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Remembering, Healing as Sikh Temple Shooting Anniversary Approaches

Erin Toner

The Sikh community is gathering this weekend to honor the memory of loved ones who died one year ago.  August 5 marks the one year anniversary of the horrific mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek that left six dead, four wounded and a community in shock. Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, opened fire on Sunday worshippers before turning the gun on himself. Amidst the frenzy of news coverage, reports of bravery and heroism emerged, and many in the Milwaukee area banded together in support of the Sikh community.

WUWM’s Erin Toner spoke with several members of the Sikh temple to discuss the aftermath of the tragedy and plans for marking the anniversary.

Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, nephew of shooting victim and temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, explains that the Sikh community was much more insular before the shooting. Over the past year, they have been working to build relationships with other religions, organizations and the greater community to promote tolerance and acceptance.

Kaleka has been speaking at area schools to educate students about the Sikh faith and encourage them to embrace diversity by “realizing that we’re all human beings.” He says that an excellent way to “address the issue of hatred” is by “working with young kids, who have more of a capacity to empathize with others.” According to Kaleka, the Sikh community now views the tragedy as a sort of blessing, an opportunity to be thankful for each day.

In remembrance of those who died, various memorial activities took place over the weekend and a candlelight vigil is planned for Monday night at the Oak Creek temple. Temple president Dr. Kulwant Dhaliwal is encouraging members of his congregation to be in high spirits and honor the memory of the victims. He says it is essential to “try to start the healing process rather than start things all over,” a sentiment echoed by many in the community.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Kathryn is a sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying economics and mathematics.