Four hundred people gathered across from the White House last night with a single message: “We are all Oak Creek.”
Responding to the murder of six Sikh worshippers, the wounding of four others, including police officer Lt. Brian Murphy, and the suicide of perpetrator Wade M. Page, hundreds gathered to stand with the Sikh community as they invited prayers for the victims, the murderer, and his family. “Tonight, we are not Jain, Muslim, Hindu,” announced one speaker, “we are all Sikh tonight. We are all Oak Creek. We will not allow fear to overcome us.” (See more photos.)
In a response reminiscent of the Amish during the Nickel Mines, Pa., massacre in 2006, the Sikh community, the fifth largest religion in the world, is not used to the national spotlight in the U.S. But neither do they shy away from an opportunity to introduce their faith to a wider audience and to practice what they preach.
“We are a people of peace. We dedicate our whole lives to this,” said another vigil leader. “When you see this turban, you know that this is our uniform that declares us as one who defends peace, honesty, generosity, humility, devotion, and compassion.”
A 12-year-old Sikh girl spoke to the vigilers to remind them that Wade Page was not their enemy and neither was his family.
“He had a sickness, a disease. One caused by hate,” she said. “I don’t think of the seven who died on Sunday as victims. They are martyrs who will teach us to live as one human family.” Remarkably, she included Page among the victims of hate.
On Sunday, Sikh communities around the country will be gathering again for prayer vigils. They invite all people to pray together, share a meal (a central component to Sikh belief), and discuss what it means to be part of the moral fabric of America.–Rose Marie Berger