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San Gabriel Valley's Sikh Community Honors Shooting Victims

Several hundred packed into the Gurdwara Sahib Walnut, the local Sikh temple, for a candlelight vigil in honor of the six people killed at the Wisconsin Sikh Temple at the hands of a reputed white supremacist.

Though there is much grief for those lost in the Wisconsin shooting at a Sikh temple, there was still a lot of love within the Sikh community.

On Wednesday night, Sikhs from around the San Gabriel Valley gathered at the Gurdwara Sahib Walnut, the local Sikh temple, to express some of that love and to honor six people killed Aug. 5 by a reputed white supremacist.

Hundreds packed the house of worship for a candlelight vigil. Rows of tables held candles that set the front of the Gurdwara aglow in soft light. Several at the vigil wore T-shirt’s with the words “See God in All. I am Sikh. Respect All Faiths.”

On Aug. 5, Wisconsin authorities say Wade Michael Page, 40, walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek and opened fire. He killed six people, five men and a woman. Officials said he then turned the gun on himself.

The events have left a very tight knit Sikh community to grapple with implications of the shooting. Page was a known white supremacist who, according to , once performed with an Orange County-based white supremacist rock band called Youngland.

“We will not react with fear,” said said Birpal Kaur, community relations associate with the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Kaur helped organize the event.

The Gurdwaras have opened their doors, welcoming the public to gather with them and pay homage, she said. Several vigils, like the one in Walnut, have been held around the country. A vigil in Washington D.C. drew nearly 800 people, she said.

“One of the biggest concepts, not only take God’s will, but take it in stride with grace and poise,” Kaur said.

“It’s indeed a very trying time,” she continued. “But at the same we’re absolutely not going to compromise who we are as people.”

On Wednesday, temple members handed out materials about the Sikh faith.

Families prayed during the day and shared a meal at the end of the vigil. A number of people there were not Sikh, but attended as a show of solidarity, organizers said.

At the Walnut City Council meeting Wednesday night, Mayor Mary Su took a moment to mention the vigil at the temple and the tragedy that prompted it.  She encouraged Walnut residents to attend.

“We want to share with everybody that we are against terrorism,” Su said.  “We're all in harmony and we want to protect our community.”

Harbakshish Singh, who came to the U.S. as an immigrant 10 years earlier, just after Sept. 11, said he faced prejudice. As Sikhs he said they learn from scriptures, “with optimism, with courage, you can change and create any solution that you want to. Our community is very strong and united.”

Most of America embraces those tenets, he said.

“There is so much ignorance that needs to be taken away,” Singh said. “But while there may be ignorance, there is also love.”

Mary E. Sayler August 09, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I taught several Sikh children when I taught in Rowland Unified. Great children. See God in all, Respect all faiths.--I'm not Sikh but that states my belief perfectly. I am having trouble with all the violence that is being directed at the many faiths in the World. That includes the many variations within the basic religions.
Gina Tenorio August 09, 2012 at 10:00 PM
On Wednesday, everyone was very welcoming. They all smiled at us even those who did not seem to know I was media. Quite honestly it was a very beautiful vigil.
Melanie C. Johnson August 09, 2012 at 10:45 PM
My eyes were drawn to that young man's shirt too Mary. I love that message.

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