By MEG JONES | MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL |
OAK CREEK – Harbans Singh knows the face of evil.
He saw it holding a gun shooting round after round into friends and fellow worshipers at the Sikh Temple in this Milwaukee suburb six years ago. After hearing of the massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday, Singh turned his thoughts once again to that awful day when another man with hate in his heart stalked a house of worship.
“I’m really mad to hear of these things happening. Before I came to the United States, I was under the impression this was the most peaceful” country, said Singh, who immigrated to Wisconsin from India in 1988.
As people across the nation mourned another senseless massacre, those at Oak Creek’s Sikh Temple knew intimately the grief, sadness and frustration felt by Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue members who lost 11 of their own Saturday.
On that Sunday morning, a 40-year-old man killed six people and injured four others before he was shot by an Oak Creek police officer and committed suicide. The incident happened just as people were starting to arrive for services and fellowship. Among them was Nirmal Kaur, who was running a little late as she drove with her husband and children from Racine.
Just as her car pulled in to the parking lot she saw two squad cars with lights flashing. She backed out of the parking lot and drove to a bowling alley across the street. Kaur is convinced her lateness saved the lives of her family.
“In worship places, I don’t think we should lock ourselves in to pray. I don’t think we should have to do that,” Kaur said in the entry way of the temple, where a uniformed armed guard was stationed at the front door. “Any time we hear of things like this (in Pittsburgh) it brings back memories of 2012.”
At Oak Creek’s Sikh Temple, Chairman Kulwant Dhaliwal noted that it wasn’t just other Sikhs who reached out to his congregation following the 2012 shootings, it was members of all faiths who came together to pray for peace. Just as Jewish leaders supported the Wisconsin Sikhs in their time of need, Dhaliwal said Sikhs are responding in kind.
“I think we can feel the pain more than anyone else. We stand with the Jewish community and we wish God grant peace to their departed souls,” said Dhaliwal.
He spoke in the Sikh Temple’s library, where large color photos line the walls. The faces smiling from the frames are of the six people killed in 2012. At the end of Sunday’s service, prayers were said for the Pittsburgh synagogue victims.
“This kind of thing is devastating to the families, the community, to the whole country, really. Unfortunately this kind of thing is happening more regularly,” Dhaliwal said.
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Sikh community responds to Pittsburgh synagogue shooting with anguish and solidarity (Asia Samachar, 28 Oct 2018)