They held candles, some placed their arms around each other and wrote notes on a sign that read, “Sikhs for Peace.”
When darkness fell, all in attendance often bowed their heads and closed their eyes and listened intently to the speeches made in honor of the six people who were killed on Aug. 5 during a shooting rampage in Oak Creek, Wis.
About 200 people from the Sikh community and a handful of guests gathered Saturday night at The Sikh Centre of Seattle, located on Bothell-Everett Highway in Bothell, for a candlelight vigil.
“I think that as many of the speakers spoke about, the fact that everyone is coming together in such a tragic event sheds light on the fact that we as a community, not just the Sikhs, but as a country, are able to rebuild. We’re very resilient people. So although the mistake of one tends to cloud over everyone’s emotions and sentiments, there’s still hope,” said Sonia Kaur, a member of the Bothell Gurudwara.
Gurmit Singh noted that the gunman, Wade Michael Page, who also wounded four others before he took his own life, mistook Sikhs for Muslims, whom he was believed to be targeting. FBI investigations noted that Page was a member of white supremacist groups.
“The main emotion people had is, ‘Why us?’ (We’re) very peace-loving, integrating into the mainstream and doing the hard work and trying to make a good living. We’re not fanatics, that’s not the belief, and then suddenly something happens and like, ‘Why us? We didn’t do anything,’” Singh said before the vigil.
Singh added that the Sikh community’s main model is “Good Will for All” regardless of race or creed, and that emotions were heavy following news of the shooting and throughout the week.
“Most of our beliefs are that whatever’s happening is happening with God’s will, and we cope with it,” he said. “There are certain things, which are beyond our control, and all we can do is just pray for them (the victims) and stay calm.”
President Obama’s speech on the killings, stating, “We are all one people, and we look after one another, and we respect one another,” comforted the Sikh community, said Manmohan Dhillon, vice president of the Bothell temple. He added that local police officers have visited the temple and told the leaders they’re watching out for them.
“We wouldn’t have thought about those kind of things if it didn’t happen, so now our ears and eyes are open. It puts a little bit of fear in us,” Dhillon said, adding about Page, “He’s just crazy, he could go and shoot anybody, he’s just blind.”
The Bothell temple has been open for just over two years and regularly welcomes about 500-700 Sikhs from Bellevue to Everett, including Kirkland. There is another temple in Renton.
The Sikh religion was founded in India in about 1500.
For Karen Ghatore, she feels the vigil will only strengthen the Sikh community.
“Unity. That’s just a really big thing in Sikhism — to stay together,” she said. “It makes me feel great because everyone’s here together and we’re all grieving together.”