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updated: 8/6/2012 4:22 PM

Sikh temples in Wheaton, Palatine plan vigils

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  • The Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton is one of two local temples that will host candlelight vigils Monday night for the suburban Milwaukee shooting victims.

       The Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton is one of two local temples that will host candlelight vigils Monday night for the suburban Milwaukee shooting victims.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Members of Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton sing Monday during Kirtan, a prayer service.

       Members of Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton sing Monday during Kirtan, a prayer service.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • The Illinois Sikh Community Center Sikh Temple in Wheaton.

       The Illinois Sikh Community Center Sikh Temple in Wheaton.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Ravi Singh, spokesman for the Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton, said community members of all faiths have shown an outpouring of support following shootings Sunday at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee.

       Ravi Singh, spokesman for the Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton, said community members of all faiths have shown an outpouring of support following shootings Sunday at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

Leaders at two Sikh temples say some of their members are in suburban Milwaukee mourning relatives who died or were injured in Sunday's shooting, while others are trying to start the healing process for their community at home.

Ravi Singh, spokesman for the Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton, said at least two members of the congregation have relatives who died or were injured at Sikh Temple of Wisconsin when a gunman opened fire on worshippers.

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"They haven't released all the names yet, but many of our members jumped in the car and headed to Wisconsin," he said.

Singh said suburban temples such as the Illinois Sikh Community Center and Sikh Religious Society temple in Palatine, both with about 5,000 members, share ties with each other and with regional temples like the site near Milwaukee. Temples share resources such as worship service singers or donation proceeds, he said, and many members share family ties.

On Monday morning, the Wheaton temple held a hymn-singing prayer service for members, or Kirtan, in advance of a public candlelight vigil following a scheduled news conference at 6:30 p.m. today at its center, 2131 Creekside Drive.

The Sikh Religious Society temple in Palatine will conduct a public vigil starting at about 7 p.m. at the Palatine Gurdwara, 1280 W. Winnetka St. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to be in attendance, past President Balwant Singh Hansra said.

As congregation members sung prayers Monday during the Kirtan, Singh said the local community is still in shock.

"These songs are what was happening when the shooting started, that's why this is so hard for us to understand," he said. "Sikhism is a very tolerant faith. We believe in a universal creator, we welcome others and don't try to convert people, and we've been known for being very helpful to the community."

This, Singh said, is why neighbors in Wheaton and Palatine have reached out to support both local Sikh temples. Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk will attend the Wheaton vigil tonight and leaders from religious centers of other denominations will speak about tolerance and the support of an interfaith coalition.

Rajinder Mago of the Palatine temple said his congregation's vigil will include the singing of hymns, a few words by the priest, prayers for the victims and their families, a candlelight vigil, and a community meal afterward, known as langar.

People who enter prayer rooms at both temples will be asked to remove their shoes and cover their heads, and some scarves will be available.

"Part of the religious service is to humbly accept the will of God," Mago said. "By getting together, we'll get strength from worship and prayers, and try to understand why this happens."

Singh agrees that finding understanding is the community's next challenge in the aftermath of the violence.

"When they first announced it on the news, we thought it was like Colorado, which they said was random," he said. "But then we found out it was a hate crime and that's when the gravity of it hit.

"So we have to start that healing process," he said. "These are the times as Americans we need to come together and show our strength is our diversity."

• Daily Herald staff writer Annalisa Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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