Ambassador Rao, US Lawmakers Mark 1st Anniversary of Oak Creek Sikh Massacre

Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

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Washington, DC – The top Indian diplomat in the US, along with American Sikh organizations, on Friday (August 2) welcomed the announcement from Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) and Congressman David G. Valadao (R-CA), co-chairs of the American-Sikh Congressional Caucus, along with other caucus members and representatives, introducing legislation in the US House of Representatives commemorating the one year anniversary of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara tragedy.

On August 5, 2012, an armed gunman walked into the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara and opened fire on the place of worship. While some were able to flee the building, four individuals were severely wounded and six people lost their lives, including the president of the gurdwara.

“The one year that has passed since the tragedy at Oak Creek has not lessened the grief we feel for the innocent lives lost that day. The families of the victims and the entire Sikh community at Oak Creek have personified great courage and fortitude in these difficult circumstances. We stand with them. Our hearts are with them,” said Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the United States, stressing, “It is absolutely essential that acts of violence as we saw at Oak Creek are prevented from happening again.”

Introducing the resolution on the last working day as Congress gets ready to exit Washington for summer recess, Rep. Chu said, “One year after gunfire shattered the peace of the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, we are reminded of the frailty of life and the power that prejudices hold in our society.” Chu added, “As we mark this solemn day and remember the six people who were lost, we must work to ensure that discrimination and hateful acts based on intolerance do not have a place in our nation.”

“We are grateful for this initiative by these US elected leaders to pay respect to people who lost their lives in the shooting at the Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) in Wisconsin. We feel embraced by the country we live in and those who represent us and almost feels like one large family,” said Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), adding, “This step sends a message to all Sikhs that the lawmakers of this great country do stand behind us all.”

Representatives Chu and Valadao founded the Congressional Sikh Caucus in April, 2013, in order to better represent the Sikh community in the US. Since the horrific events which occurred on September 11, Sikhs have faced a growing amount of discrimination and persecution by people who mistakenly associate Sikhs with the terrorists who plotted and carried out the attacks in 2001.

In a statement, Jasjit Singh, the executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) thanked the lawmakers, “for their sentiments and look forward to working with them to address hate crimes and intolerance.”

On behalf of SALDEF, a nonprofit civil rights organization, Singh added, “The condemnation of the massacre at the Oak Creek Gurdwara last year sends a message that hate, bigotry and intolerance have no place in America and we must all work to rid them from our minds and communities.”

“Sadly, hatred and prejudice toward the Sikh Community has increased over the last decade and has occurred in my own Central Valley Congressional District, which is home to a large Sikh population,” said Rep. Valadao. “Heartbreaking events such as this highlight deep societal problems, specifically what I believe is a general disregard for human life that has unfortunately become prevalent in our society. As Americans, we must see past stereotypes and treat each other with compassion and respect,” Valadao noted.

Wisconsin Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin’s resolution to remember the one year anniversary of the tragic shooting on August 5, 2012 at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek unanimously passed the Senate late Wednesday night (July 31). Baldwin was joined in offering the resolution by US Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Condemning the sanguinary incident, the resolution said it stood with, “those who plan to gather in Oak Creek on August 2 through August 5, 30 2013, to memorialize the lives lost in the shooting and to continue healing as a community.”

UNITED SIKHS, a humanitarian relief and advocacy organization, in a statement encouraged the Sikh community, “to vigorously practice their faith and report any issues in their respective areas that burden the ability to practice their faith.”

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