Flames flickered and puddles of candle wax gathered on the asphalt as prayer moved through the Sikh temple parking lot in Deptford Wednesday night.
With uplifting words but heavy hearts, Sikhs from the region came together in an hourlong vigil for their spiritual brothers and sisters.
Displaying signs that read “United Against Hate” and “Sikh Americans for Tolerance and Respect,” the members of the Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Delaware Valley joined non-Sikhs in paying respects to the victims of the weekend shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI.
Dr. Harbhajan Chawla, one of the original founders of the local temple, said the violence was “a surprise, but not a shock”; this is not the first time Sikhs have felt fear such fear.
After the September 11th attacks, many Sikhs were confused for Muslims. Chawla remembers walking off a bus after September 11th and being verbally harassed by a police officer, who singled him out.
Wednesday night, however, with five Deptford police cars parked at the temple and across the street, there was no shortage of support from local law enforcement.
Bhaghwant Singh Bhatti, president of the society, met with Deptford Police Chief Daniel Murphy the day before to ensure the security of the event. Bhatti had previously remarked that during such tragic times, .
“The main thing is to pray for the souls [of those who died] and for the families to heal,” he said.
“We have well wishes for everybody, not just one,” says Chawla.
Sikhs believe in equality among all races, a belief very different than that of , who opened fire at a Sikh temple Sunday morning, killing six and wounding three others—including .
During the vigil, several speakers extended their gratitude to Murphy for his bravery and courage. Bhatti also commended the entire police force of Oak Creek for their quick response to the rampage.
Sunny Singh, who came with his mother and father, said he believes that even though the events in Oak Creek were tragic, it could have been worse. He pointed out it was early and many deaths were probably averted, since the temple was not completely full when Page walked in and began shooting.
Singh explained that all temples have a downstairs kitchen where many eat after service, and that most probably hid out there, but said it is truly frightening to think of a place of prayer as the scene of such violence.
To view a photo gallery from the vigil, click .