Community Stands in Solidarity with Sikhs

At Plainview gurdwara, 200 attend a candlelight vigil Wednesday night against hatred and in the name of peace.

As they have done for centuries, Sikhs welcomed neighbors to their house of worship Wednesday night.

It's part of the Sikh way of life, a belief that all people are one -- under God --and can find a place of shelter in their gurdwara, or temple.

In Plainview Wednesday, the gathering was to honor the dead of Sunday's , where six members of a Sikh community were gunned down in their spiritual home. Also dead was the neo-Nazi sympathizer responsible for the bloodshed.

About 200 people from all over Long Island came to Plainview, an assembly of many faiths and religious traditions united in solidarity with the area's Sikh community. Similar vigils were held around the United States in response to President Obama's call for a national day of prayer for the Sikh community.

A common theme echoed in Plainview on a humid, candlelit night: How much we all have in common.

"This senseless act of violence; six people and the man who shot them, all dead," said , president of the Sikh Organization of Sikh Americans. "We come together to pray to God to comfort their souls."

, spiritual leader of , helped to organize the vigil, which followed an evening prayer service inside the gurdwara. Churgel's congregation provided a temporary home for the Sikh community when their last year. 

"Since then, we've have become very close," Churgel said. "We come together in tragedy over these senseless acts and to remember we are all taught to love one another, to love our neighbor.

"We are hear to support our neighbors, our Sikh friends," the Rabbi said to applause.

One after another, spiritual and community leaders spoke of peace and solidarity in the face of senseless violence and blind hatred.

On their heads were turbans, kippahs, shawls and kufi. Others were given orange scarfs in the shape and color of the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag, a symbol akin to the American Red Cross. Congregation members graciously assisted visitors in applying their head gear.

So many hats, yet so many similarities:

One speaker said: "We are one people under God."

"Only love can get us through this," said another.

A third offered: "God's voice is expressed in multiple languages, and that is why Sikhs find the strength to welcome everyone to their home."

It is a welcoming tradition that dates to Punjab, India, and the founding of the centuries ago. It is their policy to feed and care for travelers. True to form, elaborate vegetarian delights, some strong with curry, others sweet with sugar, were offered to all in attendance.

One by one, the religious leaders lit candles. From those flames other tapers were ignited. The community walked once around the gurdwara together, then placed the candles, still lit, on a table in the darkness.

Regardless of their headgear, the faces of the faithful glimmered in the glow. They were faces filled with determination and solidarity.


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