Ten years after a white supremacist armed with a handgun shot and killed six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the Sikh community in the Midwestern city honored those who perished in the deadliest attack on Sikh Americans in the nation’s history.
On August 5—the 10th anniversary of the 2012 attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin—congregants began a 48-hour uninterrupted prayer service as well as a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims, including a seventh person who succumbed to his injuries in 2020.
Oak Creek’s Sikh congregation stands in solidarity with other faith groups that have been targets of similar hate crimes, including a 2015 killing of nine people by a white supremacist in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and a 2018 shooting in which 11 worshippers were killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“We must do more to protect places of worship, and defeat domestic terrorism and hate in all its forms, including the poison of white supremacy,” President Joe Biden said in an August 5 statement commemorating the 10th anniversary of the mass shooting.
“Oak Creek has shown us the way,” the president said, elaborating that after the attack on the gurdwara, or Sikh temple, the local Sikh community returned to the ravaged site “and insisted on cleaning it themselves.”
The son of one of the victims, Biden noted, became the first Sikh American to testify before Congress, calling on the federal government to track hate crimes against Sikhs and other minority groups.
Annual events by the Sikh congregation in honor of the victims of the mass shootings bear the Punjabi-language words Charhdi Kala, meaning “eternal optimism,” Biden said.
“The randomness of violence and escalation of violence is so troubling right now and I think that if we are not all concerned about it then we are living under a rock,” Pardeep Singh Kaleka, the son of one of the six people killed in the Oak Creek shooting, told a local newspaper.
“I remember the chaos, I remember some of the panic,” said Kaleka, whose 65-year-old father was the president of the temple congregation. “In some ways it feels like 10 years has not passed,” he added. “It feels just like yesterday.”
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