple in Marysville in 1999. Membership has grown from 55 to 250. Families and individuals attend from as far away as Mount Vernon and Shoreline, in addition to Marysville, Everett and Arlington.

Professions among Sikh members include Boeing and other engineers, Microsoft and computer technology employees, doctors, dentists, small-business owners and more.

About 50,000 Sikhs live in Washington state. Most who immigrate here are drawn to the economy and the political system.

In Pandher’s case, it was political and sectarian strife in India that drew him first to England a few decades ago, then to the U.S., where he was able to assist other Sikh members to emigrate from India.

Similar to Christian rituals, Sikhs also baptize their faithful, under strict rule, Pandher said.

He added that Sikhs are a peaceful culture that approves of actions to promote human rights, strives to understand the beliefs of others, and does not believe in an afterlife.

Education is sacrosanct to the Sikhs, and there is an expectation that many students will move on to attend prestigious universities.

At the temple, Kaur teaches the Punjabi language and culture to young students, from pre-school on up.

“We can connect the young children back to their roots by teaching to read, write and speak Punjabi,” Kaur said.

“It also gives us a chance to connect with the younger generation.”

She likes that participation is strong within the learning community, and the Sunday service brings everyone together at one time.

Kaur said they introduce students to the religion and the core principles.

“Serve the community, share with the community and give what you have, and pray for everybody,” she said.

Junior high student Amrit Sidhu enjoys the education she gets both at Totem Middle School and at the temple.

“I love math, and I plan to one day have a career in something to do with technology,” Sidhu said.

She also enjoys spending time with friends and blending in.

Prayers, and her religion, are also important to Sidhu. “Learning about our culture, our history, how we came here, and how everything got started.”