PALATINE, Illinois: In remembrance of the 20 elementary school children and six teachers killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, the Sikh Religious Society in Palatine, Illinois, (a suburb of Chicago) in partnership with a local community organization “North West Suburbs Organizing For Action” (NWSOFA) organized an interfaith prayer service and candlelight vigil.
About 100 members of various faith groups and local leaders surrounded by people of good will gathered at the Sikh Gurdwara to pray and honor the victims of this horrific tragedy where 20 6- to 7-year-old children along with six teachers trying to shield and protect little children were massacred by a gunman inside the elementary school.
The vigil started indoors with kirtan (singing of Sikh hymns) in the langar hall of the Palatine Gurdwara. The hymns translated in English meant, “O’ Lord of this universe, please nourish and take care of all the people of your Creation with your blessings and mercy.”
Eight speakers, representing Sikhs, Muslims, Bahais, Christians, Jews, gun violence prevention communities, and civil action oriented organizations addressed the gathering. The speakers shared their personal stories and faith perspectives of hope and peace, and emphasized solidarity and strength in opposing gun violence where innocent lives are lost. They reminded the audience that gun violence impacts every community and all religions, races and ages.
Surinder Kaur Singh of Sikh religious Society opened the program and welcomed the guests. Laddi Singh recognized elected officials including Illinois State Senator Tom Rooney, and participating non-profit organizations.
“We must create an America free from senseless Gun Violence where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, at their places of worship, on the street and in the shopping malls,” said Rajinder Singh Mago, the co-coordinator of the event who introduced the interfaith speakers.
Professor Kulwant Singh Hundal, past president of Sikh Religious Society, Palatine; Raja-ullah Quaraishi of Muslim community; Rabbi Stephen Hart of Temple Chai, Long Grove, Illinois; Gurleen Kaur Singh a high school student; Pastor Melissa Earley of First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights, Illinois; Patrick Watson representing NWSOFA; Maria Pike, #Everytown Fellow and Survivor Engagement Lead, Illinois; Surinder Kaur Singh, a social worker; Brently Donaldson, a Bahai; and Asayo Horbe, a Buddhist spoke at the event.
Patrick Watson read a pledge and call to action to educate legislators to work on stricter gun laws to end senseless gun violence.
The reading of the 26 victims’ names by Kimberley Garnett and Prempal Singh preceded the lighting of candles and a moment of silence to honor the victims.
Matt Flamm of Palatine Township representing NWSOFA, thanked all the guests, participants and the organizers.
All the participants of the event were invited to partake “langar” – the community kitchen vegetarian meal.
The event in partnership with NWSOFA, was coordinated by Rajinder Singh Mago, Laddi Singh, Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra, Prempal Singh, Sarwan Singh Raju, Jasvir Kaur Singh, Iqbal Singh Chopra, and Surinderpal Singh Kalra, for the Sikh Religious Society, Palatine, Illinois.
Photos: Kamaljit Singh Virdi