HANOVER — Members of an Upper Valley Sikh community are planning a vigil to remember the victims of Sunday's shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
“It was a really, really sad event. We are all shocked. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims,” said Devinder Singh Sodhi, president of Sikh Sabha of Upper Valley.
The small Upper Valley community includes about 12 families, who live on both sides of the Connecticut River in Vermont and New Hampshire.
“We are very peace-loving people. We stand for equality and justice, but we only take up arms to defend ourselves,” Sodhi said. “Something like that to happen in a place of worship is unimaginable.”
Referring to the recent shooting at a movie theater in Colorado, the members said they do not feel singled out.
“We are sad, but we are not angry with anything because this is something happening all over the U.S.A.,” said Sukhbir Sodhi, wife of Devinder Singh Sodhi.
She and her family members said more restrictive gun laws may be the answer.
The shooting took place in a suburb of Milwaukee at a Sikh place of worship — known as a gurudwara, but which non-Sikhs refer to as a temple.
According to police, Wade Michael Page strode into the gurudwara carrying a 9mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition and opened fire without saying a word.
Six people were killed before the gunman was shot and killed by police.
Devinder Singh Sodhi said since 9/11, hate crimes against Sikhs in the United States have increased.
Federal officials are currently investigating the gunman's motives, but it could be that Page thought he was attacking Muslims, Sodhi said. “I don't know what was in his head, but I suspect that may be a possibly.”
The Sikh religion is the fifth-largest religion in the world. The family said the faith has three core principles: remember God, earn a rightful living, and share what you have with others.
The Upper Valley Sikh community members volunteer in their community as members of their local Lions Club, the Sodhis said.
They also come together once a month to feed the homeless.
The Upper Valley Sikh community does not own a building, so it holds a monthly worship and potluck at the Quaker Hall in Hanover.
The August gathering is this Saturday; the group plans to pray and talk about the shooting. All are welcome, the Sodhis said.
The community is also planning a vigil to remember the victims.
“We can only give moral support at the moment. Initially we are all praying to give strength to the surviving members so they can accept this horrible thing that happened yesterday,” Devinder Singh Sodhi said.
They are also ready to forgive the gunman.
“Forgiveness is a very big thing in our religion,” Sodhi said.
His daughter, Meena Kaur, added, “It's important to forgive. Certainly you don't want to hold any grudges and think badly on anybody.”