CHICAGO : The Sikh Religious Society in Palatine, Illinois organized a prayer service and candlelight vigil in remembrance of the forty nine victims and 53 injured in one of the worst recent mass shootings in American history at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando Florida, on June 12, Despite a rainy forecast, over 200 attendees gathered, comprising members of the local Sikh community, neighbors and interfaith groups.
The event started with Kirtan (singing of Sikh hymns) in the congregation hall of the Palatine Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship). One hymn translated for the attendees on projection screen, read, “We are all born with the same divine light, then who is good and who is bad?”
Eight speakers, representing the Sikh, LGBTQ, Muslim, mental health care, and gun violence prevention communities addressed the standing room only gathering.
Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra welcomed the guests and urged the attendees to donate to known charities or groups supporting the families and friends of the victims.
“This gathering is against hate and violence and for respect to all human life”, said Rajinder Singh Mago, who outlined the purpose of the gathering and introduced Gaurav Singh who emceed the program.
Surinder Kaur Nand M.D., a psychiatrist, Nancy Mullen-Executive Director Youth Outlook, Marcus Hamilton a counselor at Youth Outlook, Satnaam Singh Mago a Sikh Youth Outreach volunteer, Azam Nizamuddin interfaith representative from Villa Park mosque, Parminder Singh Mann, a Sikh youth activist, Maria Pike of Every Town Moms against Guns, Mohammad Sarwar Nasir president of Muslim Community Center (MCC) Chicago, shared their perspectives and emphasized cohesiveness and strength in respecting and accepting diversity.
“God dwells in every heart,” said Mohammad Sarwar Nasir, while reciting a couplet in the Punjabi language.
The Sikh community has fresh memories of deadly hate and violence. In 2012, a man with connections to white supremacists, shot and killed six worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which several speakers referred to during the evening.
Maria Pike, a Chicago woman representing gun control advocacy group, “Every Town For Gun Sense and Moms Demand Action,” said the day her son was killed outside his apartment in Logan Square Chicago in 2012 was the day she became an activist.
Standing in solidarity against hatred and violence, a moment of silence was observed to honor the dead.
After the candlelight vigil, which included a reading of the names of the 49 victims by Jasvir Kaur and Jagjinder Singh, everyone sat down on the ground as a sign of support to lawmakers in Washington DC, who staged a sit-in on the House floor on the same day, June 22.
Sarwan Singh Raju, thanked all the guests, participants and the organizers.
The event was coordinated by Rajinder Singh Mago, Sarwan Singh Raju, Jasvir Kaur Singh, Parminder Singh Mann, Satnaam Singh Mago, Gaurav Singh, and Balwant Singh Hansra for the Sikh Religious Society, Palatine Illinois.