Sikh Americans of Chicago hold interfaith prayers, candlelight vigil for Las Vegas shooting victims

PALATINE (Illinois): In remembrance of the 58 victims who died and the nearly 500 who were injured in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history on the night of October 1 outside the Mandlay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, the Sikh Religious Society in Palatine, Illinois, organized a prayer service and candlelight vigil.
Despite a rainy workday evening, more than 150 members of various faith groups and leaders surrounded by people of goodwill gathered to pray and honor the victims of this horrific massacre of innocent souls enjoying an outdoor music concert.
The vigil started indoors with Kirtan (singing of Sikh hymns) in the langar hall of the Palatine Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship). The hymns translated in English meant, “This world is burning with hatred, O’ God please save it with your blessings and mercy in whichever way it can be saved.”
Twelve speakers, representing the Sikh, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Christian and Hindu communities, gun violence prevention communities, and civil action oriented organizations, addressed the gathering. The speakers shared their personal stories, faith perspectives of hope and peace, and emphasized solidarity and strength in opposing gun violence where innocent lives are lost.
“As we all continue to pray and support the victims and families of the Las Vegas shooting, we must also vow to do more to combat the underlying problems associated with these types of mass killings,” said Amrith Kaur, Legal Director of Sikh Coalition in her speech at the vigil.
Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra opened the program, Dr. Pardeep Singh Gill, executive secretary of Sikh Religious Society welcomed the guests.
“This gathering is against hate and violence and with deep respect for human life. We believe that we are all one,” said Rajinder Singh Mago, who introduced the interfaith speakers.
Rohinton Rivetna of the Zoroastrian center in Burr Ridge; Mr. Chris Vodden, Director of Bahai Temple, Wilmette Illinois; Amrith Kaur of Sikh Coalition; Imam Shaikh Nazir Chahin of Islamic Society Northwest Suburbs Rolling Meadows; Christine Organ and Jules Jaramillo of Countryside Unitarian Universalist Church in Palatine; Pandit Anil Joshi, priest at Hindu Mandir of Lake County Grayslake, Illionis; Rev. Wayne Miller, President of Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and also Bishop at Metropolitan Chicago Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Abdullah Mitchell, Executive Director of The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago; Caryn Fliegler of Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence; Maria Pike of #MomsDemandAction and #EveryTownSurvivorNetwork; Bill Davis of Northwest Suburbs Organizing for Action; and Prof. Jaginder Singh Ramdev spoke at the event.
There also were several calls to action by #MomsDemandAction, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, and #EveryTownSurvivorNetwork for stricter gun laws.
“I hope we don’t have to do another such candlelight vigil ever again. I would like to throw away all these half-burnt candles, but I am not sure,” said Rajinder Singh Mago, one of the program organizers.
Laddi Singh thanked the event supporting organizations and their leadership who attended the vigil.
After the candlelight vigil, which included a reading of the names of the 58 victims by Jasvir Kaur Singh and Prempal Singh, 58 candles were lighted by children, one for each victim, followed by lighting of candles by all in attendance.
“The vigil was to honor the souls who lost their lives in the Las Vegas shooting, remind us how precious life is, how senseless gun violence is and that we need to work together to make change happen,” said Jasvir K. Singh.
Standing in solidarity against hatred and violence, and to honor the victims, a moment of silence led by Thakar Singh Basati was observed to honor the dead.
Sarwan Singh Raju, thanked all the guests, participants and the organizers.
All the participants of the event were invited to partake “langar” – the community kitchen vegetarian meal.
The event was coordinated by Rajinder Singh Mago, Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra, Prempal Singh, Laddi Singh, Jasvir Kaur Singh, Thakar Singh Basati, Sarwan Singh Raju, and Surinderpal Singh Kalra for the Sikh Religious Society, Palatine, Illinois.

Photos: Manpreet Singh