A religious leader at the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh temple in Milpitas expressed sadness and shock Sunday afternoon in the wake of news that a gunman had killed at least six people at a Sikh worship house near Milwaukee.
"Although we're far away, we're sad about it. It's tragic," said Gurdev Sandhu, who was busy helping prepare a seva for devotees. The religious ritual consists of providing service and serving food.
"We're feeling really sad right now because of the shooting. It's tragic it happened in a religious place. We condemn all shootings, including the one in Colorado. We're peace loving people and we live in harmony with other communities," said Sukhdev Singh Bainiwal, one of the directors at the Sikh Gurdwara Temple in San Jose, the largest in North America.
"I believe it [shooting] will not happen in the Silicon Valley because we have good relations with other faith groups and the local community. We respect all religions and I'm shocked that again this could happen in our community," Bainiwal said.
Bainiwal explained he had heard about the shooting through an email sent to him by a close a friend in Chicago this morning, alerting him that a Caucasian person had opened fire at the Milwaukee Sikh temple, first shooting a Sikh priest in the parking lot of the gurdwara, or temple, then entering the gurdwara building, where he allegedly shot at random.
The e-mail noted that a policeman at the scene had been injured, that the gunman was inside, and that he thought 10 people had been shot, including the president of the gurdwara, whom he named.
"Sunday is a big day at the gurdwara. We have lots of the sangat, or membership, come to pray and so they're feeling sad and we're questioning how could this happen in a Sikh temple," Bainiwal said.
Asked if the congregations in Milpitas or San Jose are feeling scared or anxious because of the shooting, Bainiwal said Sikh devotees have confidence the event will not repeat itself here because of the South Bay's diversity, and because "we live in peace and harmony together."
"We're doing prayers here for the victims," he said about congregation members in Milpitas and San Jose. "We'll continue to pray for those who have perished and their families."
The management at the Sikh temple in San Jose has stated that it will provide help and support to the Sikh families in Milwaukee affected by the tragedy.
There are about 40,000 Sikhs in the Bay Area, many residing in San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont, Union City, Hayward and El Sobrante. The largest concentration is found in San Jose, said Bainiwal, whose temple is considered the largest in North America and is located in Evergreen Valley.