Faiths unite in aftermath of tragic shooting

By Tarlok Singh Hundal, Special to the Tri-City HeraldOctober 13, 2012 

RICHLAND, Wash. -- The Aug. 5 shooting at the Oak Creek Gurdwara in Wisconsin that left six innocent Sikh worshipers dead and many wounded, including a police officer, was a shock to the world.

As a member of the Sikh faith, this event was especially alarming to me. Nevertheless, in my 42 years in the United States, of which 34 have been in the Tri-Cities, I have been lucky to have not experienced any kind of unfair treatment because of my race or faith.

Since this tragedy was so personal, I realize that my family and I have been fortunate; this country, like the rest of the world, is not isolated and can be targeted due to hate at any given time. However, through the love and support our fellow citizens in this community have shown to the Sikh community, I also realize that this was an isolated hate incident by an ignorant minority.

On Aug. 11, the Sikhs congregated at our local Gurdwara (Sikhs' house of worship) to pay homage to the victims. This event was attended by leaders and individuals from diverse faiths in the Tri-Cities.

Out of this gathering came an excellent idea from Pastor John Hergert of Pasco First Lutheran Church. He suggested that we should have a combined community vigil for peace and non-violence to remember the recent victims of senseless violence throughout the country. With his hard work and dedication, the community vigil was held a few weeks ago in Volunteer Park in Pasco.

This later vigil also was attended by many diverse leaders and members from the Christian, Jewish, Islam, Hindu, Baha'i, and Sikh religions, including members of the World Citizens for Peace. They came from the Tri-Cities and from Yakima, Walla Walla and Sunnyside.

The theme was to convey the message of peace, non-violence, love, and the sense of brotherhood through having faith in the Lord per each religion's tenets. This was achieved through prayers, songs of peace, and words of encouragement shared in diverse languages by those in attendance.

We were touched to hear the kind words of Pastor Hergert who said, "We mutually have become friends for life."

The show of love and care coming from diverse communities proved to me that what happened in Wisconsin was indeed an isolated incident; and that our daily Sikh prayer of "Buoyant hope asking for the welfare of entire humanity" is heard and accepted by the Lord.

We believe the Lord filled the hearts of diverse communities with love and they all came to express it to our congregation.

I have been personally touched by many of my co-workers and residents of the Tri-Cities who expressed their deep sympathy toward the Sikh community. The Tri-City interfaith community in which I actively participate stood with us through this ordeal. It clearly showed a senseless attack on one faith of people was indeed an attack on all humanity.

This show of strength was very uplifting to a group of people who were down with grief. The Tri-City Sikh community is very thankful to those who offered their support, and we feel proud to be an integral part of this great country.

* Tarlok Singh Hundal of Richland is a Sewadar of the Sikh Gurdwara of Tri-Cities.

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