Hundreds Gather In Palatine to Mourn Sikh Victims
A prayer sermon and peaceful candlelight vigil was held Monday evening at the Sikh Religious Society of Palatine to remember the six Sikh members who were shot and killed at a temple in Oak Creek, WI.
When asking members of the Sikh community what defines their religion and belief, one word prevails above all: peaceful.
Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra, the former president of the Palatine Gurdwara, wants people to know that Wade Michael Page, a U.S. Army veteran who was the shooter in Oak Creek, WI., misunderstood who Sikhs are.
"I want the community to know that some crazy person, a misguided person, misunderstood us and unnecessarily he went in and started shooting without knowing who we are. We are peace-loving people, we believe in one God, just like whoever he was."
Parminder Mann, 31, of Algonquin, spoke to those who attended the candlelight vigil.
"This is one person out of tens of millions," Mann said. "These kinds of events [vigils] help you cope, let us know that we're all together. [It] doesn't matter what we look like or dress like."
During his speech, Mann thanked the police officers for risking their lives for fellow Americans.
"We are proud to be Americans," he said. "We are proud of the law enforcement agencies who laid down their lives to protect fellow Americans. They did not arrive at the Gurdwara and did not judge who are these people we are protecting, who are these people with turbans."
Amrita Kaur, a 24-year-old from Chicago, said the event was "tragic."
"When you hear that, your heart sinks," Kaur said. "We don't know what the motive is, but based off of history it could be from a lack of understanding. Everyone needs to stop viewing people as others. We practice different religions but we are still a community."
Hansra, the former president, urged the community members at the vigil to remain open-minded.
"We became anxious, but at the same time, we cannot close our doors because our principles say we have to be open," Hansra said. "This is a dilemma, we can't be cutting down our principles — we have to be vigilant ."
The Sikh communinity kept the sermon and vigil open to people of all faiths, Hansra said, in an effort to educate.
"We want the community to pray for us, pray for the souls," Hansra said. "Try to connect, be neighborly, be understanding, because without understanding, there's nothing."