Local Sikhs Hold Vigil in Easton
Sikh temple in Williams Township will hold memorial service tonight for Wisconsin shooting victims.
Two days after a mass shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple left seven people dead, dozens of Lehigh Valley Sikhs came together in Easton Tuesday evening for a gesture of solidarity and remembrance.
It was a gathering meant to send a message to the larger community that "we do support them, and we appreciate their support as well," said Jasmeen Kaur, gathered with her friends after the vigil in Easton's Centre Square.
On Sunday, a man shot and killed six people inside a gurdwara -- a Sikh temple -- in Oak Creek, a suburb of Milkwaukee. The shooter, identified as Wade Page -- a 40-year-old with ties to neo-Nazi groups -- before killing himself, the FBI said Wednesday morning..
But where Page brought hatred, people in Centre Square brought love, with numerous non-Sikhs attending the vigil or stopping by afterward to talk.
At the front of the gathering, the group had mounted a poster with the messages "United We Stand" and "End Racism. Stand in solidarity."
It also featured several photos, including one of a Sikh serviceman wearing a turban and military uniform, and a photo of Lt. Brian Murphy, a police officer who was shot numerous times responding to the temple murders in Oak Creek.
"The Sikh Nation Salutes You!" the caption on the photo says.
In the Lehigh Valley, the "Sikh nation" amounts to several hundred families who worship at two gurdwaras: one in Lower Nazareth, and one in Williams Township just outside of Easton.
The Lower Nazareth gurdwara -- known as the Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Lehigh Valley -- was established in 1999, but has its roots in Easton, where local Sikhs had worshipped in an improvised temple since the 1970s.
Most people have been accepting of Sikhs, said Jasmeet Singh Bansal, a Forks Township resident and member of Sikh Sadt Sangat, the Williams Township gurdwara. But there are exceptions, he noted.
"It's unfortunate that we're 11 years past 9/11, and people still harbor this hatred just by looking at our identities," Singh said.
Sikh Sadt Sangat established itself at 45 Hilton St. in Williams Township a few years ago. It's there that local Sikhs will hold a memorial service from 6 to 7 tonight for the Oak Creek victims, Singh said.
"I think that this hit a little too close to home," he said.