Columbia County Sikh temple service brings together many faiths

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Condolences were offered, lessons shared and communication fostered when representatives from a variety of faiths, congregations and communities gathered Friday night at Gurdwara Guru Singh Sabha, a Sikh temple in Columbia County.

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A candlelight vigil Friday at Gurdwara Guru Singh Sabha, a Sikh temple in Evans, paid tribute to the six Sikhs who were fatally shot Sunday in Wisconsin. Muslims, Hindus and Christians also participated in the service.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
A candlelight vigil Friday at Gurdwara Guru Singh Sabha, a Sikh temple in Evans, paid tribute to the six Sikhs who were fatally shot Sunday in Wisconsin. Muslims, Hindus and Christians also participated in the service.

The service was organized in the wake of Sunday’s shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek that left six members of the temple dead.

The event was both a traditional Sikh service and an opportunity for community outreach. It allowed members of the Sikh community an opportunity to mourn but also to celebrate the similarities shared by members of many faiths.

Most of the service involved not the clergy and congregation, but representatives from a variety of faiths, including Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

“Attacks on houses of worship are attacks on entire groups of people,” said Dr. Hossam E. Fadel, of the Islamic Society of Augusta. “It’s about delivering a message that you are not wanted. It’s something that must stop.”

Karthik Subramaian, of the Augusta Hindu Temple Society, said that although he found speaking in front of the gathering inspiring and emotional, he would like to see similar events take place when there is not a tragedy.

“Unfortunately, the opportunity to be able to respond together, to one another, is often limited to times of tragedy,” he said. “And we have opportunities that really are unique to this country. To be able to be in a room like that, with so many cultures and faiths, well, it’s really something that only happens here.”

It’s etiquette in Sikh temples to remove shoes and cover heads. As a service to those of other faiths, the Gurdwara Guru Singh Sabha provided head-covering scarves. Before the service ended, the participants from outside the temple outnumbered available scarves. Narinder Pal Singh Malik said it was a good problem to have.

“Well, we were surprised and not surprised,” he said. “Not surprised because we felt like this event, this prayer was filling a void that seems to have been there. “Now it’s a prayer we all share.”

THE BACK STORY

SIKH TEMPLE SHOOTING

BACKGROUND: Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran with white supremacist ties, killed six worshippers Sunday at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. Page also died.

DEVELOPMENTS:

• On Monday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order ordering the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset Friday on all state buildings and grounds.

• On Thursday, the FBI concluded Page was not killed in a shootout with police at the temple. Rather, he shot himself in the head.


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