Poway Sikh vigil draws hundreds
By Pat Kumpan
Hundreds of people attended Wednesday night’s vigil at the Sikh Gurudwara in Poway to remember victims of the Aug. 5 shooting spree at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
They came to pray for six people who died and others who were wounded by alleged gunman Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran with alleged neo-Nazi ties. The FBI has reported he died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The crime has now been called an act of domestic terrorism by that agency.
For Wednesday’s service in Poway, Sikhs and guests adhered to time-honored traditions: removing shoes prior to entering the temple, while women adjusted their head coverings as everyone prepared to focus on the lives of those who were slain.
The service began with an invocation, then “the order of the day,” which was a random reading from the Guru Granth Sahib.
It also included a distribution of parsad, a sacred pudding made of wheat flour, sugar and butter.
Some visitors sat on rugs inside the temple entrance, while others listened outside the building. Both groups reflected a contemplative and respectful mood, especially while Sikh children gave an oral presentation about each victim during a candlelight vigil on the temple grounds.
Throughout the evening many in smaller groups said they wondered what prompted the shooter to open fire on the Sikhs in Wisconsin.
They commented that Sikh men typically wear turbans as part of their clothing, something often misidentified with Muslims who wear similar coverings, but authorities are still investigating what the motive might have been, according to FBI reports.
Arvid Straube, a San Diego pastor from the First Unitarian Universalist Church attending the Wednesday memorial said, “When someone is wounded, we’re all wounded,” a consensus shared by mourners of all faiths who expressed similar feelings about the loss of life, especially on the heels of the killings a few weeks ago in Aurora, Colorado.
During that rampage inside a movie theater, 12 people died and 58 were wounded reportedly by college student James Holmes, a Westview High School graduate who grew up in Rancho Penasquitos.
As part of Wednesday’s service in Poway, San Diego-based Sikhs prepared a langar, a community vegetarian meal, outside the Poway temple, adding tables and chairs to accommodate the large crowd. Many of the temple’s board of directors, such as Gagandeep Kaur, sat and joined in conversation with the guests.
She explained to others parts of the temple service, such as the readings, described as “the living word of God.”
Those who attend such services “get energized” and connect with one another in a positive way, she added.
“We’ve never had this many people come to a service at our temple,” she said. “The food is part of the spiritual experience.”
Kaur was thankful for the service and the meal because it signified that those who attended most likely walked away with a better understanding of Sikhs and their religion, or so she hoped.
She added, “for those of us who love, we need to speak louder (to others) about not hating.”
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