Religious leaders at a vigil Wednesday night asked the community to take a stand against violence and hatred.
About 400 people gathered at the Lake Elizabeth pavilion in Fremont at 7 p.m. in solidarity with the Sikh community, who lost six in .
“Hate and violence have captured our attention, but we are here for peace,” said Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), one of many speakers at the event.
Among those gathered were leaders from the Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Catholic communities who called for peace, equality and religious acceptance.
“We belong to this community, too. We are American,” said Gurmeet Singh Khalsa of the Gurdwara Sahib of Fremont. In addition to candles, many of those gathered carried American flags and held signs that read “Proud to be American” and “Proud to be Sikh.”
According to leaders, Sikhism is a peaceful monotheistic religion. It’s the fifth largest religion in the world with more than 25 million Sikhs worldwide and more than 40,000 concentrated in the Bay Area alone. Despite their large presence in the U.S., many Sikhs, like Muslims, have become targets of hate crimes following 9/11 due to a lack of understanding and education, leaders said.
Moina Shaiq of the Muslim Support Network urged the public to take action and in the wake of recent hate-motivated crimes. She highlighted the burning of a mosque in Joplin, Missouri Monday as further proof for the need of increased religious awareness and education.
Speaker Sukhmani Kaur, a 16-year-old student at Fremont’s Kennedy High School, said that it’s the responsibility of members of each religious and ethnic community to educate one another about who they are and what they stand for.
“In the end, we’ll be able to look left and right and call ourselves one community of Americans, brothers and sisters,” she said.
Sunday’s senseless act of violence — carried out by Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old army veteran and known white supremacist — sparked similar vigils to be held throughout the week all across the U.S. Vigils were also held in Hayward and San Jose Wednesday night.
Candlelight on Friday at 7 p.m. Union City, Newark, Fremont, Hayward and San Jose are among a number of cities scheduled to participate.
See photos from the Wednesday night vigil in the gallery above and please feel free to add your own.