While time has allowed a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin to re-open its doors, it can’t heal the pain felt by Sikhs across the country in the wake of the recent shooting tragedy.
But, at a special Sikh service Thursday evening at a temple in south Bakersfield, local Sikh leaders said they believe that if any good at all could possibly come from a shooting like the one that killed six Sikhs on Sunday, it came in the form of a newfound spotlight on Sikhism.
They say it’s a spotlight that will enable them to share their message of peace and unity.
“It’s a moment of teaching for all of us. To those who threaten, intimidate, bully, and harass, the Sikh community says ‘we will not hate,’” said Balmeet Singh, a Sikh speaker at the service, which took place at a temple called Gurdwara Guru Angad Darbar.
Intertwined with traditional Sikh ceremonies, songs, and prayers came words of unity. But, it wasn’t just Sikh leaders urging community members in attendance to learn more about the peace-loving Sikh faith.
“God created you, and God created me with the same interests and the same needs in our hearts,” said Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard. “We want peace and hope and joy and love.”
Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall was also at Thursday’s ceremony.
“How we come together to make our community a better place is what’s important,” he said.
In addition to honoring the six Sikhs who died on Sunday, the goal of the ceremony was to promote understanding between Sikhs and non-Sikhs, so that something like what happened in Wisconsin never repeats itself in Kern County.
“Whether or not it happens somewhere else, we can't control the world,” said Singh. “But ,never in our county, and never in our city of Bakersfield.”
Sikh leaders spent a portion of the night teaching non-Sikhs in attendance, the history, literature, and dogma of their faith.
Their hope.. that the light of knowledge will drive out the darkness of ignorance – ignorance Sikhs believe manifested itself on a fateful Sunday morning halfway across the country.