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Making sense of the senseless

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Making sense of the senseless


"Our religion views suicide as a cowardly act." -- Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, Ottawa Sikh Society

And none of the world's great religions condones cold-blooded murder of the innocent. But no matter how devout a person might be to one's religion, no matter who that passionate adherent might be, evil has shown its ability to invade the human mind, trumping the precepts of love and peace and goodwill.

Is the Pope himself -- head of the world's largest religion -- immune to his mind suddenly or slowly snapping, with him committing an act of unspeakable violence simply because of his transcendent religious devoutness, simply because he's the Pope?

Popes are not God.

Popes are human beings.

Four human beings who belonged to another of the world's great religions, Sikhism, are dead today -- the murderer of three of them then murdering himself -- and while we don't know how religiously devout the murderer was, Harpreet Kochhar does know that what happened in the house at 175 Grandpark Circle went against all the canons of the religion, one of the reasons he expresses the feelings of Ottawa's Sikh community: "We are all shell-shocked."

Sikhism believes in human death as a liberation, that one is reincarnated, that there are multiple lives to the soul, "but human life is the most cherished form." Sikhism, he said, is a religion of caring for others, of "protecting the weak and downtrodden in society," a religion of "strong, loving, family values where women are equal to men."

Death, as a liberator from this life to another life "means through natural causes" and not --in the case of the Sikh father who shot to death his wife and two daughters -- his suicide by turning the rifle on himself.

Sikhism, says Kochhar, regards the body as a temple built by God to be cared for, respected, and maintained. And that suffering is understood and accepted without complaint as part of life's journey.

"Our religion views suicide as a cowardly act. If somebody murders, or commits suicide, we consider it a very, very, inhumane act. Our religion is to be a protector, not a destroyer."

What motivated the father at 175 Grandpark to kill his wife and two young daughters before killing himself is still a mystery, and it's also a mystery why he had a rifle, bullets, and where and when he got them. There would seem to be only three reasons any person has a rifle: He's a collector. He's a hunter. He's planning a murder.

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, senior adviser in animal research with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says Sikhism does not have a position against ownership of guns. "It's not encouraged or discouraged, it's a personal choice. But, we are a peace-loving religion."

Culture clash?

Owning a rifle for hunting? "We're not necessarily against hunting. But what is very, very much discouraged in our religion is killing for pleasure, killing for sport, or killing for no reason. If a gun is used to protect your life from an animal, that's different, that's okay."

Sikhism is a religion of strict dress codes, abstinence from alcohol and smoking, and being that there are heretics in every religion, is it possible a cultural clash was behind the slayings at 175 Grandpark?

"I would not venture an opinion. None of us knows. We've done some networking, and haven't found anyone who knew them. They were not members of our society. They kept to themselves."

Does the Sikh religion provide for so-called "honour killings," as some religious sects have been known to condone, even though misguided conscience assuagers?

"No. It is not considered. It is not seen as normal in the Sikh religion. It is not encouraged at all. As I said, we are the ones who should be the protectors. Our religion teaches a non-violent approach to life."

Murder-suicide. Four people dead.

People are talking about the weather. Life moves on.

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