Church Rally Offers Support to Sikh Community
A near-capacity crowd at Faith Builders Church participated in a rally Monday in support of the Sikh community, a little more than two weeks after the shooting Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.
With Sikh temple members still grieving after the fatal shooting on Aug. 5, leaders of the Faith Builders Church sought to bring them a temporary respite Monday night at a rally full of uplifting speeches and gospel music.
A near-capacity audience in the auditorium of the church, 4901 S. Howell Ave., heard from pastors, singers and leaders of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin a little more than two weeks after a lone gunman killed six Sikh temple members and injured four others. Shooter Wade Michael Page then killed himself.
The crowd gave standing ovations as temple members entered the auditorium and several times as Sikh leaders spoke.
"The energy has been incredible," Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka said shortly before the event started. "It's really heartwarming to know that fellow community members are willing to embrace us like this.
"This is a great kick-off to what I hope is great unity-building of relationships with us and hopefully the community as a whole."
Pastor Ervin Henderson said he didn't know about the Sikh faith prior to the shootings. But he "came to learn they are a loving community."
He and other pastors said it was important for all people, regardless of race or religion, to unite against violence and prejudice.
"We are here to stand with you," Henderson said.
As Mayor Steve Scaffidi has said often in the past two weeks, the city can't let the attacks define Oak Creek.
But he acknowledged Monday that to some in the country, Oak Creek is known only for the shootings, in much the same way as Aurora, Columbine, College Station, Tucson and Virginia Tech.
But it doesn't have to be that way, he said.
"We can change that," Scaffidi said. "We can shift attention away from the violence (and) extreme hate, to a community response that says simply, 'we will not accept this and we will work together as a family to stop it.'"
The event featured American Idol finalist Danny Gokey and his backup group, the Sophia's Heart Choir. Rev. Jesse Jackson was scheduled to appear but could not attend.
Speaking to reporters before the event, temple member Inderjeet Singh Dhillon said support like what was shown at Monday's rally has been overwhelming in the days since the attacks.
"We feel we are not alone," he said. "We so much thank all the community ... to help us heal our pain."