Marysville Sikhs honor victims of shooting | SLIDESHOW

MARYSVILLE — The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville received an influx of both Sikhs and their supporters from the surrounding community on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 11, as they conducted a special service and candlelight vigil for the victims and survivors of the Aug. 5 shooting at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Wis.

While representatives of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen delivered speeches to the entire temple during its prayer program to offer their condolences and add their own prayers on behalf of Sikhs in Washington, Wisconsin and across the country, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring appeared in person to speak with Sikhs at the Marysville temple one-on-one. Nehring cited the city of Marysville’s frequent partnerships with the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple on behalf of various community causes, and stayed after the candle-lighting ceremony to accept the Sikhs’ invitation to all the temple’s visitors to share a meal with them before leaving.

Guru Nanak Sikh Temple President Satwant Pandher and Secretary Harcharan Sandhu expressed their gratitude not only to Lt. Brian Murphy, the Oak Creek, Wis., police officer who sustained several gunshot wounds to save the lives of others in the Wisconsin Sikh temple, but also to the Marysville community for rallying around local Sikhs.

“Our Marysville Police chief asked us if we needed extra security,” Pandher said. “We’ve been here 12 years, and we have no such complaint. I’ve received dozens of telephone calls, some from people I knew, some from those I didn’t, all offering their sympathies and asking the Sikh community to be brave.”

“We are a small community in Marysville, but as we have received calls from the city and the police of Marysville, and from the FBI, I have felt like we are not such a small community,” Sandhu said. “I have felt like we are loved by everyone in this community.”

Michael Oskouian of Kirkland recalled how, when his daughter was much younger, she’d asked him to explain the differences between Sikhs and Muslims, and after hearing what he’d had to say, told him, “So, we’re all the same.”

“No one should have to give up their lives for what they believe in,” said Oskouian, who cut his remarks short as he was overcome with emotion.

Marysville’s Kulvinder and Gagan Manhas agreed that the tragedy of the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting has already served to unite the community, rather than dividing it as the shooter intended.

“America is unified behind the principles of freedom and democracy, and that’s what Sikhs believe in too,” said Gagan Manhas, a junior double-majoring in political science and business at the University of Washington. “That’s why we came to this country. We believe that everyone can do good if they work hard and persevere. We believe in universal brotherhood and sisterhood, no matter what the color of your skin. There’s good people in every religion and culture. That’s why Sikhs aren’t mad at any race or group, and we won’t retaliate against people. Even with white supremacists and people who are hostile to us, we ask ourselves what we can do to educate them and give them more options, because lots of Sikhs own businesses. We want everyone to succeed.”

Kulvinder Manhas, a real estate broker at Keller Williams Realty in Marysville, also serves on the city’s Diversity Advisory Committee and received a call from Nehring immediately after news of the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting was reported.

“This city already works with us to respect the equality of all races, colors and creeds,” Kulvinder Manhas said. “We’re so thankful to live in a community where people care about each other so much. We’ve always felt their hospitality.”

Virkamal Dhaliwal attends the Academy of Construction and Engineering at Marysville Getchell High School, and after the 16-year-old Sikh had lit her own candle to place at the base of the temple’s flagpole, she voiced the hope that her neighbors and countrymen would see the shooting as part of an issue that goes beyond the Sikh community.

“I cannot stress enough that this was not just an attack on Sikhs, but an attack on all of humanity,” Dhaliwal said. “The people who were targeted were not only Sikhs, but Americans and humans. The goal of this shooting was to separate us and draw us apart, and we should not let that happen.”


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