Sikhs and Sacred Ground

Members of Wisconsin's Sikh community hold a candle-light vigil for six people killed in an attack a day earlier.

Imagine the terror.

You are in a temple, a safe, sacred place, preparing for a morning service. In the kitchen, you are busy cooking food for lunch, while others read scriptures and recite prayers. Friends begin to gather for the soon-to-start service.

At the front door, you smile at the next man who enters. He does not smile back. Instead, he greets you with hateful stare and bullets from his gun.

Such was the scene Sunday at a Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wis., just south of Milwaukee, where a gunman, Wade Michael Page, killed six and critically injured three others before being shot down by law enforcement agents.

As Page began his shooting spree, terrified worshippers sought shelter in bathrooms and prayer rooms. Rumors of a hostage situation surfaced, and those trapped inside asked loved ones outside not to text or call their cell phones, for fear that the phone ring might give away their hiding place.

The first police officer to arrive on the scene stopped to tend to a victim outside the gurudwara. He looked up to find the shooter pointing his gun directly at him, and then took several bullets to his upper body. He waved the next set of officers into the temple, encouraging them to help others even as he bled. 

That magnanimity is a common theme among the stories of victims and survivors of the Wisconsin shootings. Amidst terror and confusion, Sikhs offered food and water to the growing crowd of police and news reporters outside the gurudwara as part of langar — the Sikh practice of feeding all visitors to the house of worship.

Sikh Leader Responds to Wisconsin Shootings

Ralph Singh, director of publications and public relations for Gobind Sadan — "God's House Without Walls," a spiritual community rooted in the Sikh tradition with locations in India and the United States — responds to the mass shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh gurudwara that has devastated the faith community.

Sikhism was founded more than 500 years ago in India. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair, and male followers of the religion wear turbans, which they consider sacred.

"A Sikh, wherever they go in the world, is committed to building community a community of peace, an inclusive community to stand as an affirmation of what we now call pluralism," Singh says.

Listen to what Singh as to say on a video inside the blog ...


Q Conference - Miroslav Volf On Faith in Public Life

Miroslav Volf. Photo via Wiki Commons (

Miroslav Volf. Photo via Wiki Commons (

An interconnected, interdependent world means a greater intermingling of faiths and the possibility for conflict. We’ve seen it in the United States in anti-Shariah legislation and the recent atheist Reason Rally.

Theologian Miroslav Volf, director and founder of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, argues that globalization and the resurgence of faith in the United States increases the need for pluralism in public life.