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Sikhs, Community Officials Preach Peace and Unity at Candlelight Vigil

Members of the Sikh congregation at Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Southington opened their doors Friday night for a candlelight vigil to honor those killed in the Wisconsin temple shooting.

Amandeep Samra had just finished taking part in the Sunday services at the Sikh temple of in Southington last weekend when she got a phone call from a friend, who spoke quickly with sadness and fear in her voice.

The friend, also an American of Sikh faith, was left wondering if her parents were OK after being , killing six and leaving three others critically injured.

“Though there are many emotions running through our minds, I am proud to be a member of a community where revenge or anger is not one of them,” Samra said. “Let love overcome hate and anger.”

Samra, a member of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, was one of nearly a dozen speakers to take to the podium at the Southington temple Friday night as part of a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of the deadly shooting last weekend.

Although the speakers were of different backgrounds and religious faiths, their message was clear: the best way to battle hate is through education, unity and teaching acceptance.

Hundreds of Sikh followers, some coming from as far as Norwich and Seymour, joined together outside the West Street temple Friday with area residents and members of the Southington Interfaith Community in prayer for the victims and to show solidarity in promoting peace within the town, the state and the nation as a whole.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was just one of dozens of officials, religious leaders and civil rights activists from across the state that attended Friday’s vigil, said he would work with the group to conquer hate and the brutal motives that led to last Sunday’s shooting.

“We come together on this day to say we will not succumb to the hatred. We will work to dispel the behavior that led to this tragedy.”

For members of the congregation, the latest attack of Sikh members came as a sad and scary example of why education and community outreach is needed more than ever.

Surinder Singh Chawla, secretory of the Connecticut Sikh Association Inc., said the latest shooting was just one of many that have occurred since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Although the religion teaches peace and equality regardless of gender, race or religion, Sikhs have been targeted because of their appearance, he said. According to a CNN report, hate-related attacks have led to killing of over 700 Americans of Sikh faith over the past 10 years.

“The time has come for us to say ‘enough is enough’,” said Swaranjit Singh of Norwich, a member of the Connecticut Sikh Association Inc. “It’s going to take common people to educate common people on the Sikh faith and teach tolerance, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Honoring the victims of the shooting – – was just the first step in working towards a brighter future, Swaranjit Singh and Manjit Singh, of Seymour, each said.

The two said they would take part in a statewide effort known as “Community Dialogue” designed to bring together people of all faiths and career paths to share in educating one another and break down walls that may stand between different groups.

But members of the Connecticut Sikh Association Inc. aren’t going to wait until the dialogue to begin sharing their religion either. As the sun set over the West Street temple, the Sikh followers encouraged everyone to join them inside and share in a meal.

Swaranjit Singh said although there may be a natural instinct to be angry, Sikhs will continue to live by the teachings of the Gurus and the phrase “Tera Bhanna Mitha Lagge,” which means “acceptance of God’s Will.”

“It’s a teaching that we want everyone to understand,” Singh said. “No matter how bad things may seem, or how bad it is, if we follow our faith then we will make it through.”

For more information of what Sikh religion is, from Patch blogger .

E. Richard Fortunato August 11, 2012 at 04:23 PM
It was an honor for me as an American to join fellow Americans of the Sikh faith and so many hundreds of others representing the diversity of our nation's faiths. The Sikh people are honest, hard work, sharing the fruits of their labor generously with one another and others beyond their community generously sustaining one another and all by their daily meditation of our One God who sustains us all. What a wonderful exemplification of the American dream of hard work, sharing, love of all of God's people in the process. Self-reliance, all of us equal, and giving not because of laws but because of the teachings of God. Jason, wonderful job in capturing the spirit of last night's vision in words and pictures. Thank you.

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