People who belong to the Sikh community of Redlands, Highland and Loma Linda and other residents held an interfaith candlelight vigil Tuesday evening in downtown Redlands to express solidarity with victims of the Sunday shootings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, and the entire Oak Creek community where this tragedy happened," Dr. Ravneet Singh of Redlands said. She spoke at the corner of Orange Street and Redlands Boulevard. "It's a very sad, unfortunate, shocking, deeply shocking event for all the Sikh community."
A gunman identified as Wade Michael Page, 40, a U.S. Army veteran with white supremacist ties, fatally shot six people Sunday Aug. 5 at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, reported. Page was then killed in a shootout with police.
"In this time and age, ignorance can cause this," Singh said. "It really breaks my heart. So we are getting together as a community in Redlands today to offer our prayers, our sympathies to the families that have lost their loved ones.
"At the same time we want to come out in the community and be recognized as to who Sikhs are, who are we people," Singh said.
"We Sikhs are about a hundred years in America," Singh said. "We've been here since World War I, World War II. The biggest thing about Sikh religion, Sikhs are basically known as Sikh Saint and Soldier community.
"Originally we are from India," Singh said. "The religion is about 500 years old. We basically believe in equality of men and women, irrespective of caste, creed, culture. We respect everybody and we don't believe in converting. We think whoever you are, you should be a good Christian, a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Hindu. We basically have American life, and we want to give back to the needy, the less fortunate, we want to serve the community.
"We just believe that united we stand."
Many at the vigil held signs that said "I Pledge Against Violence." Other signs listed "Principles of Sikhism: Remember God, Honest Living, Share with Others."
There were also signs paying tribute to Oak Creek police Lt. Brian Murphy, who was wounded nine times in the shootout with Page, reported. Murphy remained in critical condition Tuesday evening in Wisconsin.
Many Sikhs believe leader Mahatma Gandhi learned non-violence from Sikhism before he founded the movement to end British rule in India.
Redlands residents William and Saroja Arputhasamy, who are originally from India, came to the vigil to express support for the Sikh community. The Arputhasamys are not Sikh, but they spoke of Gandhi and non-violence.
"We think that it's wrong somebody going to a place of worship and . . . " Saroja Arputhasamy stopped speaking and began weeping silently.
"We are Christians, Catholics," William Arputhasamy said. "We go to Holy Name of Jesus on Olive.
"It is the same, Gandhi's principles, Martin Luther King's principles, there should be more people like these men," William Arputhasamy said. "In these modern times we need somebody like Gandhi or Martin Luther King to forge peace among mankind. It's all over the world, people fighting one another for no reason. It's all politics and different beliefs. But we should work together."
"We believe in Gandhi and non-violence," Saroja Arputhasamy said tearfully.
Redlands Councilman Jon Harrison, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Foster and Mayor Pete Aguilar also joined the vigil.
"I'm here to support the Sikh community in their moment of grief and to support their message of non-violence," Harrison said. "I think it's something that all of us should take to heart."
Redlands has a history of welcoming all faiths, Foster said, and part of the reason he came was to ensure the community remains safe for all faiths.
"This is a tragedy for all of our communities when this type of thing happens," Foster said. "Redlands is well known for having oppenness when it comes to all faiths and all churches."
There are about a hundred families in the Sikh community of Redlands, Highland and Loma Linda, Singh said. There is a large Sikh population in the Riverside area, who attend the Riverside Gurdwara on Mission Way. There is also a Gurdwara in the Palm Springs area, she said.
"I am a local here, working for Beaver Medical Group in Highland," Singh said. "I'm a family medical physician. I've been with Beaver since 2006. I'm a local. I live in Redlands. My family lives with me. It pains our hearts that this thing has happened.
"I would definitely like to thank the community," Singh said. "We have a lot of support, outpouring of love, prayers. I really, really hope that no other faith will ever go through something like this incident ever again."
For more information about the Riverside Gurdwara, visit www.riversidegurdwara.org.