No one should fear for life while praying: Biden on 10th anniversary of Oak Creek gurdwara attack

NEW DELHI: President Joe Biden referred to the shooting at the Oak Creek Gurdwara in Wisconsin, which has been the target of an attack for ten years, as the "deadliest against Sikh Americans in our nation's history" on Friday.

Ten years have passed since a shooter opened fire at the gurdwara as worshippers were getting ready for Sunday services. Six members of the community—Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka—were killed; Baba Punjab Singh passed away from his wounds years later.

In a statement, Vice President Biden said, "It was a sacred space of their own and a connection shared with the larger community when generations of Sikh-Americans in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, erected their own place of worship after years of renting neighborhood halls. On the morning of August 5, 2012, a white supremacist carrying a semi-automatic weapon entered the Gurdwara and started shooting, shattering that feeling of serenity and belonging.

"On that day, the gunman killed six individuals, inflicted four injuries, and also left one victim alive but later died from those injuries. (First Lady) Jill (Biden) and I are in mourning with the families of the victims, the survivors, and the neighborhood that was destroyed by this horrific crime. We are aware that days like today bring back sorrow as if it happened yesterday.

Tragically, during the past ten years, attacks against places of worship in our country have only increased. It is up to us all to reject this safe haven for hatred. In America, no one should feel in danger as they worship or go about their daily lives.

The Sikh community has also received accolades from President Biden, who noted that Oak Creek had paved the way. "The Sikh community returned to their gurdwara following the assault and insisted on cleaning it themselves. The son of one of the victims became the first Sikh American witness in history, effectively urging Congress to keep note of hate crimes committed against Sikhs and other minority groups. To remember the victims, the group now holds an annual memorial run. The name of the occasion is Charhdi Kala, which means "everlasting optimism."

The need to continue taking action to lower gun violence and safeguard American citizens were also addressed in the statement. "We must take more measures to safeguard houses of worship and combat domestic terrorism and hate in all of its manifestations, including the poisonous ideology of white supremacy. Both assault rifles and high-capacity magazines must be outlawed because they have been utilized in several nationwide mass shootings at places of worship and other public places. A bill to accomplish just that was approved last week by the House of Representatives. The Senate must take action as well out of moral obligation and good sense. We must all join forces to outlaw the weapons that terrorize churches across our nation in order to save religious freedom.

On Friday night, a candlelight vigil was organized at the Oak Creek Gurdwara to commemorate memorial day.

The Non-Profit Security Grant Programme Improvement Act was the subject of a letter from the Sikh Coalition to the White House earlier this week, which was signed by 89 gurdwaras across America. In the letter, the Sikh Coalition urged President Biden to express his support for the legislation and to make more federal resources easily accessible to places of worship that want to defend themselves against the attack and prepare for emergencies.

On the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of the fatal assault, the Wisconsin Gurdwara also released a statement. "The most catastrophic attack against Sikhs in our country's history occurred ten years ago, and it devastated our Sangat (community). Numerous people have different meanings for this anniversary. Even after ten years, some people still experience excruciating loss and absence in their homes and families. In the past ten years, other people have matured, developing their leadership skills and finding their voices in the wake of tragedy. And still more people have joined our expanding group and contributed to our ongoing tale. This commemoration has space for the distinct truth that each of us experiences.

The executive director of the Sikh Coalition, Anisha Singh, remarked, "On this tragic anniversary, we remain encouraged by the incredible resiliency of the Oak Creek Sikh community. "We also acknowledge that in the ten years following this tragedy, a great number of other communities, including Sikhs and others, have also experienced targeted violence stemming from divisive ideas. By pursuing substantive policy change, we have made the decision to honor those who have passed away.

Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother Paramjit Kaur was killed in the attack, stated, "In the decade following Oak Creek, not enough has changed, and it has been very heartbreaking to witness other communities go through what we went through." We must all continue to work on advocacy, education, and community building because we cannot and should not accept that hate violence is a "normal" aspect of life in our nation.

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