PALATINE, Illinois: Sikh Religious Society Palatine, Illinois, organized a prayer service and a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the nine victims of the shooting at the historical Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. Dylan Roof, 21, a white supremacist,
who admitted shooting at the African American parishioners, was captured by police a couple of hundred miles away in North Carolina
Sikhs encountered a similar incident of a shooting at the Oak Creek’s Wisconsin Sikh Temple nearly three years ago. The Charleston shooting opened up a wound still healing for the Sikh community.
More than 200 Sikhs, neighbors and guests attended the vigil at the Palatine gurdwara on Wednesday, June 24. The event started with Ardaas (Sikh prayers) by Manpriya Kaur and singing of a Sikh hymn by Sahibnoor Kaur.
Nine candles were lit for the nine victims who lost their lives during this shooting in Charleston, while their names were read by Jaspreet Singh and Amrit Kaur Thind.
Natasha Kaur explained the importance of this event to show solidarity against hate. “We know, deeply and profoundly, what the pain of hate violence means. We want to show that love, prayer and unity far outweighs hate. We invite communities to unite and heal with prayer for the nine victims and all of humanity,” she said.
“We are all connected in sorrow and determination to end racial and hate violence in our communities,” said Satnaam Singh Mago emphasizing, through his poem, why we all need to be activists against hate crimes so that tragedies like this are not repeated. “The origins of Sikhism were based on activism against tyranny and standing up for truth and justice, not only for themselves, but also for others,” he added.
The society president, Dr. Jasbir Kaur Saluja, thanked all the guests, participants and the organizers.
“We, the Sikh American community, are shaken to the core seeing hate crime raising its ugly head again. It will be three years in August 2015, when we saw the same fire of racial hatred in the eyes of another white supremacist, who killed six worshippers at the Sikh Gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. We want to convey to the worshippers at the Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that we, with the Nation behind us, are more than ever determined to preserve the delicate fabric of American Togetherness that has been built by the sacrifices of pilgrims of past and present. Any such acts of hate will double our determination to bring unity and peace for one and all,” he said.
All the participants of the event were invited to share langar, the community kitchen vegetarian meal. The attendees mourned the loss by sharing stories during the fellowship hour.
The event was coordinated by Jasvir Kaur Singh, Satnaam Singh Mago, Natasha Kaur Sandhu, Manpriya Kaur, Jaspreet Singh, Simaren Kaur Sandhu, and Davinder Singh.
Photos credit: Indermohan Singh