Hundreds of Sikhs from the Turlock area joined together with city officials on Friday evening at the Sikh Temple in Turlock to pay their respects to those who were killed during the shooting that occurred at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, earlier this month.
The candlelight vigil was attended by Turlock Mayor John Lazar, Turlock Councilman Forrest White, Turlock Councilwoman Amy Bublak, Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden, Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson, Turlock Chamber of Commerce representative Mike Lynch, and a spokesperson in behalf of Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock).
“On behalf of the citizens of Turlock and the Council and myself, our hearts and prayers go out everyone this evening,” shared Councilman Forrest White. “This was a tragic incident.”
Councilwoman Amy Bublak also shared sentiments of sadness for the Sikh community, as she stated that they have always demonstrated a peaceful culture and are very accepting to others.
“To hear about such a senseless and violent attack, it’s really frustrating to hear that,” stated Bublak. “Because I see a totally different thing and whomever participated in that really didn’t know what they were doing, because this culture here has been very accepting and is full of good people.”
City officials were not the only ones to speak at the vigil, however, as members of the Sikh community also wished to express their thoughts on the shooting.
“We leave our doors open for anyone to walk in, where they can seek shelter, freshly cooked food and we never turn anyone away” stated a young Sikh woman during the program. “Sikhs are peaceful people and we only believe in peaceful living. At the end of our prayers we say ‘Sarbat da bhala’ – which means for the well-being of the human race. We pray for everyone but ourselves in our prayers.”
She also pointed out that Sikhs are not Muslims, and that while Sikhs are not terrorists, neither are all Muslims. She continued to speak about the days after the 9/11 attacks where innocent Sikhs all over the country became victims of senseless violence, only due to the fact that they wore a turban.
“A wise man once said, ‘Racism is not born, it’s taught,’” she continued. “Please help us fight in the fight against racism.”
On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple, located in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing 6 victims and injuring three others. The gunman was identified was Wade Michael Page, age 40, and was a United States Army Veteran. Although it was originally believed that police officers who arrived on the scene had killed Mr. Page, authorities have since reported that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
After the program of speakers, those gathered at the temple joined outside to hold a candlelight vigil to pay their respects to those killed in the shooting. While many of those in attendance shared sentiments of grief and recognized the tragedy of the incident, many also shared hopes that it will bring more public awareness to the Sikh religion and the many great characteristics of the Sikh community.