Members of the Marquette, Sikh and greater Milwaukee communities gathered last night to commemorate the one month anniversary of the Oak Creek shooting. The somber vigil, held in front of the St. Joan of Arc Chapel, drew more than 50 participants, with many of the non-Sikh attendees wearing bandanas on their heads as a sign of solidarity.
The approximately 40-minute event featured prayers and traditions from both the Catholic and Sikh faiths, a candle lighting, moment of silence, and a reading from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The evening concluded with the distribution of candy, a Sikh tradition meant to symbolize the sweetness of God’s love and perseverance during times of tragedy.
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek is located roughly 10 miles south of campus and has numerous worshippers with Marquette ties. Pardeep Kaleka, a 2001 alumnus whose father, Satwant Singh Kaleka was killed August 5, spoke at the vigil, where he memorialized his fallen father.
“Sikhism to me is the way that you act and the way you treat other people,” Kaleka said. “It took me a long time to understand just how much of a Sikh (my father) was. One of the biggest principles of Sikhism is that you work hard, you work with your own hands and whatever you make you give back to the community, thus we call it Seva. My dad’s hands were greasy all the time, and he had callouses over those hands all the time. Cuts, all the time.”
Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, whose uncle was Pardeep Kaleka’s father, said the tragedy was a wake up call to fight the ignorance he described as being behind the violence.
“We as a community, as in humanity, need to come together and start working to fight this hate,” Kaleka said. “This ignorance of seeing people as different and creating a hatred of people who are different than you, it doesn’t make sense, because we all live our lives, we love each other.”
The vigil was organized by the Indian Student Association, Campus Ministry and the offices of Student Development, Intercultural Engagement and International Education.
Jasleen Bhasin, a junior in the College of Business Administration and the event’s chief organizer, said she hopes to start an organization for students interested in learning more about Sikhism.
“I really hope anyone who wants to learn about the temple will join me in this club of Sikh faith,” Bhasin said.
Chris Gooding, a graduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences who identifies as a Mennonite Christian, said he was able to find common ground between his own faith and Sikhism through a common emphasis on peace.
“There is a big emphasis on peace in (my religious) tradition as well, and a very strong emphasis on non-violence, which we share with Sikhs,” Gooding said. “So while there may be conflicts with words in our communities, we always believe that violence is never a way to solve anything. So supporting other groups at times like these is really, really important.”
Correction: In the version of this article printed in the Sept. 6 Tribune, the front-page pull quote was incorrectly attributed to Pardeep Kaleka. It was in fact part of a quote from Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka. The Tribune regrets the error.