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Sikhs turn to religion and one another to deal with tragedy

WASHINGTON: Even as the whole United States has rallied behind the U.S. Sikh community, target of one of the worst hate crimes against a religious group in the country in decades, grieving American Sikhs are turning to their religion and to one another to deal with the tragedy.

Since the bloodshed at a gurudwara in Oak Creek near Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, Sunday, which left six worshippers dead, Sikhs have been gathering in gurudwaras all over the United States to hold prayer services and candle-light vigils for the victims. The suspected gunman, white supremacist Wade Michael Page, was shot to death by a police officer.

At the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation National Sikh Center in suburban Washington, dozens of worshippers have been gathering every evening to offer prayers and sing holy songs. “We are deeply saddened by the shock and the tragedy,” said Manoranjan Singh, one of the trustees of the gurudwara. “And Sikhs being Sikhs, they have courage to get up together and put ourselves together again, and try to help the situation.”

Singh, a chief electrical engineer with a large construction and engineering company, said the tragedy also brought the best out of the community. He said: “It’s a tragic event but at the same time, it shows the strength of Sikhism. We believe in love for all, respect for all, accept the fact. We pray to God for the loss of life obviously, we pray to God to give strength to the families who lost their loved ones.”

The resilience of the community was also on full display at the basement of the National Sikh Center, where a group of children and youths made posters denouncing violence and advocating peace. “Spread love, not hate,” and “Love for all,” some of the posters read.

Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education in Washington, said the concept of “Chardi kala,” which calls for Sikhs to be always positive and in “high spirits, provides the community with strength. “[The] gurus have always taught that you must remain steadfast in the face of any adversity, any suffering, any barrier in life,” he said.

Since Sunday, local Sikh communities have held a number of candle light vigils for the victims in several U.S. cities from California to New York. A candle-light vigil will be held in New York’s Union Square on Wednesday and another near the White House on Sunday.

The Washington area Sikh community is also planning to organize a fundraiser for the victims, said Rajwant Singh. “Especially our heart goes out to the policemen who fought and put their life on line to save so many other lives,” he said. “So we want to give them a sort of our gesture, our token of love to support their families.”

Rajwant Singh said the Sikh community was overwhelmed by the show of support it received from the American people and their leaders. On Monday, President Obama ordered U.S. flags to be flown half-mast until August 10 in honor of the victims.

“I think that’s a tremendous gesture,” Rajwant Singh said. “It is totally unprecedented. To show that kind of solidarity with the community and the collective spirit as a nation standing up and standing by the Sikh community, I think that’s tremendous.” (Global India Newswire)

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