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Oak Creek temple shooting survivors commemorate ‘an American tragedy’

Members of the Sikh community marked the one year anniversary of the shooting at their Milwaukee-area temple with four days of religious ceremonies and charity events.
/ Source: Melissa Harris Perry

Members of the Sikh community marked the one year anniversary of the shooting at their Milwaukee-area temple with four days of religious ceremonies and charity events.

Worshipers in the Sikh community gather for a candle light vigil after prayer services at the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, in Brookfield, Wis. (Photo by M. Spencer Green/AP)

The Sikh community in Oak Creek is opening the doors of its temple to the public as it marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting that killed six people and wounded two others.

Three days ahead of Monday’s anniversary, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin – Oak Creek held events to mourn the loss of loved ones, share community meals, and to raise money for charitable causes through a memorial run/walk event. U.S. Attorney James Santelle also held a memorial observance in Milwaukee on Friday afternoon.

The temple invited everyone to participate in all the events, stressing the survivors’ desire for unity and peace. “Your presence would show that this is not only a Sikh tragedy, but also an American tragedy,” a statement on the Temple’s website read. “We must fight this violence not with more violence but by coming together with kindness and love.”

On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist shot and killed six people attending religious services at the suburban Milwaukee temple. The shooter also seriously injured another temple member and shot a police officer before taking his own life.

Though Sikhism is the fifth largest organized religion in the world and boasts approximately 30 million members worldwide, Sikhs have been victims of violence since the Sept. 11 attacks led many Americans to fear men wearing turbans and beards. One Sikh man was murdered in Arizona just days after 9/11.  In response to the massacre in Oak Creek, a panel has recommended that the FBI start compiling statistics on violence against Sikhs and other groups.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to honor the memory of the massacre’s victims, offer condolences to their loved ones, and to commend the emergency personnel and community members who offered support. President Obama is not scheduled to attend any of the events commemorating the tragedy.