Wheaton-Area Sikh Community Grieves Wisconsin Shooting Victims

Members of the Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton gathered for a candlelight vigil Monday night to grieve the victims of the shooting in Oak Creek, WI.

Mourners of many faiths gathered at the Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton to grieve the victims of the Monday night.

The center after a Kirtan service that featured guest speakers from area churches, mosques and the Anti-Defamation League.

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Seven people were confirmed dead after a gunman opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek Sunday morning, .

Syed Javed, a Muslim from Wheaton who attended the vigil after hearing of the shooting, said it was important to him to express his sympathy after a tragedy that "could happen to anybody."

"If it happened to us, they would have done the same thing," Javed said.

The center has created a fund for the victims, available at Wisconsintragedy.com, and sent members of the community to Wisconsin to offer counseling services and support to the Sikhs in mourning, said spokesman Ravi Singh.

Singh Sahib (S.S.) Shiva Singh, a minister and leader in the Sikh community,  traveled to Oak Creek Sunday. He said the room of 75-100 people was completely quiet when he paid his respects at the Gurdwara's president's house. The president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was killed during the attack after , Oak Creek Patch reported.

"There were no tears—there was no wailing or crying," he said.

"Usually the Indian community—they're very expressive when somebody is dying or dead—I was surprised. I think everybody is just really shocked," he said.

Among the Sikh supporters at Wheaton's community center were local dignitaries, including Wheaton Mayor Mike Gresk, who said he has an "immense" amount of compassion for the victims.

"The level of sorrow increases when you talk about the Sikh community and America at large," Gresk said. "People move here for religious freedom. They move here because it's a safe environment, a safe country. It's very, very sad."

Singh said during the Kirtan service that it's important to grieve. "It is an important part of the process that we are sad," he said. "... We have learned that every tragedy has a meaning. I do not know that meaning and I will not sit here to explain. ... But we are hear to share our grief." 

To honor the shooting victims, President Barack Obama proclaimed that the American flag will be flown at half-staff at the White House, on all public buildings and grounds, military posts, naval stations and vessels, and all U.S. embassies until sunset on Friday.

Singh said he has seen "unbelievable" support from the community in the past 24 hours. "That is what is great about America," he said. "When there is a time of crisis ... our country can come together like no other country."


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