Finding inspiration in tragedy, the Sikh community gathered Monday in Palatine to commemorate the shooting that killed six people at a temple in suburban Milwaukee a year ago.
About 60 people, mostly Sikhs, came together for a service and candlelight vigil.
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The Oak Creek, Wis., tragedy represents a triumph in a sense, said Rajinder Singh Mago, a volunteer who helps with media relations for the community.
"It has brought our community together and closer to our neighbors and closer to the whole American nation," he said.
Many Americans did not know much about Sikhs before the tragedy and judged them by their appearance, which includes beards and turbans on the men and scarves for the women, he said. Speakers at a news conference before the service said people who do not understand the religion sometimes mistake Sikhs for terrorists.
The president of the Palatine gurdwara, Sokhi Singh of Chicago, said Sikhs are "loving peoples, peaceful peoples. We respect everybody and all religions."
Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said: "We have a deep sense of sadness, but also one of inspiration. We take inspiration from the values of our ancestors who teach us to lead lives of compassion and service -- in many ways American values."
Singh, who was raised in the Palatine temple, praised the bravery of the president of the Oak Creek temple for saving others' lives and also Lt. Brian Murphy of the Oak Creek, Wis., police department. The first officer who responded to the alarm at the temple after an Army veteran opened fire, Murphy was shot at least eight times but survived.
Jeff and Sandy Adkins, who live in the temple's neighborhood in far northwest Palatine, brought their two young sons to the candlelight vigil to show support for the Sihks.
"I'd like to see more people here," said Adkins, who said his family is Catholic. "I know they have pretty good support in our neighborhood."
The family was in Wisconsin last year when the shootings occurred, and Adkins was impressed to see all the flags in the state fly at half staff.
Sue Walton, representing the Democratic organization of Palatine Township, called for officials to make laws to stop gun violence, saying something must be done about assault weapons and predicting the state's new court-ordered concealed-carry law will lead to more senseless deaths.
Action against gun violence was also the message at an event in Oak Creek. It was led by a group of mayors and relatives of victims in the Sikh shooting and the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last December.
Balwant Singh Hansra, a retired professor of chemistry, said in Palatine the key to stopping violence is to get to know people of different religions.
"The philosophy is simple: Try to accommodate each other and understand each other, feel about their pains and sorrows and happiness," he said.