Wisconsin,USA: A Milwaukee-area religious community victimized in a mass shooting four months ago gathered Saturday to offer prayers and understanding to the families in Connecticut reeling from the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
More than 50 people, including other community members, sat cross-legged on the carpeted worship space of Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin in Brookfield, listening to traditional Sikh prayer.
Temple member Raj Sandhu said Friday’s shooting where a gunman killed 26 people, 20 of them children, before committing suicide at the Connecticut school feels different from the Oak Creek shooting because of the age of the school victims. The shooter earlier shot and killed his mother.
“We have seen this before but the age group, it really hurts,” he said.
In August, white supremacist Wade Michael Page killed six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek before being shot by police and killing himself.
After that shooting, Sandhu said the Sikh community received support from faith communities in Milwaukee and beyond. That support was invaluable and the Sikh community wanted to extend that support to the community in Newtown, Conn.
Harpreet Kapur, who helped organize the event, said he hugged his own children especially hard Friday night.
“Our deepest condolences are with the families of those who are deceased and injured,” he said. “Our wounds were still fresh when we heard this news.”
Jyoti Grewal, whose father is the president of the Brookfield temple, came up with the idea to send a card signed by all who attended the vigil. At the top, it said: “We stand together.”
The senior at Brookfield Academy said the shootings show that the nation needs tougher gun laws.
“I don’t want this to be the new normal,” she said. “We need legislation to fix the problem. There are too many loopholes. It’s too easy to get a gun. Something has to be done.”
Those gathered inside the worship space prayed along with words from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book.
“Please keep me under your protection, Oh God, Oh Great Giver,” the leaders chanted, as they drummed.
Tammie Koehler watched coverage of the shooting much of Friday and needed a place to take her grief. She called her husband, Alan, and suggested they attend the vigil. She was glad she came.
Shoeless and wearing headscarves required of all in the temple, the couple watched as 150 candles were lighted after the prayers.
“This was the best thing I could have done,” she said. “This will not be the last time we come.”
After the vigil, those attending sat to eat. The Sikh community always closes with a meal, whether they are celebrating or, as they were Saturday, morning.
Source: JS Online