Washington, DC – The United States continued to echo reflections and remembrances for the victims of the fatal shooting on August 5 at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, as events and vigils were held from coast to coast throughout last week.
Leaders from many different faiths gathered at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland on Saturday, August 11, 2012 for an interfaith vigil organized by the Siva Vishnu Temple and the United Hindu Jain Temples of Washington, DC.
Addressing a large gathering of people of varied ethnicities and religions, Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the US said, “We are gathered here, united in our sadness and sorrow about the tragedy that took place in Oak Creek last Sunday.”
Rao, who visited the community within a couple days of the “horrific tragedy,” said she went there “in order to share the grief and sorrow that we felt as part of the larger Indian community with our Sikh brothers and sisters”
“There was shock and disbelief writ large on the faces,” of widowed women and orphaned children as they struggled to come to terms with the tragedy, noted Rao.
Speaking in a voice laden with emotion and eyes on the brink of tears, Rao recalled her feelings during her visit to Oak Creek, just two days after the tragedy, saying, “Words failed me on that occasion. My emotions were very difficult to control.”
Reflecting on her attendance at a vigil at Oak Creek, Rao said that she saw “everybody unite and come there to light a candle, to light a light that would dispel the darkness of this tragedy and that becomes then a beacon of hope for the future.”
Stressing the need for “Easternization,” Rao said it is, “Time to sensitize friends in the West to the values of tolerance and compassion of plurality, of the beauty of diversity, which is what we bring from our Indian experience.”
“Not many of you know that the Sikh community has fought for the freedom of the free world. 84,000 Sikh soldiers laid down their lives in World War I and II,” said the Indian Ambassador, adding, “They fought in the fields of Flanders. They fought in the theaters of Asia-Pacific. They fought in Africa. Those tears of valor should never be forgotten because that symbolizes what this community stands for: great and boundless courage and the spirit of sacrifice.”
On behalf of the Indian American community, Rao expressed her gratitude to the US government “for the manner in which the US administration and the law enforcement agencies responded to this tragedy.”
Highlighting the fact that US President Barack Obama spoke out almost immediately after the event, stressing the fact that the Sikh community is such a vibrant part of the fabric of this nation, Rao commended him for recognizing the inclusiveness of what American society stands for.
She also pointed to the fact that since 9/11, members of the Sikh community have frequently been targeted and been victims of violence.
Noting that, “Violence can never solve any of the wrongs that we see in this world,” Indian Ambassador Rao called for “soul searching” in the country to reflect on the tragedy and how it can be prevented in the future.