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Vigil in Concord Brings People, Religions Together

A candle light vigil in Concord in memory of those killed and wounded at the Sikh massacre in Wisconsin brought people of all faiths and backgrounds together.

A candlelight vigil was held Friday, Aug. 10, at the Concord City Hall to remember the victims of the Oak Creek, Wisc. massacre at the Sikh temple on Aug. 5.

Wade Page killed six worshipers ranging in age from 39 to 84 years, before being wounded by a police officer and then committing suicide. He also wounded four others including the first police officer on the scene, Lt. Brian Murphy.

The vigil was attended by over a hundred supporters including representatives from Senator Mark De Saulnier' office and from all walks of life, representing every religion and people of all ages. Many speakers spoke out against the massacres and implored the crowd to renounce hatred and embrace the commonality of humanity. There were religious leaders from the Jewish community, Muslim, Baha'i, Hindu and Catholic communities as well as from other religions. The common theme was the overwhelming similarities we all have as different communities of people and that all humans should call to our strengths and love as well as forgiveness for those who offend. The committee members of Sri Guru Ravidass Sikh Temple, Pittsburg and Sarab Sanjha Gurdwara, Bay Point, joined in large numbers to share their grief and to initiate a dialogue with mainstream communities of other faith groups. 

A Catholic priest, Father Tom Bonacci, member and Margretmary Staller, Vice-President, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County expressed the shock and said it was heart breaking to see this tragedy. He made an emotional plea and prayers for Sikh brothers and sisters who died and were injured in Wisconsin.

Dr. Erica Bains, professor at Moraga St. Mary's College also quoted the Sukhmani Sahib to reflect upon the ways to create inner peace within us, thus creating a peaceful world around us. Ashraf Mohammad Choudhary, president of East Bay Islamic Center in Antioch along with his other Muslim brothers, Dr. Naqvi, Dr. Amer Araim and Jaime Cader denounced the violence against Sikhs and Muslims and appealed to all faith congregations to join hands together to educate the community about our humanness. Linda, president of the League of Voters, quoted Rev. Martin Luther King and said, "unarmed truth and unconditional love" is the only way to overcome such tragedies.

Jaspal Singh Sandhu and his daughter Harkeerat Kaur emphasized the importance of not to single out Muslim brothers and sisters while saying that "Sikhs are being mistaken as Muslims." She asked the question to the audience was it all right to kill the Muslim but not the Sikh or Christian?

Om Parkash Balley, Chair, Supreme Council of Sri Guru Ravidass Sabhas of America and Dashvinder Pal of Pittsburg Gurdwara, both said that it was an attack against the humanity not against the one particular community. One of the speakers mentioned that same day there was one Mosque set on fire.

Most of the speakers thanked Dr. Harmesh Kumar, a very active member of the Interfaith Council for more than ten years, for his initiative to bring the community together to educate the mainstream about the Sikh faith. Dr. Kumar asked the participants to reflect upon the factors or circumstances that create people like Wade Page or James Holmes of Colorado or Jared Lee Laughner of Arizona or Timothy McVeigh of Oklahoma. He emphasized that it is the responsibility of all of us to recognize and try to understand those people like Wade Page, who wanted to "sign off" from normal chores of their lives and go into dark allies of their minds. He said we need to find answers to what causes their souls to become disconnected.

Prayers were given to those dead as well as the surviving injured, and forgiveness for the soul of Wade Page was sought by developing an understanding into the broken souls of such individuals. The vigil lasted an hour and a half and was wrapped up by a traditional Sikh prayer by Bhai Bal Singh in collaboration with Bhai Harjinder Singh Rasia, called the "Ardaas" where the priests mentioned all immediately affected by name and prayed for peace for their souls and also prayed for a complete recovery of those injured, especially mentioning the brave police Lt. Brian Murphy. Dr. Erica Bains translated the Sikh Ardaas in English for those who did not understand Punjabi language. All attending were then given the traditional holy sweet offering called "parshaad", similar to communion in the Catholic tradition."

-By Geet Gobind

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