Vigils Bring Together 'Instruments of Peace'
Area residents and Sikh members, including survivors from Sunday's shooting, attended a vigil Monday in Oak Creek, while hundreds packed the Sikh temple in Brookfield.
A candlelight vigil held in Oak Creek one day after shootings at the Sikh Temple was filled with songs, prayers and messages of hope.
Several hundred residents, local dignitaries and a few Sikh members, including survivors of Sunday's shooting, gathered at Oak Creek Community United Methodist Church around sunset Monday night.
Church members played music as the audience sang along to songs such as "We Shall Overcome." They held moments of silence for the families of those who lost their lives, first responders, fellow audience members and the family of the alleged shooter.
"We are not here for revenge or heightened conflict," the Rev. Paul Armstrong told the audience, "but as instruments of peace." Armstrong is the pastor at Oak Creek Community United Methodist Church.
Community United Methodist member Erica Gumieny said her first reaction to the shootings was "Why?" and then thought about her own family and friends.
The church wanted to do something to show its support and be there for their fellow Oak Creek community members, she said.
"We're all family here in Oak Creek," she said. "Our heart broke."
Dexter Peirce, 15, added, "The big thing we wanted to do was show our respect. Respect for other races, our cultures, our religions."
One of the Sikh members who was in the temple at the time of the shootings quoted the Bible: "It says be friends with your neighbor."
"God blessed me with life," he said. "I am very grateful to all of you who spent time in your life to hold this vigil."
A large crowd is expected for another vigil planned for Tuesday night during National Night Out at the Oak Creek Community Center.
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In Brookfield, at the only other Sikh temple in Wisconsin, hundreds packed the facility, spilling out of its sanctuary into the hallway and basement. Gov. Scott Walker and his wife Tonette as well as Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleeisch attended the service followed by a candlelight vigil outside. People then gathered in the basement langar for a community meal — a tradition after all services.
Also attending were leaders from other faith communities, including the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, which plans to break ground soon on a new mosque not far from the Sikh temple in Brookfield.
Walker, wearing an orange head covering, told the crowd, "Tonight we are here to show our love .... to show that we stand with you and support you."
Kleefisch noted a sign in the temple that said "in God's sanctuary, all worries disappear."
"We pray tonight that all your worries disappear," she said.
Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh-American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Washington D.C., said the Sikhs were suffering discrimination, ignorance and employment struggles that have beset other religious and ethnic groups. But he said "we are uplifted ... by the outpouring of gratitude" and support from around the globe.