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Area Sikhs hold vigil, raise awareness on religion

ErikSingh Amrit GothrNavi Kaur left right finish off sign honoring victims recent shooting WisconsSikh temple prior start vigil Sikh temple

Erika Singh, Amrit Gothra and Navi Kaur, left to right, finish off a sign honoring the victims of a recent shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple prior to the start of a vigil at the Sikh temple in Crown Point Tuesday Aug. 7, 2012. Many members of the temple's Punjab class made signs for the ceremony. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 9, 2012 6:20AM



CROWN POINT — Northwest Indiana’s Sikh temple opened its doors to the community Tuesday, not only sharing prayers for the six lives lost Sunday, but using the tragedy as a teaching moment on their religion, traditions and even their favorite hot-weather cool drinks.

U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana David Capp joined a candlelight vigil at the Sikh Religious Society of Indiana at 10005 Colorado St.

On Sunday, a gunman with past ties to white supremacist groups walked into a Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wis., and opened fire on worshippers. Six died before police killed Wade Michael Page, 40, a U.S. Army veteran.

Sikhs, like Dr. Hardarshan S. Valla, of Highland, say it’s a good time for others to learn about Sikhs.

“If anything has come out of this, it’s sacrifice and more acceptance. We don’t want their sacrifice to be in vain.”

Valla said it’s difficult to explain the shootings. “Probably something happened in his life,” he said of Page. “If it were not Sikh, it could be something else.”

Before the temple priests recited prayers, young people like Inder Singh, 14, of Crown Point, and Amrit Gothra, 15, of West Lafayette, asked visitors to remove their shoes and cover their hair as they entered the temple. The teens offered tours, explaining the Sunday service and the importance of the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib.

“That’s why we want people to come here, to see we’re not terrorists,” said Singh. “People really don’t know about us, we’re a little community.”

The Sikhs shared their favorite cool drink, Rooh-Afza, a rose petal-flavored milk drink.

A sign on the temple door listed the names of the six shooting victims. As the priests read the prayers, young people raised signs thanking Oak Creek police officers who risked their lives to stop the shooter.

In remarks to the crowd, Visclosky said: “It is right that we use this opportunity to rededicate our lives to be as tolerant, as gentle, and as kind as we can be.”

Capp said he came to offer his support to the Sikh community. “You get such a sense of acceptance and graciousness here, it really shines through.”

Sue Eleuterio, of Highland, said she came to lend support as well.

“I’m devastated to see more violence. ... My grandparents were immigrants from Portugal. I understand what it’s like to come to a new place. I’m very concerned about profiling since 9/11. We have to counter this anger and hate.”



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