As national news stations were reporting that Wade Michael Page had shot and killed six people at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, Sikhs in Durham, unaware of what was happening, read scriptures for a local child’s birthday celebration.
Less than a week later, members of the Sikh Gurudwara of N.C. again read scriptures, this time for 48 consecutive hours, to remember the victims of the shooting.
“Anything that needs to be celebrated or honored, we do a reading,” said Parminder Kaul Dhillon, a board member of the temple.
Hidden behind the Braggtown Baptist Church in North Durham, the Sikh Gurudwara of N.C. is decorated with a tall orange banner. Traditionally called the Nishan Sahib, the banner signifies the presence of the gurdwara, the central place of worship for practicing Sikhs.
With an estimated 500,000 members, Sikhism is the fifth most-practiced religion in the world, although it’s relatively new to the United States and the Triangle.
The first Sikh families came to North Carolina in the late 1960s, most of them looking for jobs in the medical and teaching professions. Dhillon arrived in Smithfield in 1975. She and her husband were instrumental in overseeing the construction of the gurdwara in the 1980s.
At last week’s community vigil, speakers emphasized the importance of forgiveness and humanity.
“Sikhs believe in chardikala,” said Paramjeet Singh, a temple board member. “[It] means this is the will of God and we have to accept that … [and] keep on moving forward.”
A fundamental tenet of Sikhism is an acceptance and equal treatment of all people, including Page. “As a Sikh, first and foremost, the most important thing is to pray for every human being,” Singh said. “Yes, Mr. Page killed a few of the community members, but as a Sikh, it’s my fundamental responsibility to pray for him too, and I have been praying for him and his family.”
“We have no hatred for him,” she said. “Hatred is not going to solve the problem.”
A longer version of this story appeared on Triangulator, the Indy‘s news blog. Mechelle Henderson is an intern at the Independent Weekly.
This article appeared in print with the headline “We have no hatred for him.”