On Friday night, the Tennessee Valley Sikh community gathered to remember fellow worshippers. At the Sikh temple in Huntsville, a service and candlelight vigil paid tribute to six Sikhs killed Sunday in Wisconsin.
Huntsville Sikh temple member Anupreet Singh has family in Milwaukee. News of the shooting rampage at their place of worship was shocking. He says, "My brother-in-law lives in Milwaukee, and that day he didn't go to the temple because he had an accident with his back and he was actually at home, so yeah, my brother-in-law is there, but he's ok now."
Even though his relative was spared, Singh mourns the victims as if they were family: "They look like my own. I look at them and say, it could have been my father, it could have been my brother. So it makes me feel sad."
It's that sadness that's bringing Huntsville's small Sikh community together. Hundreds spent the evening healing through hymns, speeches, a candlelight vigil and communal meal. Event organizer Rajinder Singh explains, "That tradition was started by our guru, who basically thought that all human beings are equal, nobody's high, low, rich, poor."
In addition to mourning the victims and praying for their families, community members hope the tragedy, along with vigils like Huntsville's, will help raise awareness about their religion, to ensure that senseless acts of violence aren't repeated.
Anupreet Singh says, "I think Sikh community is using this opportunity to let everybody know who we are and what we stand for, and unfortunately there's a lot of people inAmerica who don't know what Sikhs are, what we stand for and what our values are."
Rajinder Singh adds, "Ignorance: we can only eliminate it if we understand where we stand with each other."